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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Review

To the surprise of nobody I took Alex to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on opening night. Naturally he had a lot to say and let me record his reactions. The only thing in doubt is if he will really get what is going on. I think this will be a series now as long he can handle the program. Enjoy!

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The Amazing Spider-Man Video Game Review

If you liked Batman: Arkham City, it will be hard for you not to at least like The Amazing Spider-Man game a little.

After Beenox produced a pair of more linear Spidey games with Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time, they put the wall crawler back into an open world with the the movie tie-in to The Amazing Spider-Man (which you can read more about here). The game picks up right where the movie left off, and considering that it came out before the movie did, it was quite spoiler filled.

Essentially Oscorp is trying to recover after all of the bad press they got with Curt Connors turning into a Lizard, and they are eliminating all of his research and moving on to nano technology. Then wouldn’t you know it, all hell breaks loose and the city is running rampant with mixed species monsters and psycho robots out to hunt the monsters, and both parties have it in for our red and blue hero. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is enough to keep you going through the game.

Like I said before, this game goes back to what people loved most about the older Spider-Man movie games, specifically Spider-Man 2, and that’s open world web slinging through Manhattan. Like the games before it, this is where the most fun is to be had. Physics kind of take a back seat as you can throw a web in the air and latch on to something no matter how high you are, and soar through the city. There are plenty of side missions and mini games to do, and while they can get repetitive after a while, it’s still fun to just get to all the points on the map via jumping and swinging through the city. There are also collectables to find throughout the game, but for me the best by far are comic book pages. Scattered around the game are pages of comic books. 500 in all. For every 20 or so pages you collect you get access to an old Spider-Man comic. The full issue. They range from Spidey’s first appearance to the first time he encountered Rhyno and so on. I find myself completely ignoring the missions and just looking for more pages.

The game works best when the action is kept outside

Speaking of the missions, this is probably where the game suffers most. They are very straight forward, and also very easy. Half of the stages turn into beat ’em up sessions while the others are stealth based. Sound familiar? Both tactics are almost identical to Arkham City. There are stealth take downs from above and enemies that are equally aloof. The combat system is exactly the same. Hit the attack button to build combos, web shooters act as batarangs to stun enemies, and your spidey-sense kicks in for dodging much like the caped crusader (although I think we can all agree RockSteady took that from Spider-Man first). That’s all fine and still fun, but it is just too easy. First off the game really spoon feeds you everything. It will tell you when to use your web, when to attack, when to stop, everything. There are bosses that I beat using just the attack button. I didn’t realize he was the final boss of the level until the end. In a word, it’s anticlimactic. I recommend using the hardest difficulty setting if you want any challenge at all. The other problem with most of these levels is that it sticks Spider-Man inside, away from where the game is at it’s best. Not enough of the game is in the open world, which is a shame.

The Amazing Spider-Man game also lifts Arkham City’s navigation and upgrade system among other things. You have physical and tech upgrades that you earn points toward individually. The map is in the same style, with locations marked off to continue the story, then side missions marked in other areas. There are random muggings to stop as well. Snipers on the rooftops. Audio logs to find through out the game. I can go on and on. I know Arkham City didn’t invent any of these ideas, and they are all used in some fashion in most games, but it looks so similar and works in such a way that it has to be mentioned.

Graphically the game is a mixed bag. Spider-Man looks great, and when you are running around the city does too. The major New York land marks are there, with comic spots like the Daily Bugle and Oscorp tower thrown in as well. However when you look too closely you see how it is a little dated. Again, this is a movie tie-in so I can’t expect too much, but it is just one more thing that holds this title back.

Despite it’s shortcomings, The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun game to play. Much like the movie, this game brings Spider-Man back to his roots and mostly succeeds in spite of it’s flaws. If you aren’t a comic book fan it’s worth at least a rental. If are a comic book nerd like myself, it’s worth your money just for the comic books you can collect. You’ll spend more than enough time after finishing the main story looking for all of the comic pages in New York City.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” Review

Be prepared true believers, The Amazing Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man film to date, and might even be better than The Avengers. Yeah, you read that right.

Not everyone was exactly anticipating it like the Marvel string of movies or especially The Dark Knight Rises, but the reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise is here and it is superior to the old model in virtually every way. You just have to kind of forget the old model exists to fully appreciate it.

