Soooo they went ahead and did it anyway!!
What am I talking about??
The inevitable rebooting of an already massively successful superhero franchise of course!
Damn you Hollywood! You already have a series that spins more than enough money to keep your coffers full for a very long time, what more do you want??
That and more money I guess.
So here it is, a decade after the first Spider-Man movie spun its way onto the big screen, a re-boot! Now imaginatively retitled 'The Amazing Spider-Man' it may as well have just been called 'Spider-Man Begins', because that's precisely what we have here, a film that lives in the shadow of Christopher Nolan's 'Batman Begins'.
Gone is the shy awkward and very polite Peter Parker of Tobey Maguire, in his place we have the edgey, moody and quite un-likeable skater-boy of Andrew Garfield, haunted by the disappearance of his parents (not unlike a young Bruce Wayne) and frankly quite ungrateful to his dear old aunt May and uncle Ben! (not unlike a young Bruce Wayne, oh wait, I said that already!)
There's a lot that's not quite right in this movie, but my major gripe has to be the reinvention of Peter Parker. The inoffensive nerdy Peter Parker of the previous films has been replaced by a moody skater-boy adolescent. True, were this real life, perhaps Peter Parker would be an un-likeable hoody wearing skater-boy. But if this was real life, he wouldn't be bitten by a radioactive spider either! It is still a radioactive spider right?? They don't really explain it in this film.. but there are loads of other similar spiders floating about in the same facility at Oscorp.. if only someone else was unfortunate enough to get bitten by one.
They've also done away with the simple, yet effective mantra 'With great power comes great responsibility', and left us with no clear moral or lesson that defines our hero. His motives for doing good are no longer driven by an over powering sense of guilt, but instead a rather bland 'do the right thing because it's the right thing to do' kind of sensibility.
The way the whole origin story unfolds is so diluted that you wish they just stuck to the basics, even if it was just a rehash of the 2002 Sam Raimi film. Better that than this weak unsubstantiated morality tale. Here, Uncle Ben could have probably survived and had the same effect on Peter.
As much as we enjoy watching Spider-Man do his webbed ballet over the New York skyline, what we really care about is Peter Parker's journey. Seeing the geeky guy get the girl, overcoming his insecurities and learning to be a hero (WITHOUT the mask) fulfils the secret desires in all of us.
Unfortunately we don't see any of that in this Spider-Man reboot, and that leaves us almost entirely unsatisfied by the end of the film.
Here Peter Parker is able to attract the girl BEFORE being bitten by a spider, so the extra confidence boost of being Spider-Man is completely unnecessary. He's sullen and pretty much always rude towards his aunt and uncle, inconsiderately coming and going as he pleases without remorse, which makes him plain unlikeable. Aside from being brainy and getting beaten up by Flash Thompson, he's not the Peter Parker we know and love... Something tells me that's exactly what the studio was going for, but I can't think why?
Oh wait, yes I can. Christopher Nolan has a lot to answer for!
And another thing!
In which universe does the hottest chick in school stand up for you against the bully? When I was in school, the hot chicks were even bigger bullies than the guys! But that's minor. The point is, a guy like Peter Parker should be invisible to the likes of Gwen Stacey, and part of his journey should be getting her to notice him and finally winning her over. Here, she already likes him, and that doesn't work as well, although to be fair, their blossoming romance is probably one of the better things about this film, and that's largely due to the director, Marc Webb, being in familiar '500 days of Summer' style relationship territory.
One of the worst thing's about Sam Raimi's Spider-Man was Kirstin Dunsts' bloody-awful Mary Jane Watson! Thankfully, Emma Stone's Gwen Stacey is affable, believable and waaay too good for Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker!
Then there's the film's setting. New York.. by night. Maybe the filmmaker's thought this would lend itself to a darker, grittier Spider-Man. Maybe they were right. But that's not what Spider-Man's universe is all about. Sure, it's not all sunshine and rainbows either, but I'm pretty sure he's not as nocturnal as say.. a bat?
Yeah, it's more believable than the costume in the previous Spider-Man films, but it's still not as believable as a guy that wears body armour and dresses as a bat, nor is it as believable as a guy that walks around in a green scuba-diver outfit!
