Category: The Gaudion Spotlight


Last week saw the UK release of the latest adaptation of 2000 AD’s most famous character, Judge Dredd. Critics, and it would seem, audiences have taken to this new incarnation with open arms and praise, as the film currently carries a 95% approval. But, of course, this is not the first time that the comic-book law enforcer has been on the big screen. Back in the days of 1995, Dredd was turned into a tent-pole Sylvester Stallone action movie. It was meant to be a hit. But it wasn’t. It flopped. Both commercially and critically. The people that hated it more so than critics were the comic-book fans, and they are the kind of people that you do not want to piss off. For one, Dredd removed his helmet. And he shared a kiss. And he had a ‘character arc’. Any 2000 AD fan will tell you that throughout Dredd’s 35 years of existence, he has never really changed or developed as a character. He has remained the cruel, one-liner spitting, violent and undeniably fascist right hand of Mega City’s Law and Order. But is the film as bad as the fans, and the critics of the 90’s, would lead you to believe? (Yes, this feature is very much inspired by Total Films’ recent reappraisal of said film, but I’d like to think this is significantly different). I am both a comic book fan and a Stallone fan, and do remember watching the Stallone version when I was the young and naive age of ten and having fun with it. But now as a more mature viewer, and having more knowledge and experience with the source material, I began to wonder what I would think of the Danny Cannon directed Judge Dredd movie now? That, and I really, really want to see  Dredd 3-D, so I need to find someway to satisfy my Dredd craving. Particularly now that I can’t find my awesome PS2 game Judge Dredd: Dredd VS. Death. So, I sought out the film and sat down to view Dredd’s first cinematic outing. And now I shall act as its Judge, Jury, and, possibly, executioner.

Where to begin? The start might be as good a place as any. The opening 5 or so minutes of Judge Dredd 1995 is near perfect. I know right. It establishes the world brilliantly, and introduces the character in a suitably bad-ass fashion. Sure, we’re introduced to the world through the eyes of one of my least favourite actor’s, Rob Schneider (more on him later), but the design of Mega City One is stunningly faithful to the comic book. It is a hive of crazy activity, it is hard to gather what exactly the architectural landscape of the thing is (like any good Sci-Fi dystopian city, they just seemed to have built upwards) but you never get a great sense of that in the comic books, only with certain important locations. It signifies a future that is in chaos, and one that needs a radical law enforcement regime, like the Judges, in an attempt to contain and control any form of society and order.

Once we are given a fly around Mega City One, we are pretty much shoved straight into this dis-order as our friend Schneider, recently released from prison, finds that his new apartment is currently home to a group of rioters who are inciting a block war. It is then time to call the Judges in. Judge Hershey (the lovely as ever Diane Lane) and a Rookie Judge are pinned in the street. They need back up. Cue a very effective, and undeniably cool character introduction. Dredd drives onto the scene, riding his faithfully designed Law-master, and, accompanied by Alan Silvestri’s fantastic score, is revealed in true action icon fashion as he disembarks his vehicle. The costume design is also incredibly faithful, and the action that follows does fantastically well to introduce Dredd’s sensibilities and commitment to upholding the Law of Mega City One. He pretty much takes out all the law breakers by himself, demonstrating the useful capabilities of his Lawgiver gun. And the scene reaches its pinnacle of perfection and cool when Stallone enters the room to confront the last standing rioter. He reels off all the laws that the perpetrator has broken, before landing on the sentence; death. The cold and calculated act is well conceived, and Stallone’s performance is at its least shouty and controlled in this scene, as he calmly exacts the sentence before delivering a line of dead-panned goodness, ‘Court’s adjourned’. It is from this moment that you believe the man before us IS the law. Stallone sells it, the action sells it, and we seem to be in good steed for a decent and entertaining comic book adaptation. Unfortunately, the film fails to maintain or hit the heights of this wonderfully executed opening.

