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The Amazing Spider-Man(2012)
Teenage social outcast Peter Parker spends his days trying to unravel the mystery of his own past and winning the heart of his high school crush, Gwen Stacy. Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase belonging to his father, who abandoned him when he was a child, which leads him to his dad's former partner, Dr. Curtis Connors. The discovery of his father's secret will ultimately shape his destiny of becoming "Spider-Man" and brings him face to face with Connors, who becomes the vicious and vengeful Lizard.
For more about The Amazing Spider-Man and the The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray release, see the The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 3, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Denis Leary
Director: Marc Webb
» See full cast & crew
The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray Review
Can "4K" improve on an already great picture quality?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 3, 2013
If anyone's destined for greatness, it's you.
Movie studios seem to be pushing up the timetable for remakes and re-imaginings to years, not decades. What was once something rare has become something commonplace has become something movie fans simply expect. Uproar over the ruining of various films has given way to begrudging acceptance of the new norm, which has itself given way to anticipation if the movie promises big things and new ideas, improving on older material and not simply cashing in on a name. Perhaps this new wave should be called "Revampings" (cooler than "Reboot," with the whole bloodsucker "vamp" angle; it sort of fits the Hollywood mold of sucking viewers dry of their cash, does it not?) rather than "Remakes" or "Re-Imaginings." Probably the most notable of the new "Revamps," before now, was The Incredible Hulk, a movie released a mere five years after the disappointing Hulk and, indeed, upping the ante considerably, making amends for Director Ang Lee's admirable but shaky effort with a crazy-good Superhero movie on the way to The Avengers (which, oddly enough, starred a third actor in as many movies playing the not-so-jolly green giant). What Marvel and Sony have done with the Spider-Man franchise, however, seems even more radical. The trio of Tobey Maguire-starring web-slingers grossed a combined $2.5 billion (yes, with a "B") from 2002 through 2007, give or take a few million. The movies were largely well-received by critics and embraced by fans. It seemed like a franchise that could do no wrong, or at worst only a little wrong (everyone remembers Tobey's sigh-inspiring song-and-dance routine from Spider-Man 3). But when plans for a fourth installment fell through, and with Spider-Man and Superhero flicks still as popular as ever, the decision was made to revamp (see?) the franchise, take it in a slightly new direction with new talent, and rake in the money for a brand-new trilogy of films. Hence The Amazing Spider-Man was born, a critical success that, even with more costly 3D showings, failed to beat out any of the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire films in box office returns. The good news, however, is that The Amazing Spider-Man is, well, pretty amazing, a movie that gets off to a very slow start but picks up considerable steam once Peter Parker polishes his powers.
A young Peter Parker (Max Charles) is forced from his home when his father finds his study ransacked. He's left to live with his aunt May (Sally Field) and his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). His parents never return for him. Years pass, and Peter (Andrew Garfield) is now something of a nerdy high schooler. He's an expert photographer and a science and technology wizard, but he's an easy target for bullies -- including jock "Flash" Thompson (Chris Zylka) -- and uncomfortable around the fairer sex. He does, however, have his eye on Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a beautiful classmate who works as an intern at Oscorp. When Peter's uncle's basement floods, the family races to save its valuables. Peter uncovers his father's old satchel and finds inside of it a complex algorithm which leads him to Oscorp and Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a research scientist with a missing right arm who's working on a process to regrow human tissue, mimicking the unique abilities of the reptile family. Peter impresses Connors with his extensive knowledge that seems to rival -- and maybe surpass -- the doctor's own. On a stealth visit to the facility, Peter is accidentally bitten by a spider housed inside a restricted area. He suddenly gains impressive powers he cannot initially control, such as super strength and a greatly enhanced grip. When tragedy befalls his family, Peter embraces his powers, fashions a suit, harnesses the technological power of a strong spider web-like "biocable" material, and transforms himself into a masked vigilante, calling himself "Spider-Man." As his relationship with Gwen blossoms, he becomes aware of a terrible secret and dangerous research that could lead Dr. Connors down a darkened path, leaving him in an altered physical state and possibly spelling doom for the entire city.
The Amazing Spider-Man tells the same core tale with which comic book and movie fans are already intimately familiar, that of the origins of Spider-Man and how his personal history, intelligence, humanity, and those closest to him all shape his destiny. The good news is that doesn't mean the movie brings nothing new to the table. Along with a new cast, a different director, and some good old 2012 movie polish, The Amazing Spider-Man creates a new feel for the franchise, not so much dazzling with high-flying adventure and huge action scenes -- those certainly remain an integral, important, entertaining, and necessary part -- but rather creating a deeper human element that's more fully realized here, that doesn't take a back seat to special effects but rather guides the movie from beginning to end, defining the action rather than vice- versa. The picture dabbles in deep and dark elements alike, notably in the idea of loss and how man copes with his past and tragedy and how he perceives the future and makes use of hope, hope in all forms: scientific, physical, and emotional. It's a film about the responsibilities of power, which has always been the central theme of Spider-Man but told here with less of a contrast and more of a fuzziness, a greater sense of the abstract, where heroes and villains are distanced not in black and white terms or even, really, shades of gray, but rather slight departures in thought processes that blossom into greater differences manifest in the physical and only then yielding the film's big action moments. The movie's grasp of human nuance, psychology, and the innate goodness of man, combined with themes centered on the ease with which good intentions can yield terrible consequences, all make The Amazing Spider-Man a rousing success, but of course the movie requires polish and skill in the shaping of its action and visual effects to truly become a Superhero movie epic.