That's what we're dealing with here. The repercussions of more realistic superhero costumes in other films. But guess what? Nobody cares about that stuff! So why bother showing how Peter Parker fashioned it? More importantly, if no one cares, why am I discussing it??
I'll move on.
Just for the record, I think the new Spidey outfit isn't that great looking, but I guess it does add more manoeuvrability.
How about Spidey himself?
Well, the good news is, he's actually as he should be. A wise cracking, cocky and funny tormentor of the bad guys. The bad news is, he does this like once or twice in the film. The rest of the time he's busy on a revenge mission that never gets resolved.. methinks the filmmakers purposely left MANY of the story threads open ended, just for the inevitable sequel. This doesn't make for a very satisfying movie going experience though.
Then there's the bad guy: The Lizard!
Or Rhys Ifan's English accented Dr. Curt Connors if you prefer. It's all a bit 'meh' to be honest. No fiendish masterplan to raze Gotham City to the ground or anything like that.. Just a guy that wants to.. nah, don't worry, I won't spoil it for you, but it does involve vaporising a gaseous substance into the atmosphere.. now where have I heard a crazy idea like that before..?
The Lizard himself is your usual generic CG monster. What is there, a template for these guys that comes free with Adobe After Effects??
We've seen it all before, and there's nothing to wow us here. He doesn't even make an appearance until the last third of the film anyway, so the climax all seems a bit forced. A spectacular finale pretty much out of no where, just because that's how these films are supposed to end!
Again, it's clearly set up for the sequels, and if you know anything about Spider-Man comic book lore, you know what happens to Gwen Stacey, and where all that leads. Yes, that's all going to happen; we can see it coming from miles away thanks to all those untied loose ends!!
So all in all, where does this stand in the grand pantheon of super hero movies?
Not very high I'm afraid.
It re-jigs the classic Spider-Man origin formula and does pretty much everything worse than how it was done before. Even the music pales in comparison! I was astounded when I read in the end credits that the music was done by James Horner! ...Braveheart would be turning in his grave.
This film has less scope, or breadth (New York never felt so small!) than it's previous incarnations. It has waaay less humour (where was J. Jonah Jameson and all the fun he brings to the party??), and unforgivably even less heart.
That's the main thing.
We're dealing with a reboot that is inferior to it's predecessor in almost every way that matters. Sure, the graphics are souped up, and the way Spidey moves and fights is better. But that's all superficial. We expect that from a big budget super hero film these days. The bar has been raised by more recent fare like Iron Man and The Avengers, as well as the Christopher Nolan's Batman films, so we expect better characters and a better story too. I'm afraid that bar has been set a little too high for this particular wall crawling effort.
Which begs the question, why do it??
I think I touched on that in the first paragraph. Money. There's nothing wrong with that. All Hollywood movies are driven by that goal, but this is just too cynical. There was no need for it. Another Sam Raimi effort would have been much preferred.
That said, I did hear many fellow film goers leave the Cinema totally blown away by what they had seen, so maybe it's just me.
After the disappointment of Prometheus and now this, I'm just hoping The Dark Knight Rises can live up to it's title, because The Amazing Spider-Man was anything but!
It's not crap.
It's just a three star film in a five star town.
Roll on July 20th.
Click on the picture for photos from the event.
The winning ways continued and on Saturday I got the chance to attend a WORLWIDE exclusive screening of the highly anticipated new Avengers movie, somewhat ridiculously titled 'Marvel's Avengers Assemble'!
It's as if the marketing guys had a last minute brainwave to use the film's title as an opportunity to market the company behind the film! Can you imagine DC calling the next Batman film 'DC's Dark Knight Rises'?? ..Actually, I wouldn't put anything past these Hollywood types.
Just how did I manage to bag tickets to this exclusive event, which preceded the actual UK première of the film and the nationwide release by two weeks?
I'd like to say it was my connections, but in actual fact, it was once again my luck that came to the rescue. Sometimes I feel like the X-Men character 'Longshot', with an uncanny mutant ability for good luck (just proving my fanboy credentials with that reference folks!). Seriously, I have got many stories; not just about winning prizes either (even though I've won a shed load of those too!). I entered the Showfilmfirst draw, and as expected, won tickets. That simple.