The film gets taken over by the Hollywood Machine, as the film moves from a faithful comic book adaptation to a rather generic Stallone action movie featuring a corrupt police system and Dredd having to prove his name and readdress his priorities and dedication to the system. And ‘develop as a person’ *Shudder*. The problem is, as one of my friends Mr. Ray Chissers stated in discussion, is that the Judges and Hall of Justice are supposed to be the only rock-steady component within this dystopian world. The film rides on the fact that the system is corrupt and willing to break its own restrictions and conditions. The clone story-line, although drawn from the comic-books, is used to layer Dredd and present him with an emotional back story. This is not what Dredd needs. And yes, it is a crime in itself that Stallone removes his helmet. We also have a terrible, terrible villain in the form of Armand Assante’s Rico. Again, Rico is a character that exists within 2000 AD’s catalog, but his role is expanded a great deal here to the extent of being a pantomime villain. I can’t help but think that Assante was only cast because he looks a little bit like Stallone and has the same eye colour. He cannot seem to deliver a line without over-playing it, resulting in a cringe worthy performance. Stallone doesn’t fair much better. His Dredd was much more convincing under the helmet, as otherwise the film just becomes a rather generic Stallone action movie. And the scenes between him and Assante merely result in them shouting ‘LAAAAAAAW‘ rather moronically at each other. And a film should never, ever have Rob Schneider as comic relief. Even in a comedy. He is completely useless and gets in the way the whole time, and does not seem to stop saying Dredd, all the time. A terrible sidekick, and a terrible performance from an embarrassing actor. 

The action takes a turn as well, as there soon develops a sense that the writers were making it up as they were going along; the execution becomes much, much more sloppy and generic once again. The Cursed Earth encounter with The Angel Family is a stand out, thanks entirely to seeing the characters of the Angel Family on screen. But the final act is really rather awful. At one moment, it appears to be setting itself up for a battle with some Zombie Clone warriors, but that never comes to fruition. And for some reason, everything explodes. Unless I missed something, there was never any indication that something had caused the place to explode. It literally just started happening. The final encounter with Dredd and Rico fails to excite as it resorts to a mere punch up on top of the Statue of Liberty. Gone is the deliciously satirical dystopian bite of the opening and the deftly handled violence, as it results to what you’d expect from a Stallone movie (at times, it feels like a poor copy of Demolition Man, a film I’m a big fan of). The tone becomes far too cartoon-esque. This is not something I’d entirely dismiss from a Dredd movie, as the comic-book does have the chaotic energy of a cartoon. But at the same time, it is edgy and brutal. Stallone’s version becomes disappointingly blunt.

There are many elements in Judge Dredd that make the film a pleasure to watch. The music is stunning, one of Slivestri’s more underrated scores, and one that shares similar motifs with his equally pulse-pounding score for Avengers Assemble. The production design remains a feast for the eyes throughout, and Stallone, whilst donned in FULL Dredd Gear is actually inspired casting. He certainly has the chin and stature to carry the role off. But it seems to drop its faith in its source material very quickly in favour of a more accessible, less demanding and as a result, less interesting and original Sci-Fi action movie. I have hope that Karl Urban’s Dredd 3-D corrects these mistakes, and from what I’ve heard, it does do so, with a hell of a punch. So, final verdict on the fate of Judge Dredd; A film with great promise, that falls apart incredibly quickly due to a weak script that falls to Hollywood pressures. If it weren’t for the fact that it was based on a comic-book, it would serve as an entertaining Stallone flick and fall into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category of action movies. But, due to the potential of its source material, it can only be listed as a wasted opportunity. Stallone Judge Dredd, your sentence, is death. Court’s adjourned.

Here’s a tribute video to both the film (bless) and it’s awesome score so you can experience it’s awesomeness!

I am sure that you are all aware that on Sunday 19th August, director Tony Scott jumped to his death in the San Pedro port district of Los Angeles. There is still a great deal of mystery surrounding the North Tyneside-born director’s suicide, details that may take months to reveal themselves, hell, we may never know. To commemorate his death, I was going to do My Top Five Tony Scott movies, when it soon became apparent to me that I had only seen about five of his films; Man On Fire, Top Gun, Unstoppable, Enemy of the State and Domino. Therefore, it wouldn’t really have been a Top Five list, it would have been the only five. True Romance and The Last Boy Scout are two of those films where I’ve never  been too sure if I’ve actually seen them all the way through. Such a fact has inspired me to visit Scott’s complete filmography, all 16 of his features. It could take a good two weeks to finish this post, but I think it could be an interesting endeavor, as Scott had a very interesting career as a director. He only had the occasional box-office hit, and most of his films were panned by critics; many often claiming him to place style over substance. He was a director with an undeniable visual flair, and I shall be addressing whether the critics had him right or wrong; did he place style over substance? If so, is that such a bad thing if the film supplies impressive and enjoyable entertainment? So, in no particular order, lets revisit Scott, and may he rest in peace. 

