A few months ago Sony made an announcement that they were creating something called, 4k televisions, which I can only assume is supposed to be the future of TV. Simply put, 4k TVs are supposed to be “Four times clearer than HD.” At any rate you can go here and read all about it. The Amazing Spider-Man is the first I’ve had a chance to look at.
I used to be a fan of the DC and Marvel live action movies, but lost interest in them somewhere along the way. Instead, I find myself looking forward to their animated counterparts, so when it was announced that the fourth live action Spider-Man movie was going to be directed by someone who wasn’t Sam Raimi, and essentially be a remake of the 2002 film, I let the news pass by with nary a second glance.
As time went by and news started to trickle in that this new movie would incorporate the mechanical web-shooters from the comics and that the villain would be the Lizard, I did an about face and became slightly interested. But, alas, that still wasn’t enough for me to want to plunk down the cash to see it in actual theater, or buy it on blu-ray or DVD. It became another matter entirely when the new “mastered in 4k” blu-ray surfaced, so I secured a copy, watched it, and found it to be a much better adaptation than Sam Raimi’s.
Firstly, Andrew Garfield makes a much better Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire ever did. His lankiness works better when he’s being Spider-Man, and secondly, Spidey’s humor was translated more faithfully in this version. Two good scenes show this off: one in which he nabs his first criminal after creating the spider suit, where he’s sitting in the backseat as that carjacker gets in. That entire scene and the following moments of the film, when he’s confronting the jacker outside, is pure Spidey banter. The next scene is the one in which he and the Lizard are fighting in a school hallway when his tail comes off. That whole battle, again, is pure Spidey banter, something Raimi’s version never had.
Oddly, this whole movie kept reminding me of the cartoon series, The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008-2009). In my opinion, that’s the best cartoon ever made about the infamous Marvel wall-crawler. It could be because of Gwen Stacy and the Lizard’s appearance—who knows?
As expected, this new version tweaks the origin tale somewhat. Here, Parker’s parents play more of an integral role as they are revealed in flashbacks, and even are shown to have been in the employ of Oscorp Industries, Norman Osborne’s (aka Green Goblin) infamous company. When Oscorp figures into a comic book movie, you just know bad things are a-coming. The brilliance of this movie is that even though Oscorp figures into the plot, it’s not about Norman, it’s about Dr. Curt Connors, who along with Peter’s father, was working on genetic experiments that involved crossing the DNA of certain species, and for whatever reason it resulted in Parker’s parents being killed in a plane crash. Not an accidental one either, mind you, as is hinted at later in the movie.
Director Marc Webb smartly decided we don’t need another movie where the Green Goblin is the primary villain again. I like that they’re obviously working up to including him in this new franchise, but in a way that builds his “mythos” before we actually get to see him.
Curt Connor is played by Rhys Ifans, who reminds me of David Warner in so many ways. If you told me they were related, I’d believe it.
Parker is still bitten by that “radioactive spider”. Uncle Ben is still gunned down by that crook Parker had the chance to stop earlier but didn’t. He still seeks revenge upon that man afterwards, and that “With great power comes great responsibility” speech is still there, but it’s all altered a little bit so as not to make it feel like, oh, look, yet another Spider-Man origin tale that hits all the same marks.
Left out of this version is J.J. Jameson, Parker working to be a photographer to pay the bills, and the cage match where he first tests his powers and make some money in the process has also been eliminated. There’s a shade of it left, though, where, in the process of seeking revenge upon Ben’s killer, he crashes through the ceiling of an condemned building, falling right in the middle of a boxing ring and spotting an old poster on the wall of a masked fighter that plants the seed of what his eventual costume may look like. Even the character of Parker himself has been tweaked. He’s not the all out nerd we’ve always been familiar with. You still get the sense he’s not all that suave with the chicks, and knows more about science than anyone in the school, but that’s about it. Here his only real bully is Flash, and like Raimi’s flick, Flash is still a complete douchebag. Yet, in Webb’s flick, he comes with a twist. He and Parker actually end up being buddies after Ben’s death.
Also refreshing to see is Gwen Stacy, the chick that came along before Mary Jane Watson, and Emma Stone plays her with perfection, not to mention her father Police Captain, Stacy. Sam Raimi was able to secure a Hollywood heavyweight (Cliff Robertson) to portray Uncle Ben in his movie, Webb secured one, too, for his version, with Martin Sheen. He even scored one for Aunt May with Sally Field. Her appearance I knew nothing about and was pleasantly surprised when I saw her.
I do have a few gripes about the movie, which Raimi’s version is guilty of, too. I would love to see more wall crawling in these movies. I mean, it would have been cool if they had put in a scene of him testing out his powers, and just wall crawling around his home, when his parents are gone. Not a CGI Parker, but make a set that rotates, like Cronenberg did with The Fly, put Garfield in it, and let him do the crawling in camera. To me Spider-Man should rarely be shown walking around on the ground like an average person. If he’s talking to someone, show him stuck to a wall, or the side of a truck, or hanging upside down. There was a wasted scene where Parker was talking to Gwen as he was scouring the sewer looking for Connors, where he should have been crawling along he walls.
The web-shooters. Yes, it’s cool they went back to the mechanical ones, but they hardly showed them in the movie. All I know about them was that they’re these little devices he puts on the outside of the suit. Let’s see a scene where he’s actually putting them on. Let’s see if they really match the comic versions, especially in the palm-pressure point. And then there’s the creation of the suit. I can actually understand why this was glossed over; though, we saw a little bit more of it in Raimi’s version, but let’s see how this kid actually put that damn thing together. Any realistic Spider-Man suit, made by any normal teenager, would never look that high-end, that professionally made, so, I’ll let this “sin” slide.
As you all know, if you’re familiar with my reviews, I prefer practical FX to CGI, but I’m in no way a CGI hater. If there’s enough money and/or ingenuity to make the CGI believable then I’m all for it. If there were anything CGI was made for . . . the one genre(s) the benefits the best from this technology is fantasy and super hero movies. Think about it, a live action Lord Of The Rings, a proper one where the visuals can really match the source material, could never have been done pre-CGI, or even a proper Spider-Man movie. Sure, we had a live action series back in the 70s, but those web-slinging scenes from the comic books could never have been done like that back in the day. And in this regard I am perfectly happy with the level of CGI that was on display in this new movie.
Last but not least, I saw a couple of notable cameos in the flick. Anyone remember Jennifer Lynch’s snake woman movie, Hisss (2010)? Not surprised, if you don’t. I saw it months ago and the actor who played the lead detective in it, Irrfan Khan, was in this movie. He seems to be playing Norman Osborn’s right hand man. He’s only in, like, three scenes, but I recognized him easily. The next cameo is much more substantial. After Spidey rescues this little kid from a burning car hanging off the bridge, he hands that kid off to his father, who just so happens to be actor, C. Thomas Howell (The Hitcher). He also shows up later in the movie, towards the end to help Spidey get across town to the Oscorp building by aligning the cranes he’s in charge of throughout the city, so he can web sling between them and get there faster.
The transfer is in a 2.40:1 (1080p) aspect ratio with TrueHD 5.1 audio, while I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary with The Amazing Spider-Man, the transfer was visually as stunning as any Sony movie I have ever seen on blu-ray.
Stay tuned for my review of the Ghostbusters 4k transfer and more information on Sony’s new 4k releases.