Luckily (again) the screening took place in Bush (Shepherd's), a mere 12 minute tube journey from where I live (stalkers amongst you, take note, because that's the most info you're gonna get!), even then, my friend and I were pretty far down the queue. The doors opened at 6:15pm for a 7pm start. So at 6pm we're busy checking out the talent at Westfield, strolling through the crowds wondering where a guy is supposed to meet chicks as beautiful as these.. even though they're all around us.
I would've been happy to continue strolling until about half 6, and then bop down to the cinema for around 6:45, but luckily my accomplice had the sense to want good seats, so we got there around 6:20...
Man, did I ever underestimate people's eagerness to see this film! The queue was huge! The organisers had asked people to dress up as their favourite Avengers character, with prizes on offer for the best dressed. I think about 3 people dressed up in total.. Good for them though, 'cos they all won prizes!
The queue was very good natured, and we broke English queueing protocol (standing in silence & looking miserable) by actually talking to one another& joking around!! The guy behind us had travelled all the way from Yorkshire to be at the screening, and to top it all off, he was missing his daughter's birthday too!! That's dedication folks; the fact that he didn't even bring her with him incase she might distract his viewing pleasure shows that he is a true fanboy and deserves those tickets!
There was quite a rigorous checking of I.D. to see if the names on our tickets matched. After that we had to check in our mobile phones and any other clandestine recording equipment we might be trying to smuggle in. They make us check in our phones, and there's a full blown camera crew walking about? Anyway, their tiny bags weren't big enough for my DVD burner, blank discs and labels, so they let me take them in.. Kidding. Obviously. But I guess they had to take precautions.
My friend and I walked into the auditorium.. and all the centre aisle seats wre gone!! Dammit! Fortunately there was still a few seats left up top, so breaking one's neck by being sat in the front rows was averted!
No trailers, just a small speech from one of the head honcho's thanking us for coming and telling us how lucky we were to be part of a select few around the world to see the film so early. You're welcome dude; I'm sure we'd all be happy to come back for future world exclusive screenings!
The lights dimmed. The audience drew their baited breath. The film began.
Now I won't spoil it for you; nor will I do an exhaustive review to rub your nose in the fact that I got to see the film before you. But I will tell you what I thought.
It's good ('phew!' I hear you all cry).
It's funny too!
Iron man totally owns the film. The film comes alive whenever he's on screen, and that's thanks once again to the Robert Downey Jnr. charm. The guy's charisma just leaps off the screen; the good thing is, none of the actors he shares the screen with try to compete with him either. They let him steal the show, and the film is all the better for it, because lets face it, some of the other characters aren't that great (Hawkeye anyone?).
My major apprehension towards this film was the fact that there were too many characters. The film still suffers from having no central character, or central character arc, but I think Joss Whedon (co-writer & director) does a good job of handling that many huge characters and giving each a sufficient amount to do. Lets face it, it's a balancing act, and in a crew of this many super powered beings, what the hell are Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) & the Back Widow (Scarlett Johansson) gonna be doing other than twiddling their thumbs? But they're both given pivotal roles.
The introduction of the characters and bringing them all together isn't drawn out either, and whilst this may please those fans that are eager to see them all 'assemble', I thought it was a weakness. A lot of great storytelling is to do with creating anticipation in the audience; playing with their expectations. Unfortunately, everything unfolds in a pretty standard manner; there's no wrong footing or misdirection. The way all the characters come together feels rushed, as if someone said 'Look, just bring them together, and then worry about what to do with them!'
Again, some people might prefer it that way, but I would have preferred each introduction to have more weight. I mean for crying out loud, these guys were in separate films, and now they're on screen together! It's a big deal! Treat it that way.. not like Han Solo running into Indian Jones whilst buying a pint of milk in the newsagent. Actually that's a bit harsh. The way they come together isn't that bad, it just could've been done better.
Now what would necessitate the coming together of Earth's Mightiest Heroes?
You need a pretty bad-ass villain right?
I have to say Tom Hiddleston's Loki is pretty cool. He does well with the role, as any English man would. But it's all too 'Transformers', with both sides chasing Marvel's version of the 'All-spark'. I found that to be pretty weak.