No surprise, The Amazing Spider-Man accomplishes both with a seamlessness and excitement befitting a major Superhero blockbuster. The film's second and third acts present audiences with a myriad of top-tier visual effects and amazing stunts that are largely simple but highly effective, whether Peter Parker learning of and playing with his newfound powers on the basketball court, taking out some longstanding frustrations on an old bully, or out in the world subduing the criminal element while still finding his stride, polishing his technique, and harnessing the full potential of his powers. Audiences will believe in Spider-Man's abilities to sling across buildings much as they believed in Superman's ability to fly. Certainly there's nothing so cutting edge, dazzling, classic, or memorable to these visuals, but the raw seamlessness with which Spider-Man maneuvers up around buildings and over roof tops will impress viewers at the very least with how well it's all integrated into the film, how effortlessly it's utilized and not made a gimmick to draw attention away from dramatic shortcomings which, here, largely don't exist. Perhaps the film's single most disappointing element comes in the rather cartoonish Lizard special effects. The creature looks fine but moves a hair awkwardly and doesn't quite find that sense of real life and buried humanity in its eyes. It's a serviceable digital villain but, to be sure, the film's nemesis is rightly built and developed more on human and emotional levels than it is on a purely digital one, which makes the slightly inorganic computer effect a little easier to swallow.
If there's one other thing to potentially dislike about The Amazing Spider-Man, it's the film's slow and terribly stale open. Granted, a film of this sort requires a trudging through the backstory motions, but it's not so much the character development as it is the generic way the film goes about it. It presents the same old "bullied teen" and "geeky nerd" angles to a monotonous fault. There's no spirit to the film's first act, no sense of awe or magic, but perhaps a somewhat more downplayed beginning actually, in a way, helps the film by making its lead character so nondescript that his elevation to superhero becomes all the more magical and dramatically satisfying. If nothing else that's a good theory to embrace, because without some sort of purpose the film's first fifty or so minutes are something of a lethargic drag. The good news is that afterward, The Amazing Spider-Man rocks. The movies does very well in intermixing all the keys to blockbuster cinema success, combining humor and action, serious drama and heart very well. The cast is excellent, too. Andrew Garfield is surprisingly effective as Peter and Spider-Man both, a bit more mature than Tobey Maguire but not completely absent a childlike sense of wonder. The movie's slightly more serious tone aids his performance considerably. Director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) humanizes the character so well and films him so exactly that even through the mask he and Garfield find a humanity in the darkened eyes, the postures, and the poses. Garfield rounds the character very well from lackadaisical beginning to rousing end, supported by an excellent performance from Emma Stone as the likable girl- next-door love interest who, of course, just so happens to be the daughter of Spider-Man's biggest 100% human nemesis played by Dennis Leary, making for an unoriginal but dramatically effective battle of wits and physical confrontation on the streets. Rhys Ifans digs deep inside his character and gives his Dr. Connors the life and vitality the digital lizard cannot, shaping his villain as more menacing in the flesh and through the mind than the larger-than-life altered lizard state.
The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony's commitment to releasing the finest Blu-ray products is evident with every spin of a Sony-branded disc. The consistency of product -- from the latest blockbusters to the most cherished classic titles from years gone by -- is arguably tops in the entire industry, and why shouldn't it be; Sony was a lead Blu-ray design and advocacy outfit, its PlayStation 3 console offered disc playback and instant wide format adoption, and the first wave of titles released back in 2006 bore the Sony label on the spine. Since then, and through a few growing pains and spurts -- a bloody format war, a misstep or two, the transition from Dolby TrueHD to DTS-HD Master Audio -- the studio has emerged as the most trustworthy in the industry when it comes to its Blu-ray product. When it says Sony, chances are extremely high that the movie is going to look (and sound) about as good as the format allows. Now, Sony is recalling the days of its "Superbit" DVD releases with the emergence of "Mastered in 4K" (*) Blu-ray discs. The initial wave consists of a handful of films, all of which have enjoyed previous, and largely very high quality, Blu-ray transfers. The new transfers are sourced from 4K masters but here's where the giant asterisk comes in: they're then downscaled to standard Blu-ray 1080p resolution. That means buyers can enjoy them on their regular old Blu-ray players and their regular old HDTVs -- no fancy new hardware required. The downside is that viewers aren't really seeing the material in 4K; even those who shell out the large sum of cash for a new 4K TV will be treated only to an upscaled presentation, much the same way today's regular old TV/playback 1080p device combos upscale standard definition DVDs.
