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Monday, July 30, 2012

Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker (2012) direct to video CGI movie review

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

The Good: Beautiful background CGI artwork and character designs, passionate voice acting, , well choreographed Action and bloody violence, brisk moving "betrayal/vindication" plot.

The Bad: Cassandra's inconsistent accent, Cel Shading used to hide mediocre character animation, wasted potential for more complex plot subtext, inconsistent musical style, near inaccessible to those unfamiliar with the Dragon Age franchise


Current Availability Status: out on blu ray and DVD

******************************Review********************
The best selling video game series from Bioware gets the CGI anime treatment courtesy of the creative team behind Vexille and To. A semi-prequel to Dragon age 2, "DRAGON AGE: DAWN OF THE SEEKER" Chronicles a pivotal early adventure in the life of Cassandra (a side character NPC within the Dragon Age 2 game).
It is a time of great mistrust across the lands. While the "Chantry" religious order holds power thanks to their Templar forces, there is suspicion of a conspiracy within the leadership. An order known as the "seekers of truth" was formed to act as a check adn balance to the power of the Templars. After rescuing a elf girl from rogue blood mages, Cassandra Pentaghast and finds herself embroiled in a clandestine plot when she is framed for treason and murder. It is suspected that some among the Chantry have been secretly aiding the blood mage order. On the run, she finds an unlikely ally in a Circle Mage called Galyan. Despite her hatred of magic users, Cassandra and Galyan must band together to clear her name and weed out the true traitors.


A simple story from the get go, Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker makes its first mistake by bogging it down in a lot of backstory. After a full 3 minutes of narration explaining the world of Dragon Age, the various orders, the difference between mage clans, the Chantry etc, it is still rather difficult to follow for most people except those already familiar with the Dragon Age games. Fantasy stories like Lord of the Rings slowly reveal their fantasy world as the audience explore it with the main characters. Dragon Age just throws you right in with a brief explanation.
Here is a movie that cannot decide if it wants to be japanese anime or follow more closely to the original game fighting mechanics. We have scenes of soldiers in full armor fighting like how you would expect knights to fight. Both feet on the ground, sword to attack, shield to block. Then you have Cassandra wielding dual swords, charging, leaping and kung-fu-ing IN FULL ARMOR in your typical over-the-top japanese anime fashion. Suspension of disbelief can only be take so far when there is no explanation at all for Cassandra's superhuman abilities.

This brings us to the aforementioned action scenes and the overall visual standard of the film.
The actual designs and detailing within scenes is breathtaking considering the show's modest budget.
Look at that view! Check out the scales and tiny reflections on the body of that lizard!
Lighting, reflections and other effects are rather good. The only downfall is in the animation of the characters themselves. Hair flop around in clumps like thick wet noodles, creatures and animals in motion have an unnatural stiffness to them. Motion Capture seems to be used for some scenes to animated the human characters and these show very smooth and fluid motion. The faster paced and more over-the-top combat scenes however seem to be key framed and that's where the character movements are stiff, jerky and unnatural. Closeups and jittery camera effects, along with the cel shading, help to hide all those technical shortcomings. Nonetheless, the keen eye can pick those flaws out easily.

Like the animation, the characters are also hit and miss. While the show does showcase some excellent vocal performances, some of the voice actors seem to struggle with keeping their accents consistent. Colleen Clinkenbeard especially delivers a passionate rendition of Cassandra's fiery personality. Sadly she cannot decide if Cassandra is american, british or italian. Switching to the japanese audio does not help matters as some roles seem miscast (Cassandra sounds too young) and the seiyuu are generally over-acting their parts. Inconsistency also extends to the soundtrack which switches between Gothic inspired medieval melodies and modern electronic riffs.