Another MAJOR weakness was Loki's minions (I don't want to spoil it for you, but you know he's gonna have bad guys to do his bidding right?). Again, I don't wanna give anything away here, but they look proper menacing.. but they go down like stack of cards. Note to all story-tellers: A hero is only as strong as his villain; in fact the villain should be much stronger, otherwise where is the heroism in defeating him?
The bad guys in this film were all too easy to defeat.
It's a non stop action packed film; and if you love a film with non stop action, you will love this film! I prefer character lead action films. To my mind, Chris Nolan's Batman films are the epitome of this. So for me, 'Marvel's Avengers Assemble' is too action packed! The action begins early and does not stop. I would have liked it if there were moments to allow the characters (and the audience) to breath, and develop.
The climax was like watching someone else play a video game, and the bad guys went down easier than the locust in Gears of War.
So where does this film rank?
I'd say it's not as good as the first Iron Man or Thor films, but a lot better than Iron Man 2, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk.
Mostly, it's just a fun popcorn film. It's a million times better than the likes of Transformers or Clash of the Titans, or most other big budget blockbuster. The characters are good, the story is decent (sorry, as a writer/filmmaker and former comic book guy, I have to believe I could have done some things better, if not the whole film), it's funnier than you'd expect and the graphics are good. Also, this is the best Hulk we've seen on screen thus far (though I must admit to preferring previous incarnations of Bruce/David Banner).
If anything, it does leave you wanting to see more from these characters, and that's always a good sign.
Go watch it an make up your own mind!
PS. remember to hang around after the initial credits!UPDATE!
Check out the video of the event. I saw a camera and literally dived in front of it!! See if you can spot me!!
Time to put down the pencil and pick up the camera.
So it's Friday night, and how did I spend it? That's right, sitting at home watching the chick flick, 'Water for Elephants'. Isn't that what all single young guys do on a Friday night? That or watch 'New Girl' right? ..Or if you really wanna question the meaning of your existence, BOTH!
It wasn't always like this though. This time last week I was enjoying the high life! Going to the Cinema.. in the West End!! I know, I know, I may as well have pulled out a fifty, used it to light my cigar and then tossed it into the fireplace. Such was the level of my 'Big Pimping'. Ah, halcyon days.. halcyon days my friend, halcyon days. (Wikipedia it)
Paying full whack at the Cinema on a weekend, especially in the West End, or at any 'high end' cinema is increasingly becoming a rare 'treat' rather than a regular occurrence.
Because everyone is downloading movies for free, so we need to police the internet, sue the hell out of our audience, or just shut down the internet altogether!
..Or at least that's the response of the billion dollar conglomerates that own Hollywood.
Falling cinema attendance has nothing to do with the fact that people are tired of the same old crap-ass films (so don't go to see them!), or with the fact that the price of a cinema ticket is now extortionately high, not to mention the added price of confectionery or going to see something in dreaded 3-D?
Ah my dear, naïve Hollywood conglomerates, you're starting to fall for the same BS that you've been peddling to us for years!
It's really much simpler than that.
You see, illegal downloads aside, the truth of the matter is, the 'home' experience is not only cheaper than a trip to the silver screen, but it's better too! I'm not talking technologically (not yet anyway), I'm talkin' about the same thing that ruins ALL activities that involve mixing with the public: PEOPLE!!
Yes, that's right; watching movies at home means you get to avoid those animals we call people!
I mean there I was, in a West End Cinema, and it was pretty damn drab. The seats had nothing on my comfy sofa at home.. But the screen and sound system did, so what the hey. People busy chatting away.. it's all good, the film hasn't started yet.. Film starts.. People STILL busy chatting away.. AND! The guy sitting infront of me is tall.. with out of control hair!! Consequently, the bottom centre of the screen was obscured. Luckily, the group he belonged to left half way through the film, but all that time, I couldn't immerse myself in the film.. all I could think was 'should I tell them to shut up?' or 'should I move seats?' 'cos this guy really can't help it if he has a big head, or an unkempt 'fro.
Then there's the iphone/every other smartphone users. Just because you can check Facebook on your phone doesn't mean you should. Not every five minutes anyway.. and not while you're in a cinema! Every now and then flashes of white light beam out of the Cinema seats as people unlock their phones. I seriously think there will be rehab clinics for people that can't stay 'unplugged' from the internet for more than 20 minutes. Kids, get to work on opening up the clinics; we can make a fortune exploiting, I mean 'treating' the sick!