I would normally say something about spoilers here, but if you saw any of the Sam Raimi movies or read any Spider-Man comics in the last 50 years, you pretty much know exactly what to expect here. Peter Parker is a dork who gets bit by a radioactive spider, gets powers, learns responsibility and everything else you know. The early stages of the movie can almost be swapped frame for frame with the previous series. Parker gets denied by women, Flash Thompson is a jerk, Peter embarrasses Flash in school, Ben Parker teaches life lessons about responsibility just before dying in a way that Peter could have inadvertently prevented (c’mon you had to know that was coming, right?). On the surface there is very little new. This is inevitable considering we know the characters and the story so well. However when looking closer, you’ll realize that the reboot handles all of these things a lot better.

Flash Thompson has more depth than just being a one note bully. Uncle Ben and Aunt may are much more detailed that before. Ben doesn’t just spew out one liners about being a good person. It comes out more organically. When Peter starts to develop his costume you see the transition from ski mask to the full suit. It makes it become almost believable that it could exist.

Then there is the new. Where we all scoffed at the tagline about “the untold story,” The Amazing Spider-Man does look deeper into Peter’s parent’s, who are scientists who knew too much about whatever it is they knew. The science background lends itself to make Peter the genius that we know from the comics, providing another difference from the trilogy. This reboot is much more faithful to the comics than anything before it. Peter is able to develop the web-shooters on his own, just like in the comics. The background of his father combined with some good timing make it seems much less impossible when he figures out all of the things he pulls off. The photography is there, but just as a hobby instead of going straight to the Daily Bugle. Why doesn’t he go there? Because he’s in high school! Where he belongs!

The other two main differences in the reboot are that he is in high school for the entire film, and Mary Jane Watson is nowhere to be seen. Again staying true to the comics, the love interest in this film is Gwen Stacey. Peter’s first love. This is important as to have one less thing to directly compare to the original films. The other thing it does is let the characters have some fun. Where things got awfully dramatic for Spider-Man the first time around, this time he is a lot more fun loving, and a lot of it has to do with Andrew Garfield.

Where Maguire looked like Peter Parker right off the page of the comics, Andrew Garfield shows much more of Parker’s personality, while still maintaining that look. Not that it was all his fault, but Maguire’s Parker was more of a nerdy man. He wasn’t specifically clever, just corny. Garfield is legitimately funny and interesting as Peter, and is pretty noble and cool well before he ever gets bitten by a spider. Being a high school student definitely helps as it let’s Peter just be an awkward teenager. The only critique I have is that Peter comes off as a bit of a horn-dog. Like I’m talking creepy at times. I can give him a bit of a pass though since he’s supposed to be a teenager, and he’s creeping on a Gwen Stacy being played by Emma Stone. Even Uncle Ben agrees she’s a looker. Stone plays a solid Stacy. Her and Garfield have good chemistry together and work the high school relationship tension as well as they can. I think we are at the end of the rope though for Emma Stone playing a 17 year old girl. I don’t care how good of an actress you are, you can’t make me believe you’re not legal with those stockings young lady. Martin Sheen and Sally Field due Uncle Ben and Aunt May justice as well. As I said before, both characters have more depth than they previously did. May is much less fragile this time around, and Ben can handle himself too. Someone finally realized that they are Peter’s aunt and uncle, not his grandparents.

Of course what superhero movie is complete without a villain. To keep things fresh we have the Lizard, who had been teased throughout the Sam Raimi movies. He, more than any other character, follows the same path as the previous movies. Like every Spider-Man movie villain before him, Lizard is a sympathetic character who chooses the wrong path in pursuit of success. There isn’t much to the Lizard, who isn’t exactly at the top of Spidey’s rogues gallery, but he also doesn’t overshadow Spider-Man, who is the real star here. His alter-ego, Dr. Curt Connors, is played by Rhys Ifans. Ifans essentially takes the place of Norman Osborn in the first film (for now). Connors becomes a father figure to Peter, which creates drama on both sides when they have to fight each other. There isn’t much too him, but he does enough to move everything along and give Spider-Man someone to fight.

That is where The Amazing Spider-Man separates itself from movies like Iron Man. Tony Stark had a very engaging introduction to his character, but he never really had a challenge on his hands. Here, Spider-Man has some great fight scenes with the Lizard, and the action comes off looking really well in 3D. Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man spends a little too much time retelling a story we have already seen several times before, but they have enough additions and revisions to put this among the best movies (not just superhero movies) of the summer.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” Preview

***UPDATE: See the new trailer here***

Today I attended a special preview of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” the reboot to the Spider-Man franchise that is due out on July 3rd. Right off the bat let me tell you that the early impressions were very good.

