Category: Matthew Amuso

THWIP!

The Amazing Spider-Man is the summer superhero film I was excited about. Yeah sure, I liked the Avengers, and I’m hoping Batman will be good. Thing is…those movies don’t have Spider-Man in them. So, in the grand scheme of things, who really cares? Spider-Man is the world’s greatest superhero. It says so right on the cover every month.

Anyways, my verdict? I liked it. It lacks the straight-up, nostalgic fun of the first two Raimi flicks, but in many ways it’s a better film, and it updates and re-examines the Spider-Man mythos in ways I (mostly) find fascinating. (Although Brian Michael Bendis did most of it first in Ultimate Spider-Man). I’m gonna break the film down and try to explain what went right and what went wrong. There may be spoilers. This could go a bit long, so try to stick with me.

The Origin – Hollywood needs to learn that origin stories don’t really matter. The problem isn’t just that Sam Raimi covered this a few years ago. The problem is that every super-hero movie covers this, and it’s not that important. Go watch just about any super-hero cartoon ever made, and you’ll notice they have one thing in common – they never start with the origin, because it’s way more fun to start with a big fight scene.

However, I enjoyed the tweaks made here. I like that Peter is made even more complicit in his Uncle’s death. I like that it takes a little longer for him to accept his responsibilities. I like the Ultimate universe scientist-dad/abandonment issues stuff. Good times.

The Cast – Great. Andrew Garfield gives an excellent performance, giving Peter Parker a natural twitchiness and exuberance sorely missing from Tobey Maguire’s wide-eyed, aw-shucks shtick. While he’s a bit too cool, he’s funny, and he doesn’t forget what a total dick Mr. Parker can be a times. Emma Stone more than makes up for the robotic nightmare that is Kirsten Dunst. Rhys Ifans may not keep his appointments, but he chews the scenery like the Lizard chews stupid mammals.

Cinematography – Gorgeous. There’re a lot of sweeping shots of Manhattan which emphasize just how small Spidey is against it all, and how intense swinging around those buildings would be. The POV shots – which I was sure would suck – work nicely. On the other end, the camera gets in nice and close for the fight scenes, making the threats feel very real.

Supervillainy – I really dug the Lizard. He looks much better than than I expected from the trailers. And his size makes him come off as a real threat. I like his plan. I like his sewer hideout.

What I don’t like is that Curt Connors family doesn’t even exist in this film. Since day one, the Lizard has been dedicated to destroying Connors’ wife and child, and Connors’ has been driven by his guilt for the danger he put them in. Not only is it central to his character, but it’s a perfect reflection of Spider-Man’s own guilt. No excuse for this except time constraints, and those only apply to people who don’t want to watch a four-hour Spider-Man film. Screw those people. Which brings us to…

The Story – I wasn’t joking. This movie needed to be longer. There’re way to many dangling plot lines, and like used webbing, they all seem to dissolve without a trace. There’s a lot of great stuff here that I really enjoyed, but none of it really gets the time it deserves.

Secret Identity – This is another pet peeve I have with Hollywood –  everyone there seems to hate secret identities. In the comics, Peter’s secret was a major factor in his relationships with everyone, especially Gwen and every other girl he dated. Here, the secret’s just thrown away for nothing. And then again. And again. Considering the film’s emphasis on secrets, why the hell couldn’t its central secret STAY SECRET?

This has gone way too long, so here’re a few final notes.

–      Web shooters! Hell yeah!

–      Flash Thompson is portrayed as a as a person, not a one-note bully. I love it.

–      A supporting character robs Spidey of a “Yeah science!” moment. WHY?!

–      The sewer fight owns.

P.S.  –  Want more Spider-Man/Lizard action? With a side of Moebius, the Living Vampire? Pick up the Amazing Spider-Man #688 and #689 to get on board Dan Slott’s killer story “No Turning Back.” So far, it’s one of his best yet.

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LOEG Century 2009

We’re halfway through 2012, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 2009 is finally here to close out Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s examination of the past hundred years.  And a doozy of a century it was, my friends.  From horse-and-buggy to the convertible to an abandoned and starving space program.  From rifles to nukes to drones.  What fun!  It’s the opinion of Moore and O’Neill that our fictions are currently in as much of a shambles as our economy and environment. While I don’t entirely agree, 2009 makes the point nicely.

