The Amazing Spider-Man

With the surprise additions of Little Miss who decided to extend her “world’s latest bedtime” record until after 11pm, we opted for cheap-o-vision rather an IMAX to see the umpteenth version of the Webbed Wonder. Astoundingly, there were more 2D than 3D performances at the local Cineworld so we didn’t have a problem getting tickets.

The Amazing Spider-Man

“You seriously think I’m a cop in a skintight red and blue suit?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Seriously? OK… boy gets bitten by spider, gets spider powers, faces big nasty bad guy. Happy?

See it if you like: Comic book adaptations with a very strong story, which don’t stay as close to the version you’re used to as you may expect

First things first – did they deliberately hunt out a director called Marc Webb purely for this film or did he change his name for publicity reasons? Either way, he’s done a good job and even turned a doubting Thomas like me into a believer. I simply couldn’t believe they were “rebooting” a franchise that was barely ten years old, with the last instalment not even five years ago.

Reboot they did, though, and relative unknown Andrew Garfield was cast in the Peter Parker role. A part, incidentally, he’s very good in. He has all of the confused teenagery-ness that Maguire had… and then some. Parker’s “proper” girlfriend as per the older comic history, Gwen Stacey, is drafted back in in the form of Emma Stone. Pretty, yes, but definitely doesn’t pass for a high school pupil. At all. Denis Leary is superb as her dad, Captain Stacey, and it’s great to see him in a film role for the first time in ages (not counting voicing animated sabre-toothed tigers).

There are many other differences between this and the last series, which is a good thing. I really enjoyed the previous trilogy, and it’s a welcome thing to see that they’re not effectively being remade. The basic story is still there (MINOR SPOILER: orphan who lives with aunt and uncle is bitten by spider, develops powers, has fight with uncle, uncle dies, boy tries to hunt down killer) but beyond that we’re in fairly new territory.

Despite appearing in the previous films, Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) never actually featured as a villain. In this, he’s the central one and a great character with two very interesting sides to his story. There are many nods to other parts of Spidey-history that fans may be familiar with, but they are really just on the periphery – The Bugle, OsCorp and so on.

Oh, and of course the obligatory (in fact, I believe contractual) Stan Lee cameo. This is the best one he’s done so far. Even better than that from Thor (which was, let’s face it, the only good bit in that film).

If there’s a problem with the film it’s that it’s a bit too drawn out and slow to get going. Gillian and I felt it, but it didn’t bother us too much. Little Miss, on the other hand, definitely needed the action to kick in a little earlier. At 137 minutes long, it’s a long time to wait to see some ass-whupping. Having said that, once it gets going the action sequences are superb. Not too fast, while still being clear and imaginative. Much use was made of acrobats and actors rather than CGI and it shows in the character movement making them all the more realistic and enjoyable to watch.

Would this have been worth the extra cash to see in 3D at the IMAX? Yes, I think it would. There are enough huge scenes that I think it would benefit. However, there’s nothing wrong with seeing it in good old-fashioned 2D.

A cracking film, and a good take on what’s becoming a very familiar story.

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Thor

Just the one film and an early weekend one at that. It’s been previewing since Monday and we opted for the cornea-friendly 2D version of…

Thor

“Did it work?”

See it if you like: superhero films with more pathos and romance than humour and action. Think Hulk rather than Iron Man.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Origin story of a Norse god who becomes a mortal on earth in the modern day, and set-up for a team-up movie due next year.

I’ll generally go to see any superhero film that comes out and the majority these days seem to come from Marvel Comics. DC seem to have stuck with churning out more Batman ones, and failing to release new Superman episodes. Marvel, on the other hand, seems content to churn out as many films as it can based on every major character it holds, regardless of quality. Sometimes hit, sometimes miss.

Thor, for me, fell into the latter category. Despite a reasonable cast, it just seemed like a big, gaudy mess. Chris Hemsworth is excellent in the role of Thor himself (but since when did he have a beard? The guy from the comics I remember was clean-shaven) and Anthony Hopkins is fine as Odin. Brian Blessed was apparently considered and I’m glad they didn’t go with him otherwise the whole thing would have looked even more like Flash Gordon.

Natalie Portman seems to be popping up in a lot recently and performs passably as some scientist whose name I can’t be bothered to look up who goes all doey-eyed at Mr Muscles.

The biggest surprise was seeing Shakespearian legend Kenneth Branagh attached as director. Given the kind of story the films tells, it’s perhaps not a bad choice. It is operatic and dramatic, so it does suit him. However, I just found the whole thing completely overblown in its use of effects.

The halls of Asgard look like an overgrown church organ and the Rainbow Bridge seems to have been made by gluing together several million “Ziggy” handsets from early episodes of Quantum Leap.

If there’s a highlight it’s the Destroyer – a genuinely scary and fearsome-looking opponent with a rather spine-chilling sound every time it’s about to shoot fire. Having said that, the battle sequence it features in is just kind of “OK”. Having said that, its appearance on earth leads to possibly the best line in the film.

In response to the quote heading this review, uttered by the wonderful Stan Lee in his expected cameo, I have to say “Sorry, fella. No. It didn’t.”

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