Watching the "Mastered in 4K" transfer in 1080p does yield some benefits over the standard 1080p Blu-ray releases, even if it's not a true 4K experience. The discs take advantage of a significantly higher bitrate than regular old Blu-ray discs, meaning more muscle to produce the finest picture quality, revealing superior details and showcasing that perfect cinematic, pleasing grain texturing for pictures photographed on film and more accuracy for those photographed in the wholly digital realm. "Mastered in 4K" discs also promise superior color balance and accuracy, reproducing a more faithful-to-the-source palette that will reveal the sort of natural shading and subtle nuance even the best of 1080p Blu-ray cannot match. More, Sony promises enhanced viewing on its own line of 4K TVs thanks to a proprietary upscaling algorithm that's designed to squeeze the most out of the "Mastered in 4K" line of Sony discs, above and beyond what any competitor's display can offer. Makes sense considering some branch of Sony is at work along every step of the process. Unfortunately, one of Sony's shiny new 4K televisions was not available for review purposes, but suffice it to say that either of the launch displays -- the 55" and 65" XBR-labeled sets -- will undoubtedly offer the best consumer viewing picture to date, whether joined with a Sony "Mastered in 4K" disc or a regular old Blu-ray from any studio.
Here's a rather unique challenge for the processing power of "Mastered in 4K" discs. The Amazing Spider-Man was released to Blu-ray not all that long ago -- give or take around seven months at time of publication -- to rave reviews for its digital picture quality. It's a rather dark film but it sure looks fantastic for digital, yielding remarkable details both real and computer generated after the fact, from basic skin to digital hides, from regular clothes to Spider-Man's complexly textured costume. Sony's "Mastered in 4K" release takes the home video picture quality to another level, albeit a level that's not that much higher than the original release. In essence, most all of the observations from the standard 2D release carry over here. Details remain fantastic, colors brilliant in context of the film's darker tone, black levels amazing, and so on and so forth. The "Mastered in 4K" release, however, clearly ups the sharpness a bit. It's not so much sharper as to really make it worth the upgrade, but it's rather easy to see the uptick, both in-motion on the monitor and when comparing screen grabs, both at casual distance and up-close-and-personal. On the other hand, colors don't seem quite so noticeably bolder or richer, but again that's comparing them on the same non-Ultra 4K 1080p monitor; chances are Sony's television will squeeze out a little more nuanced precision and range from the palette. Black levels remain great, too, and of course the "4K" presentation is absolutely clean with no obvious banding, blockiness, or other uglies. It's a surprise to see it a fair bit sharper than the original, but even considering the improvement it'll difficult to lay down the cash for this release without also plopping down the Benjamins for one of Sony's new TVs, too.
All screenshots have been sourced from the "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray disc and have been selected to approximate those found in the review of the old 2D release.
The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Amazing Spider-Man's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack, the same, it seems, as accompanied the previous release, is every bit the sort of thrilling Superhero movie sound experience listeners demand. The track places precision elements all over the stage, creating a seamless and real-world sound environment with perfect clarity. From small effects like a swinging, squeaky door to drenching rains and booming thunder, the track offers every element with the sort of natural reproduction reserved for the best of the best high definition tracks. More impressive is the seamless sense of space; Sony's soundtrack paints a vivid sonic picture of every environment, completely immersing listeners into the school hallway, the Oscorp labs, and the busy city streets. Directional effects move seamlessly from one channel to the next, and precision sound placement anywhere in the stage is amongst this track's specialties. Music plays with a faultless tone, reproducing James Horner's high quality score with the sort of lifelike realism that defines lossless audio at its best. Action scenes are powerful and incorporate the best elements described above. Sound swooshes about the listening area and does so seamlessly. Various action effects are aggressive and clear, precisely placed and naturally immersive. Bass is potent and hits hard but not so hard as to distract. Instead, the low end is a completing element that brings real life and heft to the proceedings. Dialogue is firm and absolutely clear, remaining focused in the middle except as dictated by environment. This is a stellar soundtrack. That should come as no surprise given all the factors -- big blockbuster new release, Sony title -- but it's still a pleasure to hear from start to finish.
The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of The Amazing Spider-Man contains no supplemental content.
The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Amazing Spider-Man works on every level. It's not just a "cool new movie" but also a rather deep character study and human drama mixed together with polished action and fine visual effects. The movie is a little slow out of the gate and the digital monster doesn't look seamlessly fantastic, but otherwise this is a real winner, a superb picture and an excellent movie revamp of a franchise that, perhaps, didn't scream out as needing a second look but that definitely benefits from it. Director Marc Webb's slightly more human take on the series works very well, as does the ensemble cast that largely beats out the primaries from the earlier films. Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is a winner and one of the best of the recent crop of Superhero movies. Sony's "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray release of The Amazing Spider-Man does offer a slight upgrade in picture quality, but buyers will have to choose if it's worth the double dip, though the recommendation is most certainly to pass unless buying in conjunction with one of those fancy new Sony TV sets that will squeeze the very best from the disc.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Other Editions
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