Pretty much every good aspect of Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker has a counterpoint. The story is engaging, the dialogue is snappy, the acting is solid. Yet the convoluted backstory and slipping accents weight down those assets. A lot of attention was paid to crafting and designing the characters and CGI sets yet little effort was put into actually animating the characters. Visually, this movie looks exactly like 2004's "Appleseed"(a science fiction CGI movie that used similar cel shading techniques). When your movie looks only as good as something from 8 years ago, either technology has come to a standstill or CGI animators are getting lazy.

This show could have been so much more. A skilled writer could have turned this into a witty jab at the ancient Church's power during the middle ages, or even a jab at religious extremism and zealotry. Alas, those would forever remain lost opportunities. It's mediocre visuals, needlessly complex narrative and reliance on backstory might alienate all audience except Dragon Age fans. What could have been an animated fantasy epic with brains ends up as a run-of-the-mill excuse to cash in on the name of a video game.
*****************************Review End******************************


Go For it: if you are a fan of cel shaded CGI animation or an existing Dragon Age player
Avoid it: if you have never played Dragon Age (or read it's wiki entry) or had hoped for another big fantasy epic

Entertainment: B-
Story: B
Characters: B
Animation: B-
Art: A-
Music: C-
Voice work (english): B+
Voice work (japanese): B
Replay Value: B-
"Brains": C-

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Justice League Blockbuster (part 2) - characters





Objective: To present DC characters as both familiar yet fresh.

Assumption 1: This justice league film will follow "Man of Steel".
Assumption 2: It will share the same film universe as Ryan Reynold's Green Lantern.

SUPERMAN
- Previous film portrayals: Christ figure and idealistic symbol of goodness (Christopher Reeves), the idealist out of touch with grim reality (DCAU animated portrayals), a product of a bygone era forgotten by the people he once served (Brandon Routh), the outsider finding his place in the world (Smallville)
Superman's portrayal really depends on his portrayal in "Man of Steel". I am hoping that they play up his role as the "ultimate immigrant". For that is what he truly is; he is a "foreign talent" with extra-normal abilities using those abilities for the good of his new home, yet never demanding payment, never pushes his superiority and humbly blends in with the norms and ways of his adopted countrymen. The ideal foreign talent. On the other hand, we have Zod as "the unwanted foreign talent". He uses his superiority as leverage, he imposes his own ways on the ways of his adopted countrymen (or rather, subjugated earthlings), he doesnt bother to learn the local customs and demands that the locals adapt to his ways.

Like any foreign talent, the good and bad get lumped together.
Throughout Justice League, Superman will be faced with the question of whether Zod was right. Is humanity, in all its ungrateful and spiteful nature, worth saving? In what is the opposite of our current real world situation where the man on the street is vocal in his anti-foreigner sentiments and the powers that be are pro-foreigners, Superman's continued efforts to serve mankind after Man of Steel is slowly gaining support from the silent majority man on the street. It is the powers that be, the big businesses like LexCorp that fear superman and thus use their control over the media to sully his name.

The progression of Superman in Justice League will be similar to Spiderman in Spiderman 2. His selfless acts in the face of media criticisms gains the support of the "man on the street", the silent majority. It is this silent majority who eventually go against what the big media tells us and voice their own love and respect for the Man of Steel.

So we all know that Superman will save the day in the end, but what Justice League willl deal with is his reasons why. Why does superman never lose faith in humanity, why does he fight for what seems like an ungrateful world, why does he protect both saint and sinner alike?
Superman represents HOPE and how ideals can still be kept alive in our current dismal world.



GREEN LANTERN

- previous film portrayals: A joke
Now instead of doing away completely with the joke Green Lantern played by Ryan Reynolds, he will lend unintended comic relief to the team. He has a massive inferiority complex which he covers up with his wisecracks. Having a weapon of unlimited potential, powered by will and the human imagination, he is easily the most powerful of the team. Yes, even more powerful than superman.
Green Lantern is the boy who tries too hard and trips over his own feet. In wanting to impress, he screws up big time. This carries on the theme that was left hanging in the Green Lantern movie: Hal wants to live up to his father's memory. He wants to be a hero people can look up to, but he tries too hard. His ring contructs are more showy than functional, he speaks first before thinking.
Lack of fear leads to impulsiveness, leads to rash decisions with unintended consequences. Since we already have seen the positives of being without fear, it is only right that we see the flip side. In Justice League, Green Lantern will be the symbol of all that is negative about having no fear.
His character arc will also be one where he learns that true heroism does not seek glory. 