Day One- True Romance (1990)

To answer one question; no, I had not seen True Romance all the way through before today. I remembered a great deal of the opening, and the electrifying scene between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken, but how does it work as a whole experience? True Romance is a high benchmark to start a review of Tony Scott’s career, as I doubt there’s going to be a film that tops it. Quite how this was one of Scott’s flops on release is beyond my comprehension. Benefiting from an incredibly trademark Quentin Tarantino script, Scott has brilliant fun portraying the sadistic, yet strangely genuine romance between Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette). Perhaps more well-known for constructing excellent action sequences (the gun fights here are exceptional) what is truly worth experiencing True Romance for is the wonderful work Scott weans from his ensemble of actors. The cast is incredible, featuring bizarre yet committed turns from the likes of Gary Oldman and Brad Pitt, and hugely memorable cameo performances from the aforementioned Walken and Hopper. Slater and Arquette totally convince as the star-crossed lovers, whose love is thrown into an underworld of drugs, Sicilian gangsters and drug-dealing movie producers. Filled with the standard witty Tarantino pop culture references, Scott never allows the narrative to lose focus on the tale of its two, rather psychotic, leads. The cinematography has a hazy grit to it, as all Scott’s early movies did, painting a realistic, yet also fantastical world, helped by Hans Zimmer’s brilliantly naive and whimsical score. In the debate of style over substance, substance and style strike a perfect balance here, in what is a fantastic pop-culture, thriller romance that I highly recommend!

Day Two- The Hunger (1983) 

Well, after viewing what many consider to be the high point of Mr. Scott’s career yesterday in the form of True Romance, I think I may have just found the lowest point; his first full-length feature, The Hunger. Another flop for Scott on its release (although this time it is not hard to see why) The Hunger has found new life as a very strange cult movie (again, not hard to see why).  How best to describe it? It is a vampire movie, but not in the conventional sense. These are not the kind of vampires whose teeth grow sharp and bite on down your neck. The vampires here slit their victim’s throats and feast on their blood, somewhat more realistic, yet there is still something undeniably supernatural about them. Namely the fact that they are immortal. Or so you think. Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie are the blood thirsty partners, and make for a pair of strangely attractive and hypnotic leads. So far, so psychedelically 80’s good. When all of a sudden Bowie starts to rapidly age. Don’t ask me why. For Deneuve’s vampire, this is nothing new, and she embarks on finding a new partner. She finds potential in Susan Sarandon’s Doctor, who is doing research on ageing defects in humans. This plays absolutely no part into proceedings. There’s a lesbian sex scene at some point. Bowie becomes a zombie. There are some doves. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Seriously, this whole movie just feels like an extended Gothic-esque music video; a very beautiful music video, but an utterly empty and bizarre one. Deneuve certainly gets your spine-tingling, but the script simply does not make enough sense for you to feel truly sorry for her, or to be intimidated by her for that matter.  Bowie  is barely given enough time to impress, in a role which is essentially an extended cameo.  The make-up work is very impressive, as is the music, and there are certainly signs of Scott’s visual flair. The atmosphere is unsettling, cold, effective, but at the same time rather generic, what with creeping violins and billowing curtains. Just what this movie is trying to be is beyond me. It is far too arty to be a horror film, yet  too gratuitous to be an art film. It really is an oddity. A hard film to recommend, as it  is not a very good film by any means, but it is incredibly interesting in terms of Scott’s career. And, in some ways, it is worth seeing if only to experience how peculiar it really is.

Day Three- Top Gun (1986) and Days of Thunder (1990)

Day three, and it consisted of a double dose of the Cruiser. Tony Scott was actively working with Cruise on a sequel to their first collaboration, Top Gun, a mere two weeks before his death, which makes the viewing of Top Gun somewhat bittersweet, knowing that the sequel is more than likely no longer going to happen. Top Gun is perhaps the film that Scott shall mostly be remembered for. It is a pure example of what was both great and terrible about Hollywood pictures in the 1980’s. It has that infectious, cheesy spirit at its centre, a rock and roll soundtrack and ridiculously convenient plot developments. Cruise is at his most memorable here, effortlessly giving Naval Fighter Pilot Maverick Mitchel an air of arrogance and impressive competence. Re-watching Top Gun, two things instantly stand out. One, is the really rather glaring homo-eroticism on display here. I know people do make a lot of jokes about it, but some moments in this movie are really quiet homoerotic. It can’t be attributed to male bonding, it simply is just too gay, and I’m not just talking about that volleyball game. Oh well, each to their own. What is more impressive than the script, thankfully, is Scott’s skill in shooting the action of the fighter jets. It truly shows his great craft as a director of action sequences, as many action movies following Top Gun tried, and failed to match the sheer excitement of his action sequences. What is important about them is that the sequences are real; those are real jets doing the hair-raising stunts, and they still seriously impress, even by today’s standards. Rarely has an advert for the US Military been so exciting. And Kenny Loggins is awesome.  

