The Amazing Spider-Man – Review

Forget dreary Tobey Maguire. Forget melodramatic Kirsten Dunst. Forget depressing spidey. The world’s most popular superhero is back.

The Amazing Spider-Man is more or less the same story of the first Spider-Man movie that saw light in 2002. Peter Parker, a 17 year old high school student who lost both of his parents years before, gets bitten by a spider while visiting a high-tech lab and develops spider-related abilities such as cunning senses and extra sticky digits. He is the victim of radical biological experiments involving cross species hybridization, which his father had started before his death. Soon enough, this research takes a bad turn when its power begins to be used for purposes other than the one it was intended for.

Andrew Garfield, at 28, is far more convincing as a teenager than Maguire, who was even younger when he acted in the first Spider-Man movie. You’d think Garfield just had his growth spurt and is still getting accustomed to his new self. He’s extra shy around the girl he likes: Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), he’s awkward and agitated. He’s also great to watch on screen.

Emma Stone is great as well as Spidey’s love interest in this movie. What’s interesting about her character is that it doesn’t melt in the whole love-aspect of things but stands alone as a credible female character that can surprise you, entertain you and stand up for herself when needed.

Garfield and Stone have stunning chemistry together on screen. They work so well together you can’t but wonder at times where this combo had been hiding for years. Of course, they are helped by a terrific supporting cast in the form of Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Peter’s aunt May and uncle Ben, respectively.

Director Mark Webb, yes that is his real name fitting as it is, does a great job in breathing new life into a story we all know and giving it another dimension we hadn’t been exposed to before. His previous work is the very entertaining 500 Days of Summer, an indie comedy. He pulls off the blockbuster aspect of things in a great way and even adds a little touch of the humanitarian aspect present in copious amounts in indie movies to his reboot of Spider-Man.

The story may be familiar. The last Spider-Man movie, horrible as it may have been, was only five years ago. But The Amazing Spider-Man is a more than welcome restart of a franchise I had thought is long gone by now. The movie exceeded my expectations. I never thought I’d be this entertained by it. I never thought I’d be taken in from the first frame that poped on screen and never let go until the credits started rolling. I never thought it would be this well-casted. The Amazing Spider-Man advances with great pace, works well with its buildup and even has a few tricks up its sleeve so freshen the story up. The special effects are more than well done but in an age where this is becoming easier and easier to accomplish, where The Amazing Spider-Man rises is in it having substantial amounts of heart.

Some parts of the story are left open as the movie ends, to be resolved in subsequent installments. Even the characters’ personalities are not developed until they’ve been turned dull, which makes The Amazing Spider-Man even more interesting to watch and to predict what might come next. It sure doesn’t hurt that the screenwriters are some of the best in the business such as Steve Kloves, the man who brought you Harry Potter. But this is what the original Spider-Man should have been about.

The Amazing Spider-Man is amazing, indeed. Welcome back spidey. You’ve been missed.

9/10

Captain America: The First Avenger – Movie Review

Having nothing planned on a Saturday night, my friends and I found ourselves going to the movies with this being as the only viable movie choice available.

Set in 1942, the movie stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a disease-ridden and poor built American wanting to serve his country. Steve attempts to enroll the army many times, under different names and different hometowns, and gets refused every single time. On the eve of his best friend reporting for duty, Steve is overheard by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and is taken to a special training program. There, he proves to be the best candidate for the secret project the government is preparing, not because of his physical built but because of his great heart. The project turns out to be a set of injections with a serum that will transform Steve into a superhuman.

At the same time, Johann Schmidt, a Nazi officer, invades a town in Norway and steals an artifact with untold powers that he starts harnessing in building weapons. And soon enough, it’s up to Steve Rogers, who becomes known as Captain America, to stop Johann Schmidt.

Captain America is nothing groundbreaking. But it has heart. It’s rare to see a superhero movie where the main protagonist is unaware of his own power. The vulnerabilities of Steve Rogers’ weaker self are transmitted to his stronger self. And that is refreshing to see on screen: a superhuman who is, at the end of the day, human and weak and vulnerable.

Moreover, there’s an artistic tint to Captain America that you cannot help but notice. The movie feels like it was produced with old-fashioned craftsmanship: the movie cinematography feels associated with the era in which the events take place. After all, the plot is a retrospective view, similarly to X-Men: First Class.

The performances in the movie are nothing over the top but they do not underwhelm. And after all, a movie featuring both Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones cannot be that bad – no matter how hard it tries. And no, Captain America does not try to be bad.

The plot might be color-by-number, especially with the overdose of superhero movies that Hollywood keeps throwing at us, but unlike other superhero movies, this one is charming. Sure, it doesn’t come close to greatness like The Dark Knight but it holds its own and manages to entertain you at the same time. The action sequences are nothing extraordinary but they are very well done and complement the plot without overdoing it, like superhero movies tend to do.

At the end of the day, Captain America is a breath of fresh air and an enjoyable cinematic experience that will entertain you for the duration of the movie, serving as a good prequel to next year’s The Avengers. You will love the innocence and the genuine characters it portrays. At the beginning of the movie, and part of why Dr. Abraham Erskine takes on Steve for his project, he asks Steve: “do you want to kill Nazis?” to which Steve replies: “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies.” And that’s precisely where this movie differs from other superhero flicks: the ultimate message it attempts to convey. The 3D in it, however, is mostly useless.

X-Men: First Class – Movie Review

Ever since the first X-Men movie was released more than a decade ago, I was fascinated by the saga and the upcoming sequels did not deter me from still liking it.