BATMAN

- Previous portrayals: The campy caped hero, the dark gothic detective, the grim avenger of the downtrodden,
Yes, Batman has had the most varied portrayals on screen. Yet one thing they all have in common is that Batman is revealed to be Bruce wayne very early on. I intend to buck the trend. First, Batman/Bruce Wayne will be the most mysterious of the lot. He is the manipulator from behind the scenes. His methods are unseen, his intentions are vague and contradictory. It is so contradictory that by the end of the movie, the audience will be questioning if indeed Bruce Wayne in this film is Batman. Unlike previous portrayals of Bruce as a kind philanthropist who uses his money to help the poor, this movie will portray him as a mirror Lex Luthor. He only helps people for good publicity, his ruthless business deals and buyouts are slowly encroaching on Lex Corp's subsidiaries, he beds foreign super models on a bi-daily basis. Though he is well learned, he is prone to twist words and manipulate dialogue to his advantage. Plus he is a complete asshole in person. Any interested journalist has been completely turned off by Wayne's manipulation of every single interview session. The press has closed the case on Wayne's personal life and focused on his ruthless business dealings. All of this is exactly according to Wayne's plans.

Instead of taking inspiration from Batman comics, i take inspiration from horror movies; primarily the Saw series. Like "Jigsaw", "Batman" is actually many people, and throughout the whole movie you will never get a full reveal of how Batman's costume looks like; much like in horror movies like Alien. 


Referencing Batman Inc and the Bat Family, "Batman"'s operation is an international one. In Gotham alone, there are 6 operatives. Bruce Wayne (33) is the brains and overall coordinator of this international anti-crime effort. He also doubles as "main Batman" (who does the talking). Dick Grayson (21), Jason Todd(19) , Tim Drake(16) and at least 5 more young adult men are his "sidekicks" or "other Batmen". All of these people were "Recruited" into Batman's underground organisation secretly. All of them share a similar profie: A great injustice was done upon them, Bruce Wayne takes them under his wing and hones their feelings into a determination toward preventing such injustice from ever befalling others.


Having multiple Batmen with multiple body builds keeps the legend and the mystery (along with the fear) alive. One crook says Batman is 6 feet tall and imposing, the next crook says he is sleek and agile, the next crook says he is short but viscious. Yet all the different Batmen fight in the same style. They even carry recordings of Bruce's Batman voice. Other accomplices include Barbara Gordon the computer wiz know as Oracle, weapons designer Lucius Fox, detective Renee Montoya and Commisioner Jim Gordon. However, most of Wayne's accomplices dont even know of the existence of the other accomplices. All this is to be revealed only by the end of the movie when, after everyone suspects Batman to be Bruce Wayne, we throw in a "Nick Fury twist" and have Batman save Wayne in front of the media and the rest of the Justice League. 


WONDER WOMAN
- previous portrayals: Warrior woman unfamiliar with the ways of men's world, upright defender of the oppressed, hot headed team action girl
Yet there is one aspect from the Wonder Woman comics that the media never tried to portray: the foreign representative of the Amazon women. This time, we make her a diplomat and give Themyscria a more "real world" overhaul similar to the treatment given to "Asgard" in Marvel's cinematic Thor. In Justice League, Themyscria is merely a previously unknown island civillisation whos culture and level of technology seem stuck in the times of ancient Greece. They seem to be a matriarchal society run by women but urban myths and rumors indicate that they are an all female population. First encounter with Themyscria occured during World War II when pilot Steve Trevor,  enroute on a desperate rescue mission, crashed onto the island. A warrior woman representative was tasked of returning Trevor to USA but instead accompanied Trevor on his mission into the heart of Europe.(These events will be further fleshed out in the Wonder Woman stand alone movie which will serve as a prequel to Justice League). Though their involvement in the war was limited, USA offered Themyscria diplomatic ties. They accepted but remained passive in pursuing foreign relations.