Days of Thunder, Scott’s second collaboration with Cruise and producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer following the huge of success of Top Gun, tries to recapture what made that movie such a success, for better and for worse. Days of Thunder adheres far too closely to the Top Gun rule-book; by which I mean, it offers outstanding action sequences but is rather weak and incredibly corny when it comes to the bits in-between. The acting is commendable enough, Cruise is, well, Cruise, and Robert Duvall is strong support as his driving mentor. Nicole Kidman doesn’t impress too much as the Doctor-come-love-interest, as she is evidently uncomfortable in her first Hollywood role. Although it is rather funny to see how short Cruise is compared to her. What is noticeably impressive about Days of Thunder is its sound design. The cars boom and rattle your bones, you feel every bit of the race thanks to the incredibly detailed sound mixing and design, Scott and his team evidently spent a lot of time trying to perfect the editing of the sound to truly create a unique experience into the world of NASCAR racing. That is another achievement of this movie, it managed to make NASCAR seem interesting, namely because of the well-paced editing during the racing sequences. Scott certainly knew how to get the audience’s blood pumping, no matter what the subject matter. Both of these films are less visually interesting than True Romance and The Hunger, but they throughly impress through their gritty, real and hard hitting action sequences. And you cannot fault an awesome synthesized soundtrack.

Day Four- Beverly Hills Cop 2 (1987)

Scott certainly must have had many a script offer following his success with Top Gun. At the end of the day, Top Gun‘s producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer managed to convince their new favourite director to take the reigns of a flourishing franchise, Beverly Hills Cop. The first installment was a huge success, and Simpson and Bruckheimer wanted a director they could trust, and Scott had proven his worth. Beverly Hills Cop 2 is perhaps the least visually interesting of the films I have watched so far, but it is not the sort of film that requires that much style. It is an incredibly entertaining movie, one of those classic 80’s action movies that buzzes with energy, thanks namely to its 80’s sensibilities and a cast who are quite obviously having the time of their lives. The plot doesn’t seem to make much sense, you simply enjoy spending time with these characters and enjoy the action and snappy dialogue. Eddie Murphy was on the top of his game, and Axel Foley is one of his more assured and less irritating roles. Scott was somewhat cautious about working with a big star like Murphy, but his assured direction seems to keep Murphy reigned in. And the Beverly Hills Cop secret weapon has and always shall be Judge Reinhold’s Billy Rosewood. He is absolutely crazy and remains a highly entertaining and memorable 80’s sidekick. Beverly Hills Cop 2 is the sort of fun, edgy, and ridiculous buddy cop movie that only the 80’s could have been responsible for producing. It may not be Scott’ s strongest work in terms of its visual pallet, but it once again shows his confidence with working with big named stars. An attribute that he never lost.

Day Five- The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Another brilliant movie from Scott here, and one that does not rely on style, as Scott allows the fantastic script to speak for itself, whilst competently directing exciting action sequences, giving the film a great sense of pace and character. On paper, this film should have been a massive hit upon its release. Tony Scott was coming off the back of a string of hits, namely Top Gun , Beverly Hills Cop and Days of Thunder; Bruce Willis was huge following Die Hard; and the script was written by Shane Black, who had just come off the back of the also-produced by Joel Silver action movie Lethal Weapon. But, unfortunately, it did not perform very well at all, but soon gained a faithful following once it found its way on to VHS. It is a surprising flop, as it has the workings of a hugely successful action movie, that could have easily have had a franchise, as Willis’ down-trodden, self-loathing Detective teams up with down-on-his-luck Football Star Damon Wayans to solve a murder conspiracy, that of course, goes up higher than either of them could have ever imagined. Black’s script is wickedly cynical, and has some fantastic one-liners (“You’ve gotta be the craziest guy I know; you’re trying to save the life of the man who ruined your career, and avenge the life of the guy that was fucking your wife” is a personal favourite of mine). Willis is on brilliant, bad-ass form, Joe being one of his stronger action-heroes outside of a grubby vest. Wayans as well proves to be an effective member of an enjoyable double team, making this a better example of a Hollywood Buddy-action movie. It is a film that once again displays Scott’s talent for getting strong performances from big name stars, and also an example of how he had an eye for a great script, reigning in his own style to allow the strong material to shine through his actors. This is definitely True Romance territory, and they are easily the two best films that I have come across so far in this retrospective overview.

Day Six- Revenge (1990) and The Fan (1996)

Unwittingly, I did a Tony Scott/John Leguizamo double bill with these two films; Revenge and The Fan, two of Scott’s lesser known and most unsuccessful movