Tag: rhys ifans

The Amazing Spider-Man


The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
★★★ / ★★★★

Raised by Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) like their biological son, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has had no closure when his parents never came back for him since the night their house had been broken into. While inspecting a leak in the basement, Peter finds his father’s briefcase which contains scientific research and a picture of Peter’s father with Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans), the leading scientist of cross-species genetics in Oscorp. Hoping to learn more about his parents’ whereabouts, Peter sneaks into the building and ends up in a room full of mutated spiders.

“The Amazing Spider-Man,” based on the screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves, is a mostly rousing entertainment with its roots firmly attached to its heart, but it is at times hindered by computer graphics so sleek, so willing to awe us with its technical wizardry, that it ends up looking too much like a cartoon. The picture excels in showing us Peter as a boy up until he learns to adapt to his new spider-like abilities. Especially with the latter, the emotional heft of the material is neither too light nor melodramatic; there is an overall joyous feeling in his discovery that maybe being different isn’t so bad.

The pacing is quick and to the point, almost deceptively too simple, but it remains highly watchable due to the fiendish charm of Garfield as the conflicted young adult underneath the Spider-Man costume. Garfield seems to fit the role because he is believable as someone who is bullied by a jock (Chris Zylka) as well as a person who oozes an aura of intelligence, keeps to himself most of the time, a sort of outcast with excellent taste, his wall sporting geek-chic to retro-cool.

With the addition of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), Peter’s eventual romantic interest, it is interesting and surprising that the picture manages to balance Peter’s lives as a teenager, as a son on a quest to find justice and closure, and as Spider-Man who feels responsible for protecting his community, from petty criminals to diabolical villains like The Lizard who wishes to turn New Yorkers into reptiles.

After the villain is introduced, however, it is the point when the visual effects becomes the star which is not always appropriate. When the camera focuses on The Lizard, the visuals are effective—a mix of wonder and horror at the sheer size and ugliness of the thing. The computer graphics forces us to appreciate the creature, from its greenish slimy skin to its firm muscles that could easily crush a car, that our superhero will inevitably face.

However, when Spider-Man and The Lizard engage in close combat, while still visually arresting due to the amount of destruction created around them, I began to wonder what percentage of the images on screen is created using a computer. I almost had to snap out of that thought and remind myself that Spider-Man is in danger. In other words, the action isn’t quite an enveloping experience on a visceral level. We only get to fully appreciate that the man behind the mask is human when blood and bruises are shown after a fight. It shouldn’t be this way.

“The Amazing Spider-Man,” directed by Marc Webb, is not without unique touches such as leaving us off-guard with its early revelations of secret identities. However, the screenplay could have been much leaner by excising a handful of scenes in the middle portion that disrupt much of its flow thereby making room for its themes to feel more vibrant and fulfilling.

Exit Through the Gift Shop


Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

A French thrift store owner (Thierry Guetta), fascinated with filming everything mundane and interesting, began to document street art and the artist themselves (Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Space Invader, and some unnamed others). Guetta was passionate and obsessive; the normally elusive artists decided to work with him because they recognized a familiar fire within him. But this wasn’t Guetta’s film because the Frenchman did not know how to condense thousands of hours into a concise nintey-minute feature. When Guetta showed Banksy his final product, Banksy was incredibly underwhelmed because the movie merely consisted of incomprehensible images devoid of meaning and purpose. The film should have been about the art and why the artists felt the need to make them despite the fact that street art was illegal many cities. Banksy took the footages and tried his best to make what Guetta should have made in the first place. Guetta became the subject of the documentary because he eventually decided to showcase his own street art in Los Angeles. “Exit Through the Gift Shop” was a fascinating film because it was essentially a collage of many thoughts and motivations by artists in an underground movement. It gave us interesting images such as a robot made up of television sets, a live elephant covered in pink paint, and even a terrorist figure set up in Disneyland. It was funny, sometimes thoughtful when the artist was given the chance to explain his work, and it offered some insight about the art world involving hardcore collectors and casual onlookers. Can street art and pop culture occupy the same sphere? Was the Frenchman really an artist if he had an entire crew dedicated to doing the Photoshop, painting, and cutting paper for him? He assisted by splattering paint on some of the canvas, but that does that equate to stamping his signature and passing it as his own work? Was he a bona fide genius or was he simply standing on the shoulders of far more talented individuals who deserved the accolades? I had myriads of questions about Guetta’s creative process. There were times when I was doubtful whether he really knew what he was doing, but then there were times when I was caught by surprise that I actually believed that he was a real artist when he attempted to explain the meaning behind some of his projects. Maybe his thoughts and actions just needed a bit more focus. Narrated by Rhys Ifans, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is a magnifying glass of a man so inspired by street art to the point where he attempted to become what he admired. I wish it had been a microscope because he was a curious specimen. I was glad it challenged us to think for ourselves.