The film I saw was 'Chronicle'. Not excellent, but definitely not bad.. but then we're fed so much rubbish at the Cinema that we go in with low expectations; thus even a half good film suddenly becomes Oscar worthy! 'Chronicle' is pretty much the result of what happened when someone came up with the genius idea of making a superhero film in the same style as 'Cloverfield'. It's a kind of camcorder job.. A high end, state of the art camcorder that captures incredible film quality images & the best sound you could imagine! But you get the idea. Some guy films all this stuff with a camera, and we, the audience, are privy to watching the footage.
It brings me to my next point: The democratisation of film. Making films (with the polished production values we've come to expect) is an expensive proposition.
But the revolution has begun.
Making films is still a very elitist endeavour; it involves a tonne of money, and the same people constantly receiving it; especially in Britain (please note: I continued my rant and wrote HUGE paragraphs on the nigh imposs-iblè task of entering the British film/media industry/the BBC.. if you're not a white middleclass brat educated at Oxbridge.. or if you're just not willing to play 'Cricket' ..By which I mean, pretending to be something you're not. By which I mean pretending to be a white middleclass brat educated at Oxbridge. But I cut those paragraphs out. It just wasn't cricket). As I already mentioned in my previous post, I got my hands on a pretty bad-ass camera last week; the Canon C300.
Someday we're gonna reach the point where camcorders can produce the kind of slick images produced in the movie 'Chronicle' and every other Hollywood film; and they know it. Why do you think the industry is at such pains to push 3-D, even though it adds nothing to the Cinematic experience except a dim picture and a headache?
There's one more thing keeping us from going to the Cinema; the internet. One more thing for Hollywood to compete with. Back in the day it was TV, so what did Hollywood do that time? They came up with a 'Widescreen' picture. This time around their response is 3-D.
They're totally missing the point. Again. Instead of fighting new technology in a desperate bid to maintain their high revenue streams, they need to embrace it. People like watching stuff on their laptops, on the go.. while they're doing other stuff like munching on breakfast or travelling on a train. Give the people what they want!! Don't sue them for doing it!
The same thing is happening with TV. It's not that people don't watch TV anymore.. it's just that they want to watch it when it suits them! Who has time to stop everything to watch a TV programme when it comes on; especially when a quarter of the viewing time is made up of adverts (I really feel for my American chums when it comes to adverts.. I don't know how you've tolerated the bombardment for so long!). Better to wait for the entire series to come on DVD and watch it at your leisure.. or as is the case now, stream it!
The Studio's need to stop trying to impose their will & find a way to make the internet work for them; cater to the needs of their audience.. because if they don't, there's a growing army of Indie filmmakers with DSLR's that will. As I said in my last post; we'll make the content & post it directly to the internet.
Made by us, for people like us.
It would also help if Hollywood spent less time & money pushing 3-D, and used it on developing good stories & scripts instead! ..But that's another debate for another time.
In short, I think that the future of Cinema is healthy. It definitely won't die. I think the actual number of Cinema's will decrease, but the way I see it, the good cinema's will survive and be busier than ever. Also, film production & what we get to see won't be centred around the few giant Hollywood conglomerates that pull all the strings and dictate our tastes; which is good.
There's a whole world of people that love movies out there, and their needs will be met.. if not by the establishment then by others. As more of us are given the opportunity to make films, more of us will learn to make good films, and that's good news for everyone.
Costs will come down because costs NEED to come down. It's scandalous that a film can cost over a hundred million dollars.. and still be crap at the end of it.
The Youtube generation is guiding the way.
There's still gonna be a lot of crap. More crap infact. You just can't get rid of it, especially as more people get to do their own thing, but there will also be a greater choice of crap!
I can't predict the future, all I'm doing is sounding a warning to Hollywood.
Change is coming.
When are they gonna invent a device that can write great stories??
So last week I went to this thing.. well it wasn't so much a 'thing' as a drinks meet up for Digital SLR filmmakers hosted by legendary DSLR guru Sir Philip of Bloom.. or 'Philip Bloom' as he likes to call himself.
