It would be easy to be a little bit cynical about ‘another war movie’ after how many we’ve had over the years, and comparisons with some of the greats are inevitable. However this based on a true story drama at least has an interesting perspective of one such time in the second world war. Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a pacifist war objector and medic who refuses to carry a weapon despite being part the battle of Okinawa … and becomes a hero when he saves the lives of more than 70 soldiers during a brutal siege against the Japanese.
Director Mel Gibson’s movie for me began familiar…Desmond leaves his sweetheart to join the army, his drunk father is against him signing up, and we also get a shouty drill instructor played by Vince Vaughn doing his best R Lee Ermy impression. So initially I was thinking this was just going to be a re-tread of say Full Metal Jacket or Saving Private Ryan. Thankfully though with the focus on Desmond this became more than simple war movie cliché and actually an enthralling story of one man’s fight to stand by his beliefs whilst still managing to make a difference. The war scenes that come fairly late on are unashamedly brutal yet visceral showing that Gibson has lost none of his flair for gruesome battles that he showcased so well in Braveheart. Also add to this that the movie has some interesting, humbling character arcs, such as certain characters starting out unlikeable and then becoming someone I cared about etc. Also I was glad to see that the otherwise ruthless Japanese army were not painted entirely one dimensional, with a few welcome moments showing soldiers scared or not entirely wanting to be a part of what they were involved in. It made for a well rounded and well written account of a what must have been a horrific time in history.
I was left a little puzzled by where Desmond’s elder brother disappeared to considering he signed up to join the army before Desmond but then the movie forgot about him. Just an observation. However, Garfield not exactly an actor I’ve ever warmed to, who was miscast in Spiderman is thankfully a revelation here, convincing and probably a career best from him … helped by several solid supporting turns.
The last movie, rebooting a franchise that had reached a dead-end after the lacklustre Spider-Man 3, was a decent if somewhat uninspiring outing for the web crawler, helped it has to be said by solid casting and some good action. This time around Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is still juggling his on/off relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), trying to hold down a job as a photographer (er, only hinted at) and his responsibilities as a super-hero. However the mystery behind his parent’s disappearance still looms and a new enemy in the shape of an ignored, put-upon scientist (Jamie Foxx) turned electricity consumed super-villain ‘electro’ arrives on the scene.
Plenty going on in this sequel. Again Garfield is good as Parker/Spider-Man although his snively / arrogant double-act grates sometimes. Stone on the other hand is again perfect, even if she doesn’t get much more to do than threaten to run away to England. Sally Field as Aunt May seems to have stepped up her presence however in the absence of Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben, and we also get Harry Osborne (a diverting Dane DeHaan), former best friend turned megalomaniac beneficiary of Oscorp. As always for this kind of thing the sequel seems over-complicated but makes for some great action and superb effects work (apart from some dubious swinging through New York bits that looked better in 2001). Foxx is good as Electro even if his character is quite the cliché, but overall there was a somewhat childish tone with too many moments of poking fun at our hero (the fireman’s helmet bit?).
It’s hard not to wish this had turned out differently … towards the end it really hit it’s stride, offering up some surprises as well as the (albeit predictable) character-ark of Harry Osborne. Yet this was still good entertainment, despite suffering from the usual sequel / trilogy trappings. Roll on The Amazing Spider-Man 3 then.
Few of you would disagree that this came as a surprise when it was first announced. Although Spider-Man 3 was a bit of a let down, what director Sam Raimi and star Toby Maguire achieved with the original (not so long ago) Spidy franchise was incredible. So why the need for a re-boot? Well as a long time Spider-Man fan I still had time for the webbed wonder no matter what guise he comes in, and when you consider that gifted actor Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) had been chosen to fill Maguire’s boots, and love-interest Gwen Stacy is played by current hot property Emma Stone (Easy A) … I knew this had potential.
Peter Parker (Garfield) is abandoned by his parents and left to grow up with Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) but as he reaches adolescence, curiosity considering his missing father’s background gets the better of him and soon he is seeking out his father’s former business partner Dr Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans). Yet on the discovery that his father was experimenting in cross-species genetics, he soon stumbles upon radio-active spiders, and before you can yell ‘spider-sense’ … Peter is a changed man.
Garfield is perfect as Parker / Spidy and brings some unexpected emotion and depth to the character that even Toby Maguire lacked … also proving far less nerdy. His story may offer little new to the franchise apart from his parents back story, but it’s the relationship between Parker and Gwen Stacy that holds the most weight, proving to be one of the more convincing relationships of a comic-book adaptation. Rhys Ifans’ scientist-turned-The Lizard offers little again that hasn’t been seen before. Thankfully Ifans is good enough as Dr Conners, even if the part seems a bit beneath such a talented actor. The same could be said for screen legend Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, but suits the ageing actor quite well. Sally Field on the other hand barely makes an impression other than looking concerned a lot. Emma Stone is as expected excellent and acts former love interest Kirsten Dunst (May Jane) off the screen for emotional range … also helps she’s damn fine-looking too!
Along with a series of impressive action sequences with decent effects and some real heart-in-mouth moments, this very nearly was the best Spider-Man movie yet. Sadly its let down a by moments of corny dialogue and a fair few clichés (the school bully is called ‘flash’ for example). Add to this plot threads that go nowhere (a vendetta against a robber is just ‘forgotten’ and really, why did Parker’s parents disappear?). With a little more polish and possibly a more interesting villain – this could have been well, amazing. As it stands, it’s simply a very enjoyable and capable movie that proves one thing – there’s plenty of life left in ol’ Spidy yet.
I’ll admit to not being a fan of Facebook. There, I said it. I’ve been on the site as a member and built up a friends list, but something about the artificiality of the social experience it professes to provide feels fake and ultimately isolating. So what excuse would I ever need to see a movie about Facebook? I have just one: David Fincher.