Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why The Dark Knight Rises Fell Short (for me at least)

First thing's first. This posting is going to be pretty much all spoilers, so if you haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, move on.

When I walked out of Dark Knight Rises, I found myself significantly underwhelmed, which was in stark comparison to how I walked out of Batman Begins, with my mind blown in disbelief that somebody had made the Batman movie I never thought WB would have the guts to make, or how after watching The Dark Knight, I was so revved up, I literally could not sleep (which was problematic because I had just seen a midnight show).

It took a bit of time for me to sort out how I felt about TDKR. On the one hand, I was pretty disappointed with it. But, as time passed, I realized that I couldn't really say it was a bad movie. I know what it looks like when a director drops the ball on a comic book trilogy. This movie wasn't at all like Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand, where Ratner mistook randomly killing off characters for dramatic suspense, or like Spider-Man 3, in which everything that was wrong with the movie could be summed up in a 5 minute sequence where a very emo Peter Parker does a very angry jazz dance.

Still, in comparison to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, for various reasons TDKR just didn't meet the standards set by its predecessors, and failed to do so by a considerable margin. Batman Begins was the exact film that fans had wanted to be made. It was a film that actually developed and analyzed the Batman origin story instead of existing just to hock toys. Nolan did the unthinkable and followed it up with a movie that was far more deserving of 2008's best picture Oscar than the winning Slumdog Millionaire. (Not saying that Slumdog wasn't good, but four years later, Dark Knight still has a lot more of a cultural impact than Slumdog did.) Unfortunately, TDKR was burdened with a plot that was overwhelming from the start, drew its inspiration from one of the weaker eras of the Batman comics, and went a bit too far with its interpretation of the characters.

At any rate, I've been asked to justify how it is that a diehard Batman/Chis Nolan fan such as myself wasn't blown away by the concluding chapter to the Dark Knight trilogy.

The Characters

I think the first problem I had with Dark Knight Rises was that it sort of undid the ending of Dark Knight. In that film, even though Batman is clearly affected by the death of Rachel Dawes, he finds it in himself to fight past the pain. He vows to continue being Gotham's protector, even if it means being seen as the villan. It's an ending that rivals Empire Strikes Back in terms of having the heros suffer a tremendous loss, but striving to rise above it.

Except he doesn't. Dark Knight Rises opens with Bruce Wayne as a recluse who has given up on being Batman. I realize that since this is a movie and not a comic, I shouldn't expect Nolan's version to have Batman going off on nightly adventures, but having him do nothing for eight years straight really seems contradictory to the version of Batman he crafted in the previous two films.

While we're at it, was I seriously the only person who was bothered by how little of Batman is in this Batman movie? Even in his Bruce Wayne persona, it felt as if there was a sizable amount of the film where he just wasn't there. The supporting characters in Batman may be interesting, but when it comes to telling the final chapter in a character's story, and when that story is being told an epic with a multi million dollar budget, you expect that character to be in the bulk of the story.

Other characters seem to contradict their attitudes in the previous movie as well. Lucius Fox is no longer disgusted by the idea of Batman abusing his power as he did by hacking every cell phone in Gotham. Instead, he happily shows Bruce Wayne more toys which he could use to dominate an unruly populace.

Then they're's Gordon and Alfred, both of whom also seemed to be under-used in this film, which would have been fine if they weren't so integral to the story in the previous two films.

As for the new characters to this film, I wasn't honestly that big a fan of the treatment of Bane. I'm perfectly fine with the decision to drop the aspect of his character where he injects himself with a super steroid before going into a fight. However, the way that Tom Hardy had Bane speak was too quirky to sound menacing. That is, at least when you could even understand his dialogue. He sounded like Ian McKellan playing Darth Vader as Gandalf. He was way too jolly to be evil.

Hardy's line reading aside, Nolan violated one of the core rules of writing: Show, don't tell. In the other movies, the audience was shown what it needed to conclude for itself that the villans were evil. For example, nobody has to tell us that the Joker is both a genius and a maniac. We figure that out for ourselves through the bank heist he plots at the opening of the movie. Same goes for Scarecrow. Nobody tells us that he's a corrupt doctor. We learn that by watching him declare gangsters insane so they don't get sent to prison. Nobody has to tells us he's fearless. We come to that conclusion when we see him gas Batman and set him on fire.