The main tag line that they are running with is “The untold story begins.” Is it me or is this kind of funny considering it’s a reboot, which would technically mean that it’s a RE-telling. Anyway we were first shown a new theatrical trailer in 3-D. Any worries about the costume based on stills can be put aside. While there are some differences, once Spidey is in action, you can barely tell the difference. It’s Spider-Man in all his glory. It is darker, but definitely not the “Dark Knight” type of dark. We also got a full look at the Lizard. Aside from being totally naked, there isn’t a whole lot to complain about here. He is definitely larger than Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). Perhaps twice as big. Based on everything I’ve seen they could be going the same route as “Batman Begins” and “Iron Man,” where the movie is more about the journey to becoming a hero, not necessarily the big villain. There may be only one big fight with the Lizard, as Dr. Conners (Rhys Ifans) would progress to his full form just as Peter Parker learns what being a hero means (or something).

Believe it or not, this works

After watching the 3-D trailer we were treated to some unfinished scenes from the movie. Basically these were all extended scenes from what we saw in the trailer. It opened with Flash Thompson bullying a kid while trying to get Peter Parker (a school photographer) to take a picture of it. He refuses, and gets beat up by Flash for it. This Peter is definitely more bold and less of a dork than the previous model. He’s also not a complete weakling. Reboot Parker is essentially an average awkward teenager. We then saw Peter fighting back (possibly after his spider incident) and needing Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) to come get him from school. Uncle Ben appears to play a much larger part in this movie than any of the previous ones. It’s possible he could even make it to the end (to get killed off in a sequel). Let me also add that it’s really nice to see an Aunt May (Sally Field) that isn’t 103 for a change. This scene ended with Parker asking Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) out on a date “or whatever.” Garfield is 28 and Stone is 24, but they definitely play the awkward high school roles well here. It’s adolescence at it’s most painful.

Next Parker discovers his dad’s old briefcase in the attic. It turns out Peter’s dad was a scientist who worked with Dr. Conners at, wait for it, OSCORP (cue Green Goblin for the sequel). This prompts Peter to go to Oscorp in an attempt to learn more about his father from Dr. Conners. It is in this facility that Peter stumbles into an questionable area and gets bit by a radioactive spider (but you knew that already didn’t you?). Revealing his father to be a scientist gives at least some explanation to how high school Peter is able to solve an equation that all the Oscorp staff couldn’t, and how he is able to make web shooters on his own. It turns out the equation Parker solves plays a large part in turning Conners into the Lizard, as Parker later says that he created this mess and he has to clean it up.

Now more than just a plot device?

Don’t worry, there was plenty of Spider-Man action as well. Peter begins to notice his powers at home, crushing his alarm clock and pulling all of the fixtures out in the bathroom (think bathroom scene in “Wolverine” (actually wait, never think of “Wolverine”)). Parker then experiments with his leaping abilities at a construction site, eventually deciding to make web shooters when he sees a spider using webs. No reason is given at this point for why he decides to fight crime, but what we do get is pretty awesome. Where Tobey Maguire Spidey is mostly all business in fight scenes, reboot Spidey is definitely more of a wise ass. He does a lot of toying with the thug he takes out, not having the same rage as the old version. He’s also just more clever in general. We see glimpses of this early on when Flash is beating him up, but with his powers and the mask on he takes a whole new personality. Reminded me a little bit of Deadpool (only a little).

There is also a scene where Peter goes to Gwen’s house for dinner, with her father George Stacy (Dennis Leary), a police captain who is out to apprehend Spider-Man. It is a much different tone than the J. Jonah Jameson character as Stacy has legit reasoning behind wanting to stop Spider-Man (a masked vigilante), while Jameson was only out to sell papers. It displays a lot of what George’s character is about, and leads to another scene where the police surround Spider-Man, and even unmask him, before he breaks lose and presumably gets away without his face being seen.

Things wrapped up with some footage of the Lizard and Spider-Man in action. A little bit in the sewers, a little bit on a bridge where it looked like Lizard was flinging cars off the bridge for Spider-Man to have to catch. All classic Spidey action. Overall I think the movie is definitely going in the right direction. It will be a true origin story and will certainly be more accurate to the comics than Sam Raimi’s version. Now a lot of the changes Raimi made made sense in the movie and Marc Webb’s reboot has a lot to live up to. Whether a more accurate take translates better to film or not is still anyones guess, but this early look gives me a lot of hope.