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The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray + DVD Review

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) movie poster The Amazing Spider-Man

Theatrical Release: July 3, 2012 / Running Time: 136 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Director: Marc Webb / Writers: James Vanderbilt (story & screenplay), Alvin Sargent (screenplay), Steve Kloves (screenplay); Stan Lee, Steve Ditko (Marvel comic book)

Cast: 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), C. Thomas Howell (Jack's Father), Jake Ryan Keiffer (Jack), Kari Coleman (Helen Stacy), Michael Barra (Store Clerk), Gantvoort (Cash Register Thief), Andy Pessoa (Gordon), Hannah Marks (Missy Kallenback), Stan Lee (School Librarian)

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I like the idea of a 19-year-old British man seeing 2002's Spider-Man in a theater and saying "That's gonna be me someday." How preposterous that would seem and yet, Andrew Garfield could have had that experience and lived to prove it right.
Who ever would have guessed that just ten years after the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man set the box office ablaze and a mere five after its second sequel extended the series' track record of financial success and critical favor, we would have a new Spider-Man franchise gracing theaters?

Rebooting is not a new concept, but in general, some time must pass and there has to be some kind of disappointment. While many these days profess Spider-Man 3 to fulfill the latter test, let us not forget that it was the #1-grossing film of 2007 and had nearly twice as many positive reviews as negative ones. Sony was all set to make a Spider-Man 4 with Raimi still in the helm, Tobey Maguire in the titular role, and Kirsten Dunst as his leading lady. But, in January 2010, the project fell apart, Raimi clashing with the studio over plans for the sequel and finding the script insufficient to begin production on Sony's high-pressure timetable. Rather than replace the director with someone who would get the cameras rolling soon, Sony pulled the plug...and on the same day announced via Tweet a Spider-Man reboot for summer 2012 theatrical release.

Andrew Garfield assumes the role of Peter Parker, the teenaged nerd who becomes the amazing Spider-Man. A blonde Emma Stone fills the love interest role as classmate Gwen Stacy.

Not merely a personnel change but a reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man essentially remakes Raimi's first Spider-Man, providing a new take on the same origin story that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko told in a 1962 Marvel comic book. On the heels of his warmly-received romantic comedy debut (500) Days of Summer, Marc Webb would direct from a script by Zodiac's James Vanderbilt (who had worked on the unrealized Spider-Man 4), seven-film Harry Potter scribe Steve Kloves, and seasoned Hollywood veteran Alvin Sargent, who had contributed to all three of Raimi's Spider-Man films.

Two years older than Tobey Maguire was at the start of his franchise, 29-year-old Garfield plays Peter Parker, a shy, nerdy teenager enrolled at Manhattan's Midtown Science High School. Peter lost his parents at a young age and has been raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). He's picked on at school, where he hones his photographic ambitions and barely earns the notice of classmate crush Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

Having the blonde Gwen, not the redheaded Mary Jane Watson be Peter's love interest is one of numerous ways where Amazing Spider-Man departs from Raimi's Spider-Man. It's not a class trip but on a crashed intern fielding on which Peter gets bit by a radioactive spider. The accomplished mentor who emerges as villain is not Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, but Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), whose quest to regrow an amputated arm turns him into The Lizard. Peter's connection to this authority figure is not through a friend (this Peter doesn't have any besides Gwen), but through his parents, as his late father was a colleague of Connors. This Spider-Man doesn't get mixed up in wrestling, but a fall into a ring does inspire his costume.

The details may be different, but the gist is very much the same. It is not yet sacrilege to remake Raimi's original movie, but little stands to be gained. The 2002 Spider-Man has turned ten as gracefully as it could. The visual effects hold up. The action still excites. The comedy still amuses. Aside from a Macy Gray cameo, there is almost nothing to identify it as a 10-year-old movie. Even the principal actors don't look significantly younger than they do today.

Mentor, scientist, and amputee Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) is destined to become the villain Lizard. A challenging secret to keep in Raimi's trilogy, Spider-Man's identity becomes known quite quickly by girlfriend's father/police captain George Stacy (Denis Leary).

The fine achievements of that Spider-Man loom over Amazing, raising the question, "Why this movie now?" There are two obvious answers.
Firstly, Spider-Man is simply the biggest box office draw in Sony history, with Raimi's trilogy grossing just a hair under $2.5 billion worldwide. You don't let a property that hot cool off, especially if you're a company as commercially minded as Sony. Secondly, it's believed that Sony has to continue making use of the Spider-Man universe or else film rights will revert back to Marvel Entertainment and their parent Walt Disney Company, who would gladly welcome such an icon into their formidable stable of superheroes. The exact terms are unknown, but they seem to mirror Fox's deals with the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil series, which in the simplest of terms comes down to "Use it or lose it."

That isn't the most inspiring foundation for a film, but despite its tight production schedule and its conception reeking of corporate spite, The Amazing Spider-Man is a fine movie. It is less concerned with upholding the spirit of the old comic books and more interested in joining the ever-growing ranks of respectable modern superhero films. This feels a little darker than Raimi's first movie, both in look and tone. Garfield's Spider-Man is more of a wisecracker than Maguire's was, but his jokes are kept at a distance from near-camp faithfulness to make the hero more ironic and sardonic. While many recent Marvel movies could serve as a template for what and what not to do, Amazing seems to model itself after a DC Comics enterprise, Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, as much as anything else. Webb's film is not as dark or nearly as cinematic or epic, but certain beats (like Spidey's complicated relationship with Gwen's police captain father, played by Denis Leary) recall similar ones from Nolan's esteemed Dark Knight efforts.

Despite its polish and general sensibleness, this film never moves to the extent of the best superhero fiction or makes a convincing case for its existence. The climactic action pitting Spider-Man versus Lizard takes us underground, but otherwise offers nothing new. Too much importance is placed on that conflict and a scenario in which Gwen must be saved. Raimi's films dove into the psychological tolls that anonymous superheroism takes on the human being inside the costume, while also demonstrating how exhilarating that calling can be. Webb's does neither of those things in a compelling manner. He shows us Spidey in action (which looks plenty nice), but doesn't set it up to mean much. Neither the fun nor the terror that Spider-Man experiences comes across to viewers effectively.

What's up? Spider-Man!

Though the reviews were good (certifiably fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and the ticket prices (with 3D premiums!) higher, Amazing Spider-Man easily became Spidey's lowest-grossing movie to date both domestically and worldwide. Nearly two-thirds of the movie's business came from foreign markets, where audiences have repeatedly proven in recent years to be less discerning over big tentpole movies than U.S. moviegoers. In its native territory, Amazing's $262 million gross only narrowly cleared its steep $230 production budget. That total was good for a distant fourth place for the year, with only two holiday season releases (Twilight and Hobbit) primed to overtake it. The somewhat tepid performance wasn't enough to cast doubt over sequel plans, which were announced a year before Amazing even opened in theaters. That is still on track for an early May 2014 debut, with Mary Jane (The Descendants' Shailene Woodley) set to enter the fray and Electro (possibly Jamie Foxx) to feature as villain.

In the meantime, making an unorthodox Friday debut, The Amazing Spider-Man hit home video today in a single-disc DVD, the three-disc Blu-ray + DVD reviewed here, a four-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD combo pack, and those same four discs in a Limited Edition Gift Set with Spidey and Lizard figurines.

Watch clips from The Amazing Spider-Man: "We Could" "Take It"

The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-rays: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, French, Portuguese), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Mandarin, Spanish, Thai), Dolby Surround (Descriptive Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish), Dolby Surround (Descriptive Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD only: Cantonese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese, Thai
Not Closed Captioned; DVD Extras Subtitled in English; Most BD Extras Subtitled in English, Chinese Traditional, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, and Turkish
Release Date: November 9, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $40.99
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Thick Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD ($55.99 SRP), standalone DVD ($30.99 SRP), and Limited Edition Blu-ray Gift Set ($95.99 SRP), and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Unsurprisingly, The Amazing Spider-Man boasts terrific picture and sound on Blu-ray. The sharp, dark yet vivid, and immaculate 2.40:1 video is without issue and one of the best-looking Blu-ray transfers I've seen in my two years of heavy viewing. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio engages with enveloping atmosphere, poignant directional effects, and prominent score.

Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben) recalls the phone call he got from Andrew Garfield in a hidden Disc 1 Blu-ray extra that is probably most easily accessed with the Spider-Man Second Screen App. Andew Garfield films Spider-Man's slam dunk scene with mats on the ground for extras.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The top-billed and most highly touted bonus feature here is a Second Screen App which enhances playback of the film on a second screen with scene-specific supplemental content including storyboards and concept art.
I think it's great that studios are trying to be creative about bonus features, but I've got to admit this second screen business feels like a chore. It was a chore I was spared, though, because it evidently requires an iPad or other touchscreen tablet.

The only other extra on Disc 1 is an audio commentary by director Marc Webb and, recorded separately, producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach. Webb makes an argument for rebooting so soon, explains wanting to give us a Spider-Man we haven't seen before, and references influential comic issues. The producers' comments refer more to the characters and casting them as well as business facets like shooting in 3D. Neither session is so full of revelations as to warrant its own track, so I'm glad the two were merged here. Though there are almost no lulls, you don't get enough out of this to justify giving it over two hours of your time.

Digging around Disc 1, I found eleven short clips, which I suspect are not Easter eggs but videos you can "sling" to your player with the Second Screen App. It's pretty stupid that if you don't have a tablet or a BD-ROM drive, you just won't able to see these topical one-minute videos, which include: Martin Sheen on Andrew Garfield, James Vanderbilt on deleted Rockefeller Center scene, a stunt coordinator on the stunts in Stan Lee's cameo, Matt Tolmach on breaking the casting news to Andrew Garfield, editor Alan Edward Bell on deleted scenes, director of photography John Schwartzman on his job, art directors on the New York backlot set, a table read, Marc Webb on sound, and thoughts from the special effects supervisor and set decorator.

As on Disc 1, all of Disc 2's bonus features are encoded in high definition.

They begin with "Rite of Passage: The Amazing Spider-Man Reborn", a seven-part, feature-length documentary (1:49:49) covering the entire production from conception to completion. It starts with how this movie was born out of unrealized Spider-Man 4 plans, moves to casting the parts (with glimpses of screen tests), costuming the characters, filming in Los Angeles and having it stand in for New York, moving to the Sony backlot with sewer and OsCorp scenes, shooting in New York City itself, editing the film, adding visual effects and score. It is well-produced, full of good behind-the-scenes footage, and easy to watch. All principal cast and crew, even producer Laura Ziskin (who passed away June 2011), contribute interviews to this documentary, which also doesn't shy from acknowledging Raimi's trilogy.

Lizard uses his tongue to disturb high school girls in this deleted bathroom scene. Yes, that is Rhys Ifans' nose peeking through this incomplete effects shot. Peter Parker's secret identity is revealed in Previsualization animatic form.

Eleven deleted/extended scenes (16:51) include some significant moments, many of them involving the underdeveloped Dr. Connors, one featuring his young son and others underscoring his animal and human natures. There is even an alternate ending. There was no need for the movie to be longer than it is, but some of these might have worthier of inclusion than some existing scenes.

"Previsualization" (39:08) is offered for sixteen action-intensive scenes. Scored but silent (save for the occasional subtitle), this mix of storyboards with some camera moves and CG animatics (with a tiny bit of live-action reference footage picture-in-picture) is interesting to see, but not necessarily in its entirety, unless you've been pining for a crude CG-animated Spider-Man movie.

Spider-Man's web-shooters are no longer organic, but an improbable invention, as this OsCorp Archive gallery image illustrates. What looks like a no-budget version of Spider-Man is in fact a stunt rehearsal for a Spider-Man vs. Lizard battle sequence.

Three large "OsCorp Archives" galleries supply a wealth of concept art, divided into "Spider-Man" (specifically his costume and accessories), "The Lizard" (visualizing his transformation from actor Rhys Ifans), and "Environments."
These give you the option to browse at your own pace with fast and easy navigation or to simply view them as a slideshow. A lot of the 329 images offer minor variations, showing you just how much the details are sweated on a large-scale production like this.

"Image Progression Reels" (11:51) show us how scenes came together with different stages of animation and audio commentary by effects supervisors and animators. Though technical, this is perhaps the best of the disc's deconstructions.

Eight short "Stunt Rehearsals" (11:52) show us casually dressed stunt performers running through the film's action scenes much like the final versions play out. Once again, this is interesting to see, but maybe not all the way through.

"The Amazing Spider-Man" video game boasts better graphics than the previsualization animatics. Spider-Man swings around New York City on the DVD version of the main menu montage.

Finally, "Developing The Amazing Spider-Man Video Game" (3:30) is, as it sounds, something of a promotion for one of the movie's bigger tie-ins. The game's developers talk up the game, whose impressive graphics are liberally showcased as well.

Identical to the one sold on its own, the DVD here includes the commentary, the deleted scenes, the stunt rehearsals, and the production art gallery.

The Blu-ray's menu plays clips with some spidery transitions. Listings appear across slung webs. The DVD ever so slightly simplifies that, losing the web imagery. Par for Sony, the Blu-rays support bookmarks and are able to resume playback on everything you didn't finish before powering down.

The Blu-ray and DVD open with promos for Sony Entertainment Network, UltraViolet, Men in Black 3, Total Recall, The Amazing Spider-Man Second Screen App, and Andrew Garfield-supported charity Worldwide Orphans Foundation. The Previews submenu provides access to the two trailers, along with ones for Arthur Christmas and Premium Rush. Sadly, no Amazing Spider-Man trailers whatsoever are included.

Holding the three-uniquely labeled discs, the thick blue keepcase (given double-sided artwork) is topped by an embossed, much too snug cardboard slipcover. Inserts supply your complimentary codes for Sony Rewards, UltraViolet, and a human spider suit in The Amazing Spider-Man video game. An additional booklet provides a recipe for Spidery Peanut Butter Cookies.

Spider-Man squares off with Lizard in the halls of Peter Parker's high school.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

While The Amazing Spider-Man doesn't live up to its titular adjective, reach the lofty heights of Sam Raimi's trilogy, or lay a promising foundation for a distinctive new series, it is a perfectly adequate, if overly familiar, superhero movie.

With its fantastic feature presentation and substantial collection of well-produced extras, Sony's Blu-ray combo pack is everything out to be and easy to recommend to those who enjoyed the film.

Buy The Amazing Spider-Man from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD Blu-ray 3D + BD + DVD DVD Limited Edition Blu-ray Gift Set Instant Video


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The Amazing Spider-Man Songs List: The Shins - "No Way Down", Phantom Planet - "Big Brat", Amy Ray - "Bus Bus", Coldplay - "Til Kingdom Come"

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Reviewed November 9, 2012.



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