With Bane, we're given his entire backstory through a plot dump from Alfred. We're told we should be afraid of him because he was too uncontrollable for the League of Shadows. We're told that he must be ruthless because he supposedly was born and raised in a prison. The result is that when Batman starts chasing Bane, it feels less like he's doing so out of personal motivation and more like he's doing so because that's what the plot requires of him.

I'm on the fence of how I feel about Miranda/Talia. It was a good plot twist having Ra's al Ghul's daughter be under Batman's nose the whole time. In fact, it makes for a more plausible telling of one of the storylines in the comic where Batman becomes romantically involved with Talia, even fathering a child with her, even though he is fully aware that she's the daughter of one of his greatest foes.

Just one problem with pulling it off as a plot twist: Marion Cotillard was too perfect a casting choice for the role. When she was announced as being in the cast, it was a wide assumption on the internet that she'd be playing Talia al Ghul. I had actually assumed that's who she was supposed to be until her character introduced herself as Miranda Tate.

I know. It's kind of unfair to fault Nolan for doing too good a job of casting, and I reiterate that it does make for a good plot twist, but it would have made for a better twist if he cast against expectations of the character as he did with Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins, where he cast the Arabian villain with the very Irish Liam Neeson and the very Japanese Ken Wantanabe.

The Plot

The plot of Batman Begins is extremely straightforward. It's the about the creation of a hero. We learn his motivation for becoming a vigilante. We see him work to become his vision of a hero, and it pays off when he saves the city. It's a nice, clean but epic story.

The Dark Knight had a slightly more complicated plot, but for the most part it was a classic tale of good versus evil, and about how easily the forces of good could be corrupted. However, there was one part where the story went off the rails a little. There was a needlessly complicated sequence that begins with Batman arriving at a murder scene of two victims named Harvey and Dent, and has him somehow following the fingerprint on a shattered bullet to an apartment where several police officers have been tied up. It's an awkward part where the plot became too complicated for its own good.

Unfortunately, the first half of TDKR is heavy with an over complicated plot. At the start of the film we're hit with a battery of plot points. There's some kind of new energy reactor. There's a theft of finger prints. There's criminals operating out of the sewer. Bruce Wayne has gone bankrupt. Mergers and acquisitions are happening, and so on. All of this is happening on top of the fallout from Dark Knight. It all ties together halfway through the movie, but it's kind of exhausting trying to keep track of everything that's going on prior to the stadium scene. Personally, I had a hard time getting into the movie because I couldn't quite figure out what was the core of the story I was supposed to get behind.

Then there's the second half of the movie, which really amounts to one big plot hole. I know. Many of the greatest movies have plot holes in them. Why did the Empire wait until they circled the big planet to blow up the little one? Wasn't is just a bit too coincidental Spock exiled Kirk to a planet that just happened to be where the older time travelling Spock was? I get it. No story is going to be perfect, so why let a plot hole get in the way if it makes for a great tale otherwise.

It's easy to do when it's a minor plot hole, but the one in Dark Knight Rises was quite large, in which Bane is setting out to finish what the League of Shadows had set out to do. In Batman Begins we learned that first the League tried to drive Gotham into the ground over the long term through economics. When that failed, they opted for a more immediate approach, sending the city into a drug induced state of mass panic, but even that was thwarted. Clearly an even more immediate approach was required.

And Bane does come up with a more immediate approach. He acquires a nuclear bomb... with a five month timer. Even 007 never had a villan stupid enough to give him that much leeway. I also found it a bit confusing as to why they would bother with the charade of threatening to blow up the city if anybody tried to leave. Equally confusing is why Talia even bothers waiting to hit the detonator switch. She and Bane are both in town when the bomb is scheduled to go off. If she's so willing to die with Gotham, at the very least, why not trigger the bomb the moment she realizes that Batman has returned?

The whole class warfare aspect of the story also felt like Nolan was trying a bit too hard to be topical with the story, and addressing the current economic crisis. Never mind the fact that a recession was already at the core of Batman Begins. The story of  TDKR never really commits to the class warfare plot, and doesn't feel like an essential element. It might have worked better if the story adressed whether or not Bruce Wayne was doing enough for the people of Gotham with his money in his role as a civilian, or if he put so much effort in maintaining the illusion of being a billionaire playboy that the people of Gotham think of him as one who doesn't give back.

Fundamentally, a lot of my problem with the plot came from the choice of source material. Nolan picked two 90's era Batman stories to base the bulk of the film on. The first half draws heavily from Knightfall, the story in which Bane breaks Batman's back. The second half draws from No Man's Land, a year long story where an earthquake hits Gotham, and the U.S. Government chooses to abandon it, rather than rebuild.

Knightfall isn't that really good of a story to begin with. The story only exists to capitalize off of the success DC had with killing off Superman. It's notable in the chronology of Batman as being the story that took him out of commission for sometime, but from a storytelling point of view, it's got nothing on The Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, Batman: Year One or any of the other stories that were used as inspiration for the first two films.

As for No Man's Land, Nolan only really borrowed the main premise from that story. The plot, which centered around Batman's rogues gallery battling for control of the ruined Gotham, would have been too unwieldily to adapt to film anyway. However, the replacement story that they came up with just felt so unconvincing. We're seriously expected to believe that everybody is going to just sit back and relax while terrorists cart a nuclear weapon around the city?

Then again, I had no issue with trying to figure out how the Joker had the means to set up explosives all around Gotham without anybody noticing in Dark Knight. I guess what bugs some people doesn't bug others.

The Good

Now there are quite a few aspects of the film I was able to get behind. I appreciated how heavily the plot of Dark Knight Rises tied back to Batman Begins. When Batman Begins was initially released, I think the public may have been a bit too put off by Batman & Robin to really get behind a new Batman movie. It never really experienced the sort of buzz that surrounded Dark Knight. By bookending the plot of the third movie with the plot of the first movie, it felt like Nolan was reminding audiences of his less talked about Batman movie.

I also really liked the idea of Bruce Wayne letting himself have a happy ending. Writers seem to revel in depicting Wayne as an endlessly tragic character. In writing tales set in Wayne's future they either have him as a militant psychopath, such as in Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, or as a bitter and solitary man, such as in Batman Beyond. It's nice to see an interpretation of Batman where his tragedy is treated as part of his back story, but not as an essential aspect of his character.

Lastly, I liked the appearance of Jonathan Crane in the courtroom scenes. Movies based on comic books almost always use a villan for one movie then dump them after that. It's fun to see members of the rogues gallery behave the way their comic counterparts do, showing up in stories where they're not the central villans.

So there you have it. It's probably more than anybody ever cared to read on why a person thought of a movie as being adequate instead of exceptional. Even though as an individual movie it was a disappointment as an individual movie, it made for a good enough conclusion to the Dark Knight Trilogy. Or, at least I should say it made for a better conclusion than other attempted trilogies, such as Spider-Man or X-Men. I suppose that just goes to show how good a storyteller Christopher Nolan is. Even when he makes a movie that's only half as good as his usual work, it's still better than what other people put out.

Friday, July 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Travel Writers Documenting Cincinnati

For those of you reading this who are not in Cincinnati, the Queen City is currently wrapping up hosting the World Choir Games. It's proven to be a grand opportunity for this city to showcase itself to groups from all across the world, and thankfully the first phase of The Banks project, the new Smalle Park along the riverfront and the Washington Park renovation were completed before our international visitors arrived. With our city putting its best foot forward this past week, naturally we've attracted a few travel writers as well. To those travel writers who are visiting, I have one simple request for you:

Please don't be like Vanity Fair contributing editor A. A. Gill.

Back in 2010, Gill paid Cincinnati a visit to write an article about our rather regrettable local attraction, The Creation Museum. As religious themed attractions go, it's not the one I'd personally direct visitors to. I'd rather show them St. Peter in Chains cathedral, the Holy Cross-Immaculata church in Mt. Adams, or the Touchdown Jesus off I-75 (or at least I would if it hadn't been struck by lightning and burned to the ground.) Alas, the purpose of his article was to highlight the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of the Species, and the 201st birthday of Charles Darwin, and so a visit to the Creation Museum made sense.

He devotes one paragraph to his time spent in Cincinnati before venturing twenty miles south of the Ohio River to the Creation Museum, and in that single paragraph he managed to pack in the most condescending impression of Cincinnati I've ever read. He describes Cincinnati as a city whose citizens have little to boast about, aside from a little optician's shop that makes glasses in an hour. (Why this stood out for him at all is beyond me, as I'm sure that in New York, they have LensCrafters.)