In present day, The island nation possesses no threat to foreign power, nor does it have the size or natural resources to interest any country in dealing with it. The Amazon women inhabitants make ends meet through subsistence farming, they worship ancient greek gods like Hera and Aphrodite. Yet their island is continually shrouded by a natural cloud cover that makes satellite surveillance near impossible. Dangerous reefs prevent ships from passing nearby. Due to its near non-existence in international politics or media, the island nation faded from the world's eye until recently.

The massacre at Coast City and the events of "Man of Steel" have spurred Themyscria to send forth a new envoy: Diana, most worthy of warriors and royal princess of the island nation. "Wonder Woman" is the name the media dubs Diana, in reference to her commanding presence, determined personality and perfect physique that conveys equal measure of strength and femininity. Her diplomatic robes harken back to the Greek politicians while her battle garb will be similar to Xena. See left for example.
(ya ok this is a mock up, not done by me at all. But imagine away the battle damage and this is essentially Xena's outfit but with Wonder Woman's colors. Perfect fit for a live action film)

Anyway, WW's role in this will be the voice of reason. She will be the first to give voice to that silent majority that do not agree with the media's slander of Superman. This references back to her earliest comic appearance in which the silent ones who had no say were women at that time.





BARRY ALLEN/ THE FLASH
- previous portrayals: team jokster, most immature and impulsive,
In perhaps the most controversial move ever, The Flash will only be given his power at the END of the movie. Throughout the film, it will focus on Barry Allen and flesh out his role as a failed forensics scientist turned private investigator. Since the team jokster and comic relief role is taken by Green Lantern, Barry Allen here will be the "human element" in the group. As a private investigator, Allen is now obsessed with investigating white collar crime, particularly the big moguls like Bruce Wayne, LEx Luthor and Digger Harkness (fans will remember him as Flash villian Captain Boomerang). He is currently reaching a breakthrough in his investigation on Harkness but has reached a brick wall. 


With little choice left, Barry reluctantly turns to Bruce Wayne for help. Wayne claims to have incriminating evidence against Harkness but Barry knows that Wayne is just manipulating him to topple a competitor. For Barry it is a moral question of "Do the ends justify the means". What BRuce is getting Barry to do is definitely illegal but it coincides with Barry's intent to take down a corrupt billionaire and bring justice for the little people. This brings in the second more nihilistic theme: becoming a devil to fight the devil. By bringing justice to one corrupt millionaire, Barry will unwillingly be helping another. 


Now, the Flash's origin as a superfast speedster has always bordered on the unbelievable side. Getting doused in chemicals and struck by lightning? We will thus introduce the concept of the "Speed Force"  and be explicit about Barry becoming exposed to the Speed Force, thus setting up his origin as "The Flash". But before that, we shall work the whole "running fast" into a recurring theme for his character. 


 Barry Allen is a man on the run, figuratively. He sweeps his problems and his past under the rug and moves on. Running away from problems and confrontation rather than facing them down. In Barry's hero journey, it is a simple lesson that some things cannot be dealt with by running away. It is a lesson of courage in the face of danger and taking an active stance against a problem rather than trying to solve it from behind the scenes.(eg: private investigation).






