Rapid-Fire Reviews | The Amazing Spider-Man

Info:

Genre: Superhero, action

Director/s: Marc Webb

Running Time: 136 mins

Budget: $230 million

Released: 13 July 2012 (South Africa)

After a decade of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man (three films to be precise), Marvel Entertainment have rebooted the franchise with fresh faces, a new Spidey costume and an ‘alternate’ storyline, labeling this film as ‘The Untold Story of Spider-Man’Untold eh? Well, I find that rather confusing since The Amazing Spider-Man is essentially identical for all intents and purposes to 2002’s Spider-Man, which was a superior origin story.  And that’s just it, The Amazing Spider-Man is yet another origin story, that does not add anything new or creative enough to justify its existence.  Seriously, how many damn times do we need to see uncle Ben get killed, or Peter Parker being bitten by the spider that gave him his powers? It’s ridiculous, and to exacerbate matters further, The Lizard is the lamest villain out of all the bad guys put to screen, I think Peter Chao said it best – if you were a super-powered lizard man, with super lizard powers why on earth would you want to make every other human being a lizard person? It would render your powers useless as you’d effectively be putting everyone on the same level as you.  There’s also been a lot of debate over who the better Spider-Man is, Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield, with Spider-Man 3 being referenced continuously as the reason for Garfield being superior.  Then again, it is a given that fan-boys would attack the weakest link of the series as opposed to its greatest strength, or has everyone forgotten just how good Spider-Man 2 really is?  That’s not to say that The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t worth watching, it has its moments, one scene involving a battle in the school’s library was quite entertaining and the addition of web-shooters is a nice touch, it’s just not enough to make this film truly great…or good for that matter, despite imdb’s ridiculous 7.6 rating.

Conclusion

We really, really did not need another origin story, as a continuation of the series would have enabled film-makers to focus on a completely new story as opposed to yet another retelling.  The Lizard is a shitty, uninteresting villain, that epitomizes the tired plot device of – Good-scientist-has-accident-and-turns-into-mutated-villain, and Andrew Garfield doesn’t seem to fit the Peter Parker mold all that well.  Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man serves as a 136 minute distraction at best, lacking any originality that may have warranted a second viewing.  Disappointing.

Grade: C-

The Avengers

Info:

Genre: Super-hero

Director/s: Joss Whedon

Running Time: 143 minutes

Budget: $220 million

Released: 11 April 2012

Plot:

Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army – imdb

Review:

This review is long overdue, and actually had half of it completed since May…anyway, so where to start with a film of this magnitude?  The Avengers didn’t just materialize out of thin air, it’s been in the making for sometime now and ever since the stinger in 2008’s Iron Man, where the shadowy agent known as Nick Fury proposed the ‘Avengers Initiative’ to Tony Stark, fans have been clamoring for an Avengers film.  Since Iron Man, Marvel Studios released a number of films, each of which had a post-credit scene that would reveal a little more of what was to come.  These films include – The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).  Even though these films were not direct sequels to one another (excluding the Iron Man films respectively), Marvel Studios has managed to create an unprecedented level of continuity between separate franchises to create a cohesive universe that unified with the arrival of The Avengers, and even better still, The Avengers has its very own post-credit scene, hinting towards the next villain, who will undoubtedly be the focus of The Avengers 2.  Marvel Studios have stated that Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Captain America 2 will essentially be ‘Phase 2’ of The Avengers Initiative.  So is The Avengers as good as the hype would have you believe, and how well will it be received in the post-Dark Knight era, where dark and gritty is the order of the day?

Captain America’s new, updated suit.

Simply put, The Avengers is the definitive superhero film, and many believe that it may have already stolen some of The Dark Knight Rises thunder (which is impressive considering that it is yet to be released).  Whether or not that’s actually true remains to be seen, one thing is for certain though, and that is that The Avengers has proven that large, splashy superhero flicks definitely have a place in a market that idolizes the antics of a brooding billionaire and the stark realism of his world.  What’s more, there’s no guarantee that The Dark Knight Rises will be as great as everyone seems to think, let’s face it, the film will have to be pretty damn amazing to top The Dark Knight, as well as the sterling performance by the late Heath Ledger and his insidiously brilliant and nuanced portrayal of Batman nemesis The Joker, but I suppose only time will tell.

