Monday, July 09, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man 3D (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man / Peter Parker), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy).

The Amazing Spider-Man / The Amazing Spider-Man.
    US © 2012 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. EX: Michael Grillo, Stan Lee. P: Avi Arad, Matthew Tolmach, Laura Ziskin.
    D: Marc Webb. SC: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves – story: James Vanderbilt – based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. DP: John Schwartzman – 3D World created by Sony – digital intermediate: Colorworks. M: James Horner. PD: J. Michael Riva. AD: David F. Klassen (sup.), Page Buckner, Michael E. Goldman. Set dec: Leslie A. Pope. Art dept: large. Cost: Kym Barrett; Cirque de Soleil. Makeup dept: big. SFX dept: big; Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI). VFX dept: huge; Legacy Effects (The Lizard and Lizard drone character designs and prosthetic makeup); there is a large Indian department involved. Stunt dept: huge. AN dept: big, sup: Mike Beaulieu (Sony Imageworks). S: Shannon Mills, Addison Teague. ED: Alan Edward Bell, Michael McCusker, Pietro Scalia. Casting: Francine Maisler.
    C: Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man / Peter Parker), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Rhys Ifans (The Lizard / Dr. Curt Connors), Denis Leary (Captain Stacy), Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben), Sally Field (Aunt May), Irrfan Khan (Rajit Ratha), Campbell Scott (Richard Parker), Embeth Davidtz (Mary Parker), Chris Zylka (Flash Thompson), Max Charles (Peter Parker, age 4), Leif Gantvoort (cash register thief), Stan Lee (school librarian).
    Studio: Sony Pictures Studios (Culver City). Loc: New York City, Los Angeles. 136 min.
    Released in Finland by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Saliven Gustavsson.
    2K DCP 3D in Dolby 3D Digital Cinema viewed at Killa, Savonlinna, 9 July 2012 (Finnish release 6 July, U.S. 3 July).

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: 3ality Technica - SIP (Stereoscopic Image Processor), 3ality Technica TS-5 3D rig, Red Epic, Panavision Primo and Zeiss Ultra Prime Lenses. – Laboratory: ColorWorks, Culver City (CA), USA (digital intermediate) – Source format: Redcode RAW. – Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format). Redcode RAW (5K) (dual-strip 3-D) (source format). – Release format: 35 mm (anamorphic), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up), D-Cinema (also 3-D version), Digital. – Aspect ratio: 2.35 : 1.

The previews in the screening were: Skyfall (the forthcoming James Bond movie), The Dark Knight Rises ("hope is lost", "faith is broken", "a fire will rise"), and The Expendables II (the audience laughed in the intended way in the end when star names appeared to the beat of drums: Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Norris, Lundgren, Jet Li, etc., etc.). During the screening Kracauer's diagnosis of Weimar cinema as un monologue intérieur of the German people occurred to me. I was also wondering about the current emphasis on recycling: Batman from the 1930s, James Bond from the 1950s, Spider-Man from the 1960s, and action heroes from the 1980s.

I was positively surprised by The Amazing Spider-Man because it is more character-driven than I expected, because the performances are good, because there is room for real emotion, interaction and sensitivity, and because there are psychologically complex and engaging moments in the story.

I have not seen Marc Webb's previous work, including the feature film (500) Days of Summer, but he is clearly a talented director. Andrew Garfield I remember from The Social Network, and in this movie he rises to the occasion. So does Emma Stone whom it is a pleasure for me to see for the first time in this film.

The director and the actors are not overwhelmed by special effects and action sequences. There is a good sense of rhythm. There is a slower tempo for the psychologically driven sequences and rapid cutting for the action sequences (too rapid to my taste, as I belong to the montage interdit school regarding dancing and physical action sequences).

The psychological basis of the movie is the teenage confusion of growing up, experiencing profound transformations in the body, and facing the opposite sex. There is a fine sense of humour in the awkward meetings of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). I like the sense of dignity they express beyond the awkwardness. The situations of school bullying in the beginning of the movie are all too real and relevant. It is sad if the only way out is to turn into Spider-Man, although Peter shows courage even as his normal self. In the beginning there is a bent towards revenge fantasy, but Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen in a fine performance) teaches Peter otherwise.

Although the bite of the genetically manipulated spider turns Peter into a superhero, his vulnerability is still emphasized, and in the climax he could not succeed without the help of others. The operators of Manhattan's tower cranes unite to create a route for Spider-Man to save the city from destruction. Gwen is equally brave in preparing the antidote and bringing it to the top of the skyscraper.

The villain The Lizard / Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) is shown as a victim of his own curse. Peter does not hate him but saves him, as well. Peter also takes responsibility since it is he who forwarded Connors his father's hidden formula. "I created him", he confesses.

There are both exhilarating fantasy sequences of omnipotence and devastating scenes of death, loss, disappointment and pain in the story.

I like the dialogue in the conclusion of the movie. "Stay away from me so I'll be safe?" is Gwen's guess about her father's last words to Peter. "You owe the world your gift" were Uncle Ben's last words to Peter as spoken to his voicemail. In the classroom there is an English lesson: "There are ten plots in all fiction but really only one: 'Who am I?'". As usually, Peter comes late to the class and promises it's the last time. "Don't make promises you can't keep". "But those are of the best kind", whispers Peter to Gwen. I and my two young friends (who belong to the target age and like the movie very much) were the only ones who stayed until the end of the end credits and got to see the teaser to the sequel. Dr. Connors is in prison. "Did you tell the boy?" "You should leave him alone".

The movie turns the restrictions and limitations of the current 3D digital visual quality into means of expression.

There are sequences in the movie that look like experimental cinema: Peter's skating world, the parkour topography, the hall of the spider webs, the way the sewers are shot, and set-ups in the subway tunnels.

The sense of terra firma is missing. Instead, there is a spider web vision in the entire movie: transparent, translucent, almost incorporeal.

This movie has been profoundly thought in 3D. There is a sense of deep space in the action sequences in the tunnels and the sewers. The Manhattan skyscraper district has been shot often from an extreme high angle, and the 3D cinematography conveys the sense of vertigo with thrilling impact. Peter's world is three-dimensional both as his normal self (skating, parkour), and as Spider-Man.

The 3D presentation with Dolby glasses was successful, and I had no problem with image brightness.

Driving back home in the white night through the Punkaharju ridge we experienced one of the most breathtaking sights anywhere, tough competition for any visual spectacle.

P.S. A favourite Spider-Man performance of mine is that of Kenny Everett in one of his tv comedy shows.
PS. 2. Jim Emerson sums up debates on comics superhero franchises.

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