MARTIAN MANHUNTER

The idea here is to play up his inhuman appearance. Preferably, ditch the costume and just go with a very "Alien" look: long head, double jointed jegs, elongated claws etc. Martian Manhunter has always been like the Charles Xavier of the Justice League. As such, we want to play up his mental powers and less on his physical powers. Physically he will look long, lanky and almost weak; a stark contrast to Superman and the rest.
Despite his inhuman appearance, his psychic powers enables him understand humanity in ways no person can ever hope to, thus making him the most "human" among the team. He wont be called by his comic book name but will be continually refered to as "the Martian". His backstory wil be a bit changed: instead of teleporting to earth, he came to earth as the leader of a refugee craft in the 1950s escaping the destruction of Martian society by an unknown threat. The craft crashed on earth (sparking off the UFO craze of the 50s).

He will be incredibly essential to the plot of the Justice League film. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) movie review



Overall verdict: 10/10
(note: in all fairness, it actually scored 9.88 on my scale. But since i have made a practice of rounding decimals to the nearest 0.5, i do the same here)

The Good: action, emotion, narrative coherence, brevity, thematic richness, cast chemistry, strong performances, references to the comic books, stupendous soundtrack, and more.

The Bad: Ends the franchise, sets the bar too high

******************************Review********************
"A fire will rise", screams the promotional poster. That fire is the bar set for comic book movies to come. That fire is the standard to which future superhero films will struggle to reach.  That fire burns out the competition and rises above all expectation. That fire is Christopher Nolan's magnum opus "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES", based on the Batman character from DC comics, and easily the best movie based on a comic book character, ever.

Closing out the summer blockbuster season, The Dark Knight Rises concludes the tale of one man's lonely war on crime and brings to a close one of the smartest most epic and most profound film sagas ever. Picking up 8 years after the events in "The Dark Knight" left Batman a fugitive of the law, Gotham city is experiencing a time of peace. Yet this peace is built on a lie; a lie that weighs heavily on the conscience of Police commissioner James Gordon. A mysterious chain of events brings the notorious masked mercenary Bane to Gotham with a grand plan to seize control. Backed by a secret army, this new threat forces billionaire recluse Bruce Wayne to once again don the mask of the Batman and fight to save his city.

The above synopses can never do justice to the true narrative complexity inherent in The Dark Knight Rises. It's thematic richness far exceeds it's preceding films making it not only the most ambitious comic book movie to date, but one of the rarest of the rare "3rd sequel" that does not fall victim to the typical Hollywood trilogy syndrome (Good-->Great-->meh.....).
That being said, one cannot pin down the exact genre of this movie. It is a crime thriller, a mystery, a tragic character drama and an action blockbuster. It has romance, it has comedy yet never becomes bogged down in any one genre unlike "Peter Parker: High School Romance" and "Tony Stark and his Amazing Friends". Such is it's complexity, complemented beautifully by the numerous psychological, political and philosophical themes within the narrative. It is a smart movie, an insightful movie, one that gets you thinking. The depth of its themes is extraordinary yet here is not a movie that "preaches"; as the mystery elements slowly unravel, it is up to the discerning audience to pick apart the inherent symbolism, references to real life events and musings on human nature.

Amidst all that, it all comes down to what truly drives the movie: it's characters. When you watch the events of The Dark Knight rises unfold, you do not see actors playing roles, you see characters. Real and effectively fleshed out characters. Nolan wastes no time on elaborate back stories or long flashbacks. He is a master of brevity; with a single shot and few impactful lines he is able to establish a character's personality, the forces that drive him or her and then bring each arc to a satisfying close.

Despite being titled "Dark Knight", this is a movie about Bruce Wayne. (Then again we hearken back to a theme hinted at in Batman Begins: "Is it Batman or Bruce Wayne that wears the mask of the Dark Knight"). Past his prime, mortal and without purpose, Wayne's tale is almost biblical in it's analogy of a life, death and resurrection. His established vulnerability and mortality gives every battle a nail biting sense of tension that you will never have when rooting for an invulnerable thunder God or an invincible gamma monster. Just as intriguing is the cast of secondary characters like James Gordon and Blake who represent that glimmer of hope and humanity's capacity for good in our grim modern era. A powerful script grips the audience into the story and lets us care deeply for the characters.We laugh with them, cry with them, join with them to lash out in anger, to sink in defeat and to rise up in triumph.