That was it. That was the best he could come up with to describe Cincinnati to others: as a city of nothing noteworthy, except maybe for one bloody optician's shop. Keep in mind that Gill's article came out months after the New York Times wrote about how to experience as much of the city as possible in 36 hours, an article which barely scratched the surface of things to do in town.

Now I'm not expecting every travel writer who comes to Cincinnati to write glowing reviews about it. The downtown nightlife and restaurants may be great, but the shopping experience leaves much to be desired. Getting around the city outside of downtown isn't exactly easy to do if you're not from here and don't have a car.

Hell, even I'll admit I can't quite imagine people wanting to visit Cincinnati if not for business, or to see friends or family. One time I found myself flirting with a bartender in London and talking about my hometown, which prompted her to say, "Maybe I should visit there sometime."Without thinking, I responded, "Really? For your first trip to America you want to visit Cincinnati?"

No disrespect to my city, but it's not exactly like we're an international travel destination. It'd be the equivalent of visiting England for your first time and deciding to see Liverpool or Manchester over London. You'll certainly get a better idea of what everyday life for an American is by visiting Cincinnati, but the casual tourist spending thousands of dollars to visit America might have a more exciting time visiting a city like New York, Chicago or New Orleans if it's their first trip.

That being said, there's still many positive things to be said about Cincinnati, such as our architecture, our food (which is worth bragging about, internationally), and our museums (the real ones, not counting the Creation Museum). We've got a top-notch zoo, fantastic theatre options, and our little Midpoint Music Festival keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. Even in terms of non-touristy things, we have much to boast about. Good luck trying to make it through your day without laying hands on even one product by Cincinnati's own Procter & Gamble.

With each passing year, our downtown has taken major strides to becoming more and more attractive to visitors, such as the participants of the World Choir Games. What's been great about the games is that the people in charge of them have made a point of showing participants as much of the Greater Cincinnati area as possible. All week long I've practically been tripping over visitors everywhere I go. Hopefully when they return to their home countries, we'll have given them plenty of good things to talk about.

My request to the professional travel writers who have visited Cincinnati this past week is to be honest. We may not be as fancy as New York, or London, or whatever major cities you come from, but we really have rolled out the red carpet for our visitors this week. When you write about us, talk about the things you found lacking as much as you talk about the things that impressed you. Just don't write that we have nothing to boast about.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

10 Movies for a Hot Summer Night

For most of you reading this, summer no longer means the same sort of freedom it did when we were kids. It's no longer a three month long vacation, but at least it's a vacation from television. There are only really a handful of good shows on air over the summer. The rest are all either reruns or game shows that don't really require you to watch from start to finish. For all those nights when it's too hot out to be outside with friends, or you feel too lazy to catch up on those books you meant to read, here are ten movies you can enjoy even if your A/C isn't working. 

10. (500) Days of Summer
Just do be clear, I didn't put this movie on the list because it has "summer" in the title. It's on the list because summer is the time of year when we all kick back and make a point of enjoying all of the great things we love in life, and at its heart, that's what this movie is about. It just so happens to be told through a love story about a man who falls in love with the girl of his dreams and slowly has to deal with the realization that she doesn't quite feel the same way about him. Personally, I can't think of a movie that does as good a job as this does of capturing every aspect of what it's like to fall in love, ranging from the low points of trying to understand how somebody you love doesn't love you back, to the high points of wanting to dance in the street out of sheer joy.

9. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
This list would have felt a bit incomplete without a western on it, so I decided on one of the fun ones, instead of the stone cold serious ones. It came down to this and Back to the Future Part III, with that film losing out only because it's best watched as the climax to the trilogy. Butch Cassidy is perhaps one of the all time greatest buddy movies ever made. Plot-wise, it's nothing too complex. After the law gets on their tail one too many times, Butch and Sundance decide to flee to Bolivia. What it lacks in plot development, it more than makes up for with comedy. I actually bought this movie a few years ago, having never seen it before, and then wondered how I went so long having not seen it.

8. Panic Room
This is one of those great thrillers that manages to pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock, without ripping him off. (Well, if it does rip off Hitchcock, director David Fincher didn't do it in any obvious way.) I love how the premise of this movie is so simple, yet it provides so much suspense without feeling drawn out. Jodie Foster plays a mom who buys a new house with her daughter that happens to have a panic room in it. (Yes, her daughter is played by Kristen Stewart, but this was before she annoyed us by starring in all of those damn Twilight movies.) On their first night in the house, burglars break in driving mother and daughter to hide in the panic room. Unfortunately, the thing they came to steal just happens to be in the panic room, leading the burglars to try everything they can to draw them out.

7. Adventureland
I swear it's just a coincidence that this movie also happens to star Kristen Stewart. In fact, lets not focus on that. Lets focus on the rest of the cast, which includes Jesse Eisenberg, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Then there's also the director, Greg Mottola, who also gave us Superbad as well as a few episodes of Arrested Development. The story centers around Jesse Eisenberg's character who just graduated from college to find that the only job he could land is at an amusement park. Odds are this film will make you feel a little nostalgic for that one summer you had where you were old enough to hit up bars with your friends, but young enough that you didn't have a real-world job yet.

6. The Brothers Bloom
If you're at all excited about the upcoming sci-fi flick, Looper, you should check out writer/director Rian Johnson's previous film, The Brothers Bloom. It's a con-artist movie, so not exactly the same genre as Looper, but it will give you a feel for his slightly quirky writing style. Oh, and it's also a pretty damn fun movie. Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo play Bloom and Stephen, brothers who pull off elaborate con jobs where everybody ends up feeling like they got what they wanted. When Bloom decide he wants out, Stephen talks him into one last con that involves an eccentric heiress played by Rachel Weisz, which turns into an epic globe-spanning adventure. However the scene stealer of this movie is the brothers' silent partner/explosives expert, Bang Bang, played by Rinko Kikuchi, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Babel.

5. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
I felt like a Wes Anderson movie belonged on here. I picked this one for the list because underlying this story of a father bonding with a son he never knew he had is a grand, albeit bizarre, sea adventure. This is probably the most ambitious out of all of Wes Anderson's movies because it mixes his usual dysfunctional family comedy/drama with plenty of special effects and a few big action scenes. It's sort of like a summer action movie for the art house crowd.

4. Rear Window
With the heat as unbearable as it's been this summer, it kind of makes one want to just stay indoors, even when you're not watching movies. Thus, it seems appropriate to include on this list a film about a man who has to stay indoors all summer because of a broken leg. This Hitchcock classic, starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, shows off the director's skill as he's able to tell stories about several characters who share the same New York City courtyard, even though the camera never leaves Jimmy Stewart's apartment. It's all from the point of view of Jimmy Stewart's character, who spies on his neighbors out of boredom, and of course since it's a Hitchcock movie, he begins to suspect one of them of murdering his wife.

3. Inside Man
Although he might not have thought of it that way, Inside Man was such a departure from the usual Spike Lee joint that the marketing for this film downplayed Lee's role as director of this film until after it was released and performed well at the box office. This film has a brilliant multi-layered plot that starts out with a bank heist that turns into a hostage situation, but as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that there is something more complicated than just a bank heist going on. Of course, being a Spike Lee movie, race relations is a subtext that runs throughout the movie, although oddly enough it's mainly used for comic relief to alleviate the tension.

2. City of God
This Brazilian film is quite possibly one of the greatest crime movies ever made, and if you haven't seen it yet, you have no idea what you're missing out on. It follows the story of two men who grow up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. One becomes a photographer, and the other becomes a gang leader. Ze, the one who becomes the gangster, is definitely one of the more vicious characters of cinema. Not only is he terrifying when we see him as an adult, but he's also genuinely psychopathic when we see him as a kid. Rocket, the photographer, ends up becoming involved with the gangs as he covers them for the newspapers, and begins to gain their trust. It's a gritty film, but it's also filled with moments of characters enjoying life even though they're at the bottom of the ladder. In other words, it's a film that will move you, but it's not something heavy that will bring you down.

