Friday, August 22, 2014

A Ghoul Versus The Amazing Spider-Man (Part 1)

It is WAY past time for a Spider-Man reboot, after all it's been FIVE YEARS!”

Hollywood is going through a weird phase right now: they're handing over a huge percentage of their summer blockbuster movies to Indie Darlings. You currently have James Gunn, creator of legendary films such as Tromeo And Juliet, currently ruling the box office with his smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy. Christopher Nolan, Joss Whedon, and Jon Favreau are among the names who started off with tiny independent films now making movies that bring in BILLIONS.

Hoping to capture some of this magic in their own bottle, Sony Pictures hired Marc Webb to helm their Spider-Man reboot. Webb is another Indie Darling well know for his Little Film That Could, the much beloved (even by myself) 500 Days of Summer, so that means we're at the least assured a film that will have some strong characterization in it. That was definitely something that was lacking from the original Spider-Man trilogy, so that's a lot of elements already in place for a good film.

But enough with the positives, let's get to the negatives! The worst glaring one here is the primary writer of this movie, one James Vanderbilt. He is a writer who LOVES his convoluted and overly complex films, especially my personal favourite Basic which is basically Screenwriting 101 for how NOT to do a movie. He is a dangerous writer to be crafting such a simple story, as I seriously doubt he'll be able to keep his tropes in check.  Let's mix all those elements together and see how the latest Hollywood superhero reboot turned out, strap on your web-slingers and get ready for A Ghoul Versus The Amazing Spider-Man!



We open with a young Peter Parker playing hide and seek with his dad aaaaaaand just like that the film is not starting off with its best foot. Do we NEED another superhero origin story stretching all the way back to the hero as a kid, where we're treated to a bunch of boring melodrama that has nothing to do with anything? Did you know in the very first Spider-Man comic book Peter became his costumed alter-ego by page SEVEN? What's the under/over on this film taking at least 45 minutes to tell a story that we've already seen a million times already?

Peter finds his dad's office completely trashed, getting scared and calling out. His dad appears and hastily gathers his research, which just happens to be about spiders, while his mother packs up their stuff. I KNEW Vanderbilt was going to have to complicate Peter's origin as much as possible, now his DAD is involved in it. I'm getting shades of Ang Lee's Hulk already!

They GTFO, taking Peter to stay with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May while they leave to go do whatever. We jump to present day, where Peter is a nerdy high school student and a favourite target of the required by law Douchebag Jocks led by Captain Asshole himself, Flash Thompson. He's not very popular with the ladies either, which is a VERY innovative plot twist that I don't think I've ever seen before in a movie.  Even more shocking, he pines for the required by law high school Hottie-Hot-Hottie, the very blonde Gwen Stacy. And HOLY SHIT SHE'S DATING FLASH! Where are they coming up with these mind-blowingly original ideas? Gwen is super nice though, but still dates Flash because... teen high school movie.

We're next treated to Peter's fairytale home life with his loving and compassionate aunt and uncle where everything is perfect and the air smells like gingerbread. He helps his uncle work on their flooding basement, finding an old suitcase of his father's. Inside he finds a photo of his father and a Dr. Curt Connors along with a security pass for the company they both work for, Oscorp. Digging deeper he finds a folder full of research notes and formulas, but even his super smart science brain can't make heads or tails of them.

He Googles- oh wait, he's a tech geek, BINGS Curt Connors and finds the two were working on “cross species genetics”. So the film has already established Peter very much misses his father, he never ONCE searched for information about him online? A scientist of his caliber shouldn't have exactly been a very big secret based off his research.

A internet search montage follows because this film needs to hit every cliché possible as we briefly see Peter's parents died in an airplane crash. Which Peter must have already know, but the filmmakers couldn't think of any other way to tell US apparently. Peter finds Connors is still employed at Oscorp, so he takes off to visit with him under the ruse of impersonating one of his interns amongst a group visiting the scientist.

His plan hits a slight snag when he sees the head intern is Gwen Stacy herself, but Peter keeps a low profile so she doesn't spot him. Connors introduces himself, making light of his missing arm as he details his lifelong dream to regrow it via cross species genetics. Peter ditches the rest of the students to talk with Connors, but instead bumps into a shady looking man carrying a folder that contains the exact same formula of the one he found in his dad's belongings so he tails him instead.