As much as it is "its own creature", The Dark Knight Rises continues the trilogy's staple of inserting many homages to Batman comic books. The new characters of Bane and Selina Kyle combine the most memorable elements of their numerous printed incarnations with the trilogy's sense of realism; the result is perfection. Iconic comic book moments are faithfully recreated without feeling like a lazy cut-and-paste while seemingly innocuous side events in the previous movies are revealed as sinister foreshadowing.

One might feel that the movie tries to do too much in too little time. Yet what might seem like a truncated film actually works within context. The brisk pace and absence of a sense of time only heightens the surreal nature of the unfolding events, particularly in the third act. Everything from the camerawork to the pacing is steeped in raw emotion, punctuated by the the pulse pounding score of the legendary Hans Zimmer: A slice of silence with only the muffled sounds of footsteps and a tune that mimics a heartbeat, A primal chanting that builds to a crescendo as a hero emerges from his purgatory. If the visual footage is the movie's body, Zimmer's score is it's spirit beautifully united as one.

Marvel's Avengers made comic book superheros appeal to the masses, The Dark Knight Rises makes a comic book superhero appeal to the masses while still keeping it smart and taking the genre seriously. You do not need explosions, aliens or giant robots to make a movie epic, you do not need a laugh a minute to keep film entertaining, you do not need playful banter to make a script witty. All you need is great writing, masterful direction and a creative team with utmost respect for the source material.

Intense and insightful, The Dark Knight Rises is no mere movie but a grand masterpiece. A timeless tale that will resonate with movie audiences in the years to come. An immortal classic in the making, whose legacy will forever remain as a benchmark for the blockbuster and comic book industries.

The trilogy comes full circle. It is finished.
The curtain closes now on a milestone in comic book movie history.
Rise, dear Dark Knight, and take a bow. 
*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: Just go for it! Or read the review again!
Avoid it: Why would you? Seriously!

Entertainment: A
Story: A
Acting: A
Characters: A
Music: A
Replay value: A
"Brains": A-

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) movie review






Overall verdict: 6/10



The Good: More of a character drama than superhero blockbuster, natural performances by acting leads, James Horner's emotionally subtle soundtrack, not as bad as Spiderman 3



The Bad: unfocused plot, irregular pacing, lackluster action sequences, generic hero fanfare (music), never fully develops underlying themes,  not as good as Spiderman 1 and 2. 






******************************Review********************

"Is it necessary?" seems to be the question on everyone's mind when Sony announced a reboot of the live action Spiderman movie franchise following the closure of Sam Raimi's previous movie trilogy. It was not even 10 years since the first spiderman movie, starring Tobey Mcguire, was released to critical acclaim and financial success. Despite deviating somewhat from the comic books, the movie stay true to the spirit of the source material and was lauded by both comic fans and casual movie watchers alike.  Enter THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the first in a new trilogy of movies based on Marvel's favorite web-slinger. With a promise to adhere closer to the comic books, the film goes back to explore Spiderman's origin once again. A genetically altered Spider's bite, a death in the family, a promise made, a responsibility accepted. But once we get down to the specifics, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN becomes its own unique creature.


With an overall tone closer to a character centered teenage romance drama than a Superhero blockbuster, renaming the title "Peter Parker: Spider-man" would have been more appropriate. Teenager Peter Parker, played by Andrew Garfield, is less of Tobey Mcguire's lovable loser and more of a misunderstood social outcast; seething with angst, awkward with girls, prefers to be alone. Abandoned by his parents under mysterious circumstances, Peter was raised by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. In high school, he grapples with finding his sense of identity and finding his first high school crush in the form of snowy haired Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). One day, Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father which leads him to Oscorp and his father's science partner Dr Curt Connors. An accident grants Peter Parker with spider-like powers but also results in a new scaly menace intent on wiping out human life. 