1. Die Hard: With a Vengeance
There really did have to be one big budget blockbuster movie on this list. I know a lot of people have already placed Die Hard on their list of movies to watch every Christmas, and I put the blizzard themed Die Hard 2 on my list of movies to watch in a snow storm. It only seemed right that there be a place for Die Hard: With a Vengeance on this list. Yes, it essentially just rehashes the same premise as the original Die Hard, except it takes place across a city instead of a skyscraper, but it's packaged in a way that it feels different enough. Probably because in this one we have Jeremy Irons leading John McClane around town chasing after riddles and clues. For the record, it does always bother me that they don't explain the water jug puzzle in its entirety. I know the solution, but since they skip past a few steps in the puzzle, every time I finish watching the movie, I end up reworking that puzzle just to remind myself what the solution is. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

Sony had quite an uphill battle on its hands when it came to getting people to accept a reboot to the Spider-Man franchise. Spider-Man 3 was a wreck. The public seemed to be way more excited about this summer's other superhero movies, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. On top of that, doing a reboot meant retelling Spider-Man's origin story, essentially remaking portions of the original Spider-Man, which is just ten years old.

I'm going to apologize in advance for the fact that this review is mainly a comparison between Amazing Spider-Man and the original Spider-Man, but considering that there's not even a significant generation gap between the two movies, it's safe to say that the comparison is one most viewers are going to make anyways.

Lets be honest, Sam Rami's Spider-Man was a landmark film, whether or not you personally liked it. Not only was it filled with iconic moments, such as that upside down kiss between Spider-Man and Mary Jane, but it was the first superhero movie to really develop the characters, rather than just get them from one action sequence to another. It essentially set the standard of what we now expect from superhero movies. Before Spider-Man, you just had a movie with Batman fighting the Joker. After Spider-Man, we get Batman and the Joker engaged in a battle for the morality of Gotham City.

The rebooted version, Amazing Spider-Man, manages to meet the standard of deep character development set by the original film, approaching it in a different way. Amazing Spider-Man is this franchise's equivalent of Batman Begins. Just as Batman Begins envisioned a more realistic portrayal of Batman over the more cartoonish Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher movies, this new version of Spider-Man is a grittier and more human hero than Sam Rami's version. 

Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) manages to steer his version of Spider-Man through the same origin story as Rami did but makes his version feel new and different. It's faithful to the comic's origin story in the way that it needs to be, while at the same time putting a more realistic spin on things. Webb's Spider-Man never takes up professional wrestling, and he's initially motivated entirely by trying to hunt for Uncle Ben's killer, instead of being driven to do good by his uncle's words of wisdom. In fact, that memorable phrase, "With great power, comes great responsibly," is never actually said in this version, but the sentiment is heavily implied. 

The Social Network's Andrew Garfield portrays his version of Peter Parker as a teenager troubled by the loss of his parents. He's nerdy, but instead of being an archetypal nerd as Tobey Maguire played him, Andrew Garfield's Parker is an outsider. It's not that he can't fit in with his classmates, he just doesn't want to. When he takes on the identity of Spider-Man, he still feels like a high school student in the suit. He's vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. Amazing Spider-Man makes more of a point on dwelling on the loss of Parker's family than the original film did.

One detail I really appreciated about Webb's version of Spider-Man is that he takes some pretty serious injuries over the course of this movie. It's details like that which make Garfield's performance feel so much more realistic than Maguire's. Don't get me wrong. I love Tobey Maguire's version of Spider-Man, but Garfield really makes you buy into the idea that he's just a kid, with no combat training, driven by vengeance to act as a vigilante.

The same level of character depth in Andrew Garfield's performance is also present in his supporting cast. While I had no doubts about Emma Stone giving a kick-ass performance as Peter Parker's original girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, I was worried that Dennis Leary was going to be two-dimensional with his performance as Gwen's father, a police captain trying to arrest Spider-Man. Instead he comes off as gruff, but rational, acting the way you might expect a real cop to act, and not frustrating viewers by being unreasonably fixated on catching Spider-Man to the point where he can't see the real threat. The same goes for supporting characters, like Aunt May, or Flash Thompson. Sally Field's Aunt May isn't a helpless old widow, but rather is a genuinely concerned parent trying to keep peter from losing himself in tragedy. Flash evolves from being just a high school bully to a character with actual depth.

Amazing Spider-Man may not have audiences calling it the greatest superhero movie of all time, but it's a damn good action flick. The film shows great potential for how the new franchise may turn out, and hopefully it will last longer than three installments. I also think that if Webb is still in charge by the time they decide to tackle the symbiote-suit storyline that we'll actually get the edgy film we were all hoping to see in Spider-Man 3, but instead were given Peter Parker's emo dance.