Century has been criticized by some as inferior to previous volumes of the League, often because it simply isn’t as accessible.  While the first two volumes focused on a well-known cast of characters, many of whom have been portrayed often in film and television, Century veered into more esoteric territory, taking much of its cast from short stories and ’60s British crime films, as well as taking heavy inspiration of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Three-Penny Opera.  Furthermore 1910 and 1969 both felt unfocused – the character’s were never sure of their mission, and failed to have much effect, especially in 1910.

Much of that is reversed in 2009 – all the cards are on the table, the end is nigh, and the antagonist is one that every modern reader and moviegoer has at least a passing familiarity with.  If you don’t know it is yet I won’t give it away, but I will tell you that he uses his “wand” in some new ways here.  Along with cameos from Dr. Who, Charlie’s Angels, and every James Bond ever, Prospero puts in his first appearance since Black Dossier, as does another major player you’ll recognize.

The criticism of modern fiction is also more focused, and raises some worthwhile questions.  One of the character’s calls modern fiction “banal and reassuring,” which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone, but it still bears repeating.  Century also raises the issue of whether or not by changing the stories we tell each other, we can change the world we live in.  And that needs doing.

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Grant Morrison MBE

Grant Morrison, a writer of trashy “funny-books,” has been made a Member of the British Empire. The decline of Western civilization now seems to be complete.

Morrison is not properly English, nor of gentle birth, having been born to Scottish commoners.  In fact, his father was an active dissident, so deranged as to protest against the construction of direly needed nuclear weapons.

A fan of the Christ-hating John Lennon, Morrison wasted his youth playing in a “rock group,” before achieving fame in the torrid underworld of comic-books.  He has since written hateful screeds against sexual repression, monotony, the joys of wage slavery, and even consensus reality itself – not to mention our beloved Archons – in such works as Doom Patrol, Animal Man, The Invisibles, Kill Your Boyfriend, the Filth, New X-Men, We3 and All-Star Superman.  During this time, he wallowed in the sins of cross-dressing and drug use, communed with extra-terrestrials of unknown origin, and honed his skills in the black arts of Chaos Magic.

There is no future.  And England is dreaming.

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Alan Moore Reads, You Listen

Hey guys! I know you’re psyched about Before Watchmen, and why wouldn’t you be? Prequels are great! I mean, without The Phantom Menace, we would never have met Jar Jar Binks, beloved hero of all. And who could forget the sublime beauty and grace of Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd? But while you’re eagerly waiting to learn the Secret Origin of Bernard the Newspaper Salesman, Alan Moore is hard at work on the final chapters of his second prose novel, Jerusalem.

Jerusalem will be a metaphysical history of the Northampton neighborhood where Moore grew up, and will consist of over 600,000 words. (Without pictures! So weird.) Why Moore would write something so ambitious and original, instead of something profitable, like Before Rising Stars or Before 100 Bullets, is beyond me. I mean, this a guy so crazy that he believes in things like creator’s rights, and the inherent magic of creativity and imagination. Anyway, here’s a video of Moore sitting around while his mighty beard reads a chapter from the novel. Enjoy.

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Defending Good Taste

“The older I get, the more life seems to be the stupid, frustrating stuff that gets in the way of YOU and reading comics.”

That’s what Danny Rand, Iron Fist, said in the first issue of Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson’s new Defenders series.  I’m here to make sure that nothing gets in the way of you, Forbidden Planeteers, and reading The Defenders #4.

The Defenders is one of the most engaging superhero books going.  It has a vibe that’s as hyper-modern as it is old school, with big action, complicated characters, serious weirdness, and more energy than Quicksilver on a cappuccino binge.  In just the first three issues, the team got together, went to Wundagore Mountain, saved the universe, and stole a powerful, mysterious device called the Concordance Engine.

This week’s tale, the first of three issues focusing on individual Defenders, deals with Doctor Strange accidentally revving the Engine, whilst simultaneously finding himself targeted by an unscrupulous young street magician.  Guest artist Michael Lark keeps the strange proceedings believable, while Matt Fraction turns up the pathos.

Believe me folks, the Defenders will surprise you every time – it’s far too cool to play by the rules.  Don’t miss it.

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If you’d like to jump on board the current Defenders series issue #1 is currently available here.

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