The Avengers could have gone one of two ways, either it could have been a contrived, silly crap-shoot of a film, or it could be the awesome-tastic  thrill ride that every comic-book fan has been clamoring for – thankfully, it’s the latter as The Avengers is a well-written and action-packed film, filled with tonnes of inside jokes for the fans as well as just being downright and somewhat unexpectedly (though certainly welcomed) funny.  The Avengers has Joss Whedon to thank for that – the screenwriter/director/comic-book writer/actor, founder of Mutant Enemy Productions and is perhaps best known for creating  the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003) and the cult classic Firefly (2002).  Whedon was certainly the right choice for an undertaking as grand as The Avengers as the film broke box-office records earning in excess of $200 million over a weekend (claiming the highest grossing weekend total in history), shattering the previous record held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($169.2 million) and has already received the go-ahead for a sequel.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow.

…the Avengers has proven that large, splashy superhero flicks definitely have a place in a market that idolizes the antics of a brooding billionaire…

So is it really as good as all the ‘professional’ film critics are saying and if so why? Short answer – yes.  The Avengers has certain key attributes that make it such an entertaining and successful film, and I feel this can be best explained in a laundry list fashion;

1) High budget – getting the most obvious thing out-of-the-way first, a film as big and visually reliant as The Avengers could only ever be achieved with hundreds of millions of dollars, $220 million in fact, and this was achieved in part by product placement as several companies (about 18 brand names have been confirmed thus far), were offered mention in exchange for cash, needless to say these companies made a tonne of money themselves.  This tactic is an attempt to reduce the costs of making a film of this caliber and it has seemingly worked.

Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Iron Man.

2) Continuity – no doubt played a huge role in the film’s success, no thanks to Marvel Studios as they got audiences familiar with the characters back in 2008 when Robert Downey Jr. took the helm as Tony Stark.  With each new Marvel Studios film (where the film licenses belonged to them, this excludes Punisher: Warzone, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), like Captain America, The Incredible Hulk and Thor – Marvel Studios where able to create a cohesive world where the characters existed in the same universe, and the same actors would be used to portray them so that by the time The Avengers arrived, it would already have a huge fan-base as movie patrons would undoubtedly pay to see their favourite heroes kick ass.  On a side note, the reason why I think that The Hulk has failed to be as popular as the other Marvel films is partly due to the constant change of actor (Eric Bana, Edward Norton and most recently Mark Ruffalo) but mainly because I believe that The Hulk works best in a supporting role, and this was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt as The Hulk was the ace up the sleeve for the other teammates, who relied on him to show up and do some serious damage to the heavy hitters, The Hulk wasn’t introduced immediately, and by the time he did show up, audiences were already worked up in anticipation for some ‘Hulk Smash’ action.

3) Pacing – a film with so many characters cannot be achieved in the typical ninety-minute time frame that seems to be stock-standard these days, and thankfully The Avengers is over two hours, as it takes its time to get into the story and systematically introduce the villains and each of the heroes.  Originally, Robert Downey Jr. wanted the filmmakers to make Tony Stark/Iron Man the lead protagonist but when that didn’t work out, they approached the film in such a way that each of the main characters would have sufficient screen time in which to tell their story.  Needless to say,  not all the characters get along, and in a way The Avengers themselves behave like a dysfunctional family – bickering, arguing and even fighting amongst themselves (in a spectacular fashion I might add), but when the time comes to pull their shit together and act like a team, they deliver in spades, making for one hell of an entertaining superhero film.

Avengers assemble.

Conclusion

Marvel Studios have done it again, and this time they’ve really outdone themselves with The Avengers, as it proves to be a well-written, brilliantly paced, action-packed film – with enough humour to keep casual audiences happy, and enough references and inside jokes to sate the die-hard fans.  While The Watchmen remains to be my favourite film of this type, The Avengers is without a doubt the definitive superhero team film.  Seriously…who wouldn’t want to see The Hulk take on Thor? Highly recommended.

Grade: A