He was actually hosting a masterclass that day, but it sold out by the time I head about it, so being the lonely alcoholic that I am (I'm actually pretty much teetotal kids- Just say 'No'!), I went along by myself, bracing sub-minus temperatures as I ventured into the remotest corners of Westbourne Park. Along the way I encountered many hordes of people, but stuck to commuter protocol by avoiding any eye contact and never uttering a word, even if several were required!
I got to this sausage factory, I mean 'studio' filled with enthusiasts, and everyone was huddled into groups, all talking amongst themselves waiting for Sir Philip & his crew to put away his equipment and join them.. Hmm. How to subtly gatecrash a group conversation..? I know, stand around the group conspicuously waiting for them to notice me and invite me in.. Okay, so they're playing the 'ignore him until he goes away' rouse.. Ok. Ah what the hell, they may not be fit chicks, but I'll play it the same way- by rudely interrupting and expecting them to stop everything to talk to me.
For those of you that don't know this (and judging by this blog, how could you?!), I am actually a filmmaker. Not made anything recently or making anything at the moment, but that's just a minor detail... Like a professional footballer that just sits on the bench. Anyway, many of you may have a big-ass camera with big-ass lenses.. well I use one such camera (which shoots video as well as taking pictures) to make my films. The one I have is an entry level camera (the much loved Canon 550D) but there's a whole industry of camera's out there that do the job.
Infact, upon realising that people were buying their camera's to make movies just as much as buying them to shoot pictures, the brainiacs at Canon saw an opportunity.. How's about making a camera specifically for shooting movies?! (n.b. This is not how it actually happened. For the true story, watch the Canon 'E True Hollywood Story' coming on straight after 'Kourtney & Kim take New York')
Thus was born the Canon C300 - a revolution in filmmaking technology and enough to make any DSLR filmmaker wet!
There were a lot of people at this networking drinks.. thingy, and the general consensus was that most of them were photographers who wanted to increase their skills. Rather than chatting to everyone briefly and work the room like I normally do, I just found a group of guys and chatted to them the whole time. Sometimes you gotta make a few quality connections, rather than lots & lots of superficial ones.
A lot of these guys were technically minded, spouting letters & numbers like FS100, GH2, etc. etc. in everyday conversation.. to be honest it was a lot deeper than that, but those are the only two combo's that I recognised & can remember! The rest just went over my head to be honest. It's not that I'm not technically minded; but I tend to learn only as much as I need, referring to google as I go.. I'm far more interested in STORY, and the camera to me is just like a pencil or a pen; a means to an end, and not an end in itself.
That's why it's good to have people dedicated to technical excellence in each aspect of filmmaking. I need to find the equivalent to these camera guys when it comes to sound!
At the end I handed everyone my card and never saw or heard from any of them ever again.. except one guy who added me on Twitter (I think he'll go far; he seems smart.. :).
I did briefly get my hands on the Canon C300!! ..And man.. it is AWESOME. The image quality in lowlight was AMAZING! Even the most ordinary subject gained a 'filmic luminescence'.
Fimmakers, I tell ye, this is a tool you wanna get your hands on! ..Shame about the £10,000 price tag!!!
I still want one though!!
Those of you that are not filmmaking nerds (I think that's everyone isn't it?) may scoff at the C300. With a price tag like that it won't revolutionise anything, right?
Come on man, we've been here tonnes of times already; Personal Computers? Mobile Phones?
Soon, as the technology evolves & drops in price, every household could be shooting their home videos with outstanding Hollywood style picture quality, and can you imagine the budding Spielberg's that will result from such a revolution?
With people preferring to download movies on their laptops to watch them at home instead of going to the Cinema or buying DVD's, it's no wonder the major Studios have taken to trying to shut down the internet (SOPA & PIPA) or suing the crap out of their audience!
Why do we need major Studios when we'll be able to make high quality films at home and upload them to the internet ourselves?
We make 'em at home & watch 'em at home. More choice, less costs and probably a hell of a lot better stories!!
Rather than adapt, Hollywood seems hell bent on sticking to it's archaic model of making & selling movies...
Uh oh. I feel a MAJOR rant coming on..!
In true Hollywood fashion, I'm saving the rest for the inevitable sequel! (or remake!)
To be Continued in PART 3 ..I mean PART 2!