8/1/12: Biscuits & Gravy Edition

Home is home.  I went out of my way to help remove a stump from the front yard, basically to justify my lounging about in a different environment.  Tools!  Gloves to avoid splinters!  All sorts of experiences I don’t have in my little bubble.  In thirty years I will build a shed and blacken my thumb with a hammer shot and look in ecstasy at the “new experience.”  Anyway, my dad put a chain around the stump while I accelerated the van forward, which went reasonably well and didn’t tear up the entire front yard and all the power to the neighborhood.  I consider that a plus (pluses are when life avoids turning into something Chuck Jones produced.)

Before all that, I tried some of the LittleBigPlanet Karting beta before it ended yesterday.  The game is exactly what you’d expect: Mario Kart with lots of customization.  There was a time and place where you’d trip over at least twelve Mario Kart clones before reaching the counter (Crash Team Racing, Konami Krazy Racers, Bomberman Kart, even Chocobo Racing for God’s sake), but LBPK feels fresh.  Obviously, the formula isn’t fresh.  It’s Mario Kart.  But, with the exception of 2010’s Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, that style of game is out of favor.  I don’t want a renaissance of the genre, but a good one every couple of years is sufficient.  The LittleBigPlanet series demands a focus on customization, often in favor of the “tightness” of gameplay, but that means it can have a longer shelf life.  Not only are the racing and aesthetics fun, but so is the possibility of encountering new characters and tracks years down the line.

Playing LBPK also reminded me of how much I’m looking forward to PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, which is a direct ripoff of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series.  It’s astounding that there aren’t more direct ripoffs of SSB, considering how much they sell.  Nintendo’s games are both very original and very infrequent.  It was seven years between SSB Melee and SSB Brawl, and it may be another between Brawl and the next iteration.  In that time, why not let another crew take a chance with the same style of game?  I’m down for non-Nintendo ripoffs between the official releases.  All the buzz about what Sony is doing reminds me of Darksiders, which no one could discuss without mentioning its similarities to The Legend of Zelda.  Instead of throwing it out to the wolves, players embraced it, totally okay with an off-year LoZ.  While publishers keep chasing the copy-Call-of-Duty model, I do wish they’d start copying other things, too.  Why is it that The Great Giana Sisters is the only 2D Mario ripoff I can think of?  Try some more!

Of course I have to mention that I saw The Amazing Spider-Man last night, and of course I have to repeat many of the same points you’ve heard somewhere else.  The film simply has no reason to exist, especially as a hardline reboot.  It’s an alright flick, overall, but it lacks the overwhelming joy of “we are seriously making a spider-man movie oh man how awesome is that he finally hits the big screen this is so phenomenal.”  It’s just Spidey, doing what he do, which is putting money in Sony Pictures executives’ pockets.  Money is the reason it exists, moreso than any good or bad qualities.

First off, if you have any money to spare and haven’t seen Batman yet, Spider-Man is good!  Let’s get the positivity out of the way, to prove it exists.  I will never, ever tire of watching Spider-Man fight his rogue’s gallery in Hollywood blockbusters.  The character’s powers and abilities give variety to the action scenes, and it’s rarely predictable.  Spidey receives two important characteristics that the Sam Raimi-directed films slacked on: wit and scientific intelligence.  The Lizard is an inspiring choice for a villain, not for reasons as much as fight scene brutality.  And Emma Stone plays a pitch-perfect Gwen Stacy, once again stealing every production she’s in.

What I heard long before the film’s release was that it would be better than the Raimi films because Sony had hired “better actors”.  On the whole, this may be true, but in adaptations you must cast those who fit the roles rather than those who have accumulated more Oscar nominations.  Some may say Sally Field is a better actress than Rosemary Harris, which is fine, but Harris is the better Aunt May.  For nearly everyone besides Emma Stone, this is the case.  Andrew Garfield is the most egregious, and his portrayal (or the writing’s) of Peter Parker is almost completely off-key.  Far be it from me to stomp around complaining about “his suit is slightly different!!!” like people did on the first one, but these issues feel substantial.  It’s not a character evisceration like last year’s Green Lantern, but a miscommunication.  In The Amazing Spider-Man, Parker doesn’t wear glasses because he needs them.  He doesn’t.  He just wears them to look…cool?  Hip?  Relevant?  Like he’s in an ironic band?  He looks, acts, and talks exactly like the coolest kids in my high school would, but the character is written to be an outcast.  I guess he is an outcast, because he wears glasses.  Like all nerrrrrds.  Parker is an angsty teenager, sure, but by the end of the movie he hasn’t grown out of it.  His love for Gwen Stacy is handed back to him, apropos of nothing, even though this character is supposed to be a gigantic nerd who struggles in his daily life.  Things just happen.  When Parker actually dons the mask and becomes Spider-Man, there’s no triumphant moment of seeing him adjust or realize his moral standards.  The death of Uncle Ben isn’t a driving factor, it just sort of happens, there, and people cry and get over it by the next scene.  All this shoddy work is backed, justified, as director Marc Webb would say, by “Well, we’re closer to the comics!  He meets Gwen first!  He builds his web shooters, they’re not organic this time!”  The actual plot and characters of the film are pale in comparison to the original Raimi films.  Rather than do things like make people important or give scenes meaning or include a story arc, it relies on faith that long-time comic book fans will forgive all the flaws as long as there are a couple little things closer to the original series.  Holy crap, I almost forgot to mention that at one point, in a scene with Gwen, I almost thought to myself “Is Spider-Man going to date rape her?”  Half a joke, of course, and I know Marvel would never let that happen, but you don’t want your nerdy outcast character to come across as a douchey fratboy.  Sure, the Spider-Man of the comics has wit, but not at the expense of the emotion.  He also grows into an attractive man, but this is after he grew out of his shell.  Andrew Garfield is a witty, attractive guy, but that’s not appropriate for high-school aged Peter Parker.  Don’t just turn a webcam on and say “I LIKE FOOTBALL AND ALSO STAR WARS” and pretend that saying the name of a sci-fi series gives you Asperger’s.  The character is designed to struggle, and eventually succeed, not succeed and then succeed and then explain it away with a “yeahwell..enghhh…” and shuffling of feet.

It’s fluff, is all, and many Spider-Man comics over the years have been such.  The Raimi films were criticized for having too much emotion, but the polar opposite doesn’t make it better.  (It makes it worse, considering how important characters are to Spider-Man.)  (Unless you want to make a complete spin-off, which is fine as long as you don’t half-ass the other points.)  The Amazing Spider-Man, had it not been so successful to warrant a sequel, would be one of those comic book movies you find on Netflix in two years, remark “Oh, yeah, I never saw that one” and watch, then come away entertained, but not enthralled.  It’s a decent film that ends up right in the middle, but the past fifty years of Spider-Man material has built itself on being better than average.

Oh, yeah.  Hahahahaha, Bing!

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