From the get go, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN shows itself to be a very competent human drama film. Relationships are the focus here. We get an insight into how Peter's relationships with his Uncle Ben affects his choice to become a masked vigilante. Martin Sheen completely nails the protective "tough love" yet gentle personality of Uncle Ben from the comics. It feels very natural and this makes his eventual death weigh even more on Peter's life changing decisions. Similarly the chemistry between Peter and Gwen is more nuanced than the more fairy tale like romance between Peter and Mary Jane from the Sam Raimi trilogy. Overall, the characters are definitely more grounded in reality, fully developed and easy to relate to.



However it is this move to try and ground the movie in reality that is also one of its many downfalls. Although director Marc Webb perfectly captures the emotional aspect of the movie, he seems to have trouble grappling the drama with the action. Once Spiderman dons the mask, the film splits itself into two movies: "Peter Parker: High School Romance" and "Spiderman Begins". This shift in tone can be jarring and similarities to "Batman Begins" abound: a parental figure killed in front of our protagonist, setting most of the action at night, a darker tone, even the plot thread of the authorities hunting our masked vigilante. Unlike Batman Begins, however, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN hints on themes but never develops them; a likely result of giving too much weight to Peter Parker's emotional drama. The theme about the power of anonymity behind a mask, for example, is a poignant one befitting the Internet age yet is only touched upon but never focused on.



Not surprisingly, director Marc Webb is more known for romance drama "500 Days of Summer" than any blockbuster. Like a Basketball player handed a golf club, Webb fumbles about once the Superhero plot is introduced. His lingering long shots are eschewed for fast whip cuts and close ups in fight scenes making much of the action difficult to follow if it were not for Spidey's bright hued outfit. Our villain is basically Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus redux: a well intentioned scientist driven to madness by a lab accident, developing a "Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde" personality only to come to his senses in the end. 



His strong point, the human drama, also suffers at this point where we have Peter and Gwen being the adorable awkward couple at one moment and then madly in love the next moment after a family dinner. In making Peter Parker a socially awkward skateboarding kid instead of the complete nerd drifting through a crappy life, the story of gaining great power and learning great responsibility carries less impact. He already has a rebellious nature, he already stands up to bullies, he already talks back to authority figures. That metamorphosis from zero to hero hardly takes place. Ironic that a movie with two very clashing story styles never manages to convey the dichotomous personality of the shy doormat Peter Parker and the heroically resolute Spiderman. 



The dichotomy in the movie's tone and style can be seen even in the film score by James Horner. His softer piano based tunes set during the "Peter Parker" convey the constant inner turmoil Peter has to grapple with; there is an underlying sense of somberness to the emotions. On the other hand, Horner's action cues and main hero fanfare are sadly generic. Danny Elfman composed a dramatic, subtle yet memorable score with tunes that just ooze "arachnid". Horner here gives us plain old "heroic" with a hero theme that sounds like a combination of "Batman and Robin" and Ang Lee's "Hulk". A sad turn from the composer who brought us the epic sweeping scores of Aliens and Avatar.  



If one were to compare, The Amazing Spider-man woud rate as the 3rd best among the 4 Spiderman films in existence just slightly behind Spiderman 1 but significantly better than the muddled mess of Spiderman 3. It is an emotionally touching coming-of-age movie, heavy on teenage drama and characters anyone can relate to. Sadly it is a mediocre superhero film, floundering in its schizophrenic switch of tone between drama and action instead of blending them together. 



*****************************Review End******************



Go For it: if you want to see a more character focused origin of Spiderman on the big screen or prefer your superheros to be very easy to relate to.

Avoid it: if you have a die hard love of Sam Raimi's first 2 spiderman movies or Tobey Mcguire's awesome portrayal of the Peter Parker/Spiderman character.


Entertainment: A-


Story: B+
Acting: A

Characters: A-
Music: B-
Replay value: B
"Brains": C-