He follows the man to a door marked “BioCable Development Unit”, where he finds a crazy science room full of spiders. Being the genius that he is he walks in, and spiders start RAINING DOWN UPON HIM officially making this the scariest movie in the history of ever.  To save us from this horror show, the film cuts back to Connors discussing the results of his latest test with Shady Looking Man. Shady says Connors needs to step it up because Norman Osborn is dying, threatening they'll both lose their heads if they don't make any progress.

Peter leaves the lab where Gwen catches him and takes his stolen ID badge away, but lo and behold a spider has stowed away on Peter's jacket and bites him on the back of the neck. He heads back home on the subway as he begins to develop super enhanced senses and hands that stick to everything, accidentally ripping off a woman's shirt in the process. Ha ha... hah? Remember that kids, sexual assault is HILARIOUS.

A group of men come to the woman's rescue, Peter finding he also has superhuman strength and agility as beats the crap out of all of them. This is probably the worst introduction to a hero I've EVER seen outside of... no, this is actually the worst. The Amazing Sociopath, ladies and gentlemen! Their fight is shot in the most confusing and erratic manner possible thanks to your best friend and mine, Too Close Shaky Cam!

After another research montage of Peter looking up spider-bites and genetics, he visits Connors at his house and reveals he's Richard Parker's son. He doesn't mention his spider-bite, but does show Connors he's solved the formula they'd been working on. Or something, I don't really know. They're spouting technobabble out of their mouths at Star Trek: The Next Generation speeds here. They make plans to meet at Connors' lab later on.

The next day at school we get the Bullied Character Gets Revenge On His Bully scene as Peter completely shows up Flash during gym class during a basketball game, ending up dunking on the asshole and shattering the backboard. This leads to him getting in trouble, but he does catch Gwen's eye so I'd call that a win.  I guess she wasn't dating Flash, just tutoring him but the film was never very clear on any of this.

After school Peter takes time to recreate Kevin Bacon's warehouse dance from Footloose because this movie can't go a single scene without ripping something off. Peter fails on the music selection though, choosing Coldplay's “Kingdom Come” instead of Moving Picture's “Never”. Rookie mistake there, Factory Dancer.  Having gotten the dancing out of his system, Peter catches up with Connors for that lab date. While on the private tour he makes note of something called a “Ganali device” that he remembers from his dad's office, Connors explaining that theoretically it could create a cloud over a city that'd cure whatever disease was loaded into it. Now MY Spider-Sense is going off, because this makes ANOTHER movie with a subplot about releasing gas upon a city, something else that is required by law to happen in a superhero movie. Thanks Tim Burton!

Connors shows Peter an experiment they're trying to do involving transferring a lizard's genes into a three legged rat so the rat can regrow its missing limb. It's important to note they're using a giant three dimensional holographic display to show this instead of a keyboard, meaning this must be a stealth prequel to the movie Minority ReportNaturally Peter and his two research montages were enough to make him smarter than the man who's been working on the same data for over two decades as he cracks the code and heals the rat. That's probably nitpicking on my part, but instead of making Peter look like a genius it makes Connors look like a total moron.

Peter returns home to find Ben waiting for him, getting chewed out for forgetting to pick up Aunt May after work, his uncle dropping the line “with great power comes great responsibility”. Oh no wait, they have to put their own spin on the iconic line as Ben tells Peter his father lived by the principle that “If you could do good things for other people, you had a moral obligation to do those things”. Hmm, that doesn't quite have the same iconic ring to it.

To my total and utter amazement Peter DOESN'T pull the “you're not my real father!” line on his uncle, but instead whines about his father not being there for him and storms out of the house. Ben goes out looking for him... on the dark and dangerous streets of New York. Yeah, THIS is going to end well.  Peter goes to a convenience store to buy some milk, but is two cents short and the asshole clerk won't let him take two pennies out of the change tray on the counter. Peter starts leaving, noticing the customer behind him distracting the clerk and stealing a six pack of beer in the chaos.