X-Men: First Class is both literally and figuratively a return to basics. It is both the prologue to all X-Men movies that were released before it and it is also a return to form of a series that kinda lost its way with trying to build too much history and subplot.

Erik Lehnsherr is a teenage boy, imprisoned in German Nazi concentration camps. When Dr. Schmidt sees him move a metal gate as his parents are taken away from him, he summons Erik and asks him to move a metal coin. Erik fails, with devastating consequences that lead to great anger, launching Erik’s powers of controlling metal and killing two guards on the spot.

Fast forward twenty years and Erik (Michael Fassbender) is on a mission to find Dr. Schmidt and kill him in revenge. On the other hand, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is seeking a PhD in Genetics with his research about the upcoming mutations in the human species. Charles, along with shape-shifter Raven (later known as Mystique and played by the awesome Jennifer Lawrence *insert fanboy hearts*) are trying to find other people of their kind and help them accept their condition. That’s when they are recruited by the CIA in order to prevent a nuclear war between the US and Russia, a war that is spearheaded by the present form of Dr. Schmidt, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a mutant whose power is deadly and his group of mutants who will do their best to bring destruction.

James McAvoy, as young Dr. Charles Xavier, is in a role he was born to play. I couldn’t imagine a better actor in this role simply because McAvoy embodies the serenity that Xavier has in the previous movies, set in the future compared to this one, perfectly. He is wise, calm and intelligent, exactly as the future Dr. X is.

On the other hand, Fassbender is as great in portraying Erik, later known as Magneto. He sets the tone for the character we all know later on amazingly well: the many layers that shape this man and his beliefs. And he does so perfectly.

Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays a younger Mystique, is absolutely stunning both literally and figuratively in that portrayal. Mystique (or as she is known in this movie: Raven) controls her powers really well. But her weakness is acceptance. She hates her blue-scaled look and seeks out a much more “acceptable” form as a human. Her path in the movie is first and foremost one towards self-acceptance, with which she will also help Henry McCoy (later known as Beast) to accept his mutation as well.

X-Men: First Class is fueled by the directing chops of Matthew Vaughn, whose latest offering was Kick Ass, a very interesting movie if you haven’t seen it. And you need to give lots of props to this director for taking what was, according to many (I still enjoyed the movies), a sagging franchise and breathed new life into it by reinvigorating its past and reminding everyone how it all started.

Why is it that Dr. Xavier is paralyzed? How did Magneto get that weird helmet he wears to prevent Dr. X from accessing his mind? How did the term X-Men originate? How did both sides of the battle (call them good and evil) originate? X-Men: First Class answers all these questions and more. It is a movie that doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. X-Men has always been a saga about the fine line between good and evil and how that line gets blurred often. This one is no different. You feel that both sides of the equation have things going for them. It doesn’t show one side in a good light and the other in a bad light. Both have strong and true convictions. You get to choose the side you want to be on.

2011 is shaping up to be a great movie for superhero movies. After the highly entertaining Thor (my review), X-Men: First Class steps it up. And with more superhero movies to come, it will take a mighty effort for them to overtake the caliber that this movie presents. Go watch it now. You will be absorbed for over two hours. Your move, Captain America.

Thor – Movie Review

I think I may be a sucker for Marvel-related movies but I have failed not to like any Marvel superhero movie and Thor is no exception, albeit some of those movies are better than others… Thor, however, ranks as one of the best superhero movies I have seen.

Not as famous in pop culture as Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, etc… Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), a man who waged a war against the Frost Giants of Jotenheim and their king Laufey and stole their source of power. Thor, however, is not as reasonable as his father and is more reckless-material than king-material. As he prepares to ascend to become king of Asgard, the festivities are interrupted by an apparent breach in their fortress’ security by the Frost Giants. Thor becomes overly furious and leads an act of vengence against them, despite his father telling him not to do so. As a result, he is banished to Earth, without his power, in the form of the almighty hammer Mjolnir. But there is a traitor in the house of Odin, one that will do everything to prevent Thor from coming back.

On Earth, Thor meets Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), a physicist, her assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings) and mentor Erik (Stellan Skarsgård). And when Mjolnir is uncovered in the desert and seized by government officials, Thor needs to do everything to recover it and get back home – but that will not be as easy as it seems.

Thor is a very, very entertaining movie. It has everything you could expect from a superhero movie: fight scenes (although I would have liked to see more of those), a story (a very interesting one at that), comedy (there will be some scenes where you fall down off your seat laughing) and ultimately some romance, which is always necessary in superhero movies.

The performances by the actors and actresses of the movie are spot-on. They do not underperform but on the other hand, they do not really excel and give powerhouse performances, mostly because this is not the movie vehicle to do so. But there is no miscast here. Chris Hemsworth, the actor portraying Thor, has probably spent more time at the gym than the time he spent pursuing a college degree and it obviously shows. Natalie Portman is, well, Natalie Portman and she never does anything less than credible with her movies. And how perfect can Anthony Hopkins be in the role of a the “father of all things”?

The special effects are great as well but the 3D is sort of useless here. The directing is also very well executed and the music is not bad. There are some corny moments and some parts of the movie are overly predictable as well but that does not deter you from enjoying it.

Overall, Thor is awesome! It is a movie that will immerse you. It focuses on character development more so that blinding action sequences and that is definitely a good thing because the characters in Thor are interesting to say the least but I would have preferred if the action scenes already present in the movie were extended a bit. Sure, Thor has its flaws but if you felt like going to a movie simply to have fun and get out of it with a need to google the existence of a sequel, this is it.