The thief runs out of the store, the clerk chasing him. He asks Peter to help but Peter echoes his own words back at him saying it's “not his policy”. Aaaaaaaaand right on cue there's Ben. Are they REALLY going to do this? The clerk screams for someone to stop the thief so Ben tries... and gets shot for his trouble. Wow, way to COMPLETELY fuck up Spider-Man's epic origin story there Marc Webb! In most versions of this story Peter was already wrapped up in his quasi-fame and arrogantly let the armed robber stroll right past him, here the robber is halfway down the street and Peter had no idea he was even carrying a gun. Not to mention do we really expect him to stick his neck out for a guy stealing a six pack of beer versus bags of money?

Or, if you want to go even further with this, in the original Peter is consumed with vengeance as he hunts down the robber and is HORRIFIED to recognize him as the guy who shot Ben.  This is when everything comes crashing home for him, as the realization of him neglecting his moral code led to the death of his beloved uncle.  This shock led to the true genesis of the hero he'd become.  Here, it happens all so fast and instantly it's a borderline nonfactor.

That night Peter takes to the streets looking for the thief, getting into a confrontation with a gang and finding himself in a building with an old wrestling ring in a bizarre homage to his real origin story. Looking at a poster of a masked wrestler he gets the proverbial light bulb over his head as we segue into ANOTHER Bing montage, this one of him designing his iconic costume. Since this movie has WISELY ditched the idea of organic web shooters he makes his own, using Oscorp's “BioCable” from earlier in the film to simulate webs. I do wonder how he's able to afford them, as a magic material of this strength should rightfully cost millions.

This finally leads to minute 54 of the movie, as we finally have Spider-Man in full costume. I wasn't too far off on my prediction, it's just a shame they wasted nearly an hour setting all this up and neglected to set up Connors as the villain in any way, shape, or form whatsoever. I totally get his obsession to grow his arm back is the crux of his character, but he's not even remotely fanatical about it. Hell, he's downright polite and cordial when you get right down to it.

One night he comes home very late where he's confronted by Aunt May, who I honestly forgot existed at this point. But that's okay because the movie did too. A scene of her and Peter discussing Ben's death, what's that? More Connors and Shady Man follows, as Shady Man is pressuring Connors to start testing the regeneration formula on people. Connors refuses, Shady Man making more vague threats against him so Osborn can be saved. You know what might drive this a tad bit better? How about SHOWING FREAKING OSBORN?! He's only Spider-Man's most iconic and famous villain, but nah... let's just see unnamed Shady Man barking out orders.

Realizing the movie is going nowhere fast with the whole thief subplot, Connors injects HIMSELF with the regeneration chemical which is straight out of the comic so I'm not going to bitch about how cliché it is. It is kind of odd they've changed practically everything else about these characters but kept this one plot point in. He starts convulsing as the camera cuts away to Peter visiting Gwen. Oh yeah, her. Forgot she was in this movie also.  She hugged Peter the day after Ben died, but then must have had a lot of Gwen things to do because she pretty much vanished. I kind of thought Peter had been completely ignoring her during his Rampagefest, but she seems happy to see him so who knows.

Back to Connors, who now has one brand new arm. He gets in a taxi to go somewhere, but his joy rapidly fades as it begins to mutate into something reptilian. Peter joins Gwen's family for dinner, where we learn her father just happens to be the police captain that's been hunting Spider-Man. Peter and Captain Stacy get into a fight over Spider-Man, Gwen taking Peter outside to get him away from her father. On the balcony Peter REVEALS HE'S SPIDER-MAN and they kiss. So much for that whole pesky “secret identity thing to protect his loved ones”, eh?

The fun is broken up by nearby sirens, Peter and Captain Stacy rushing off to investigate in their own respective manners. We cut to a massive traffic jam on the Williamsburg Bridge, where Shady Man is stuck in his limo when Connors decides to pay him a visit AND HOLY SHIT does he look horrible. What year was this movie made? 2012?! Seriously how can a movie in this day and age look THIS bad? It's sad when the now decade old Pirates of the Caribbean looks better in every way, shape, and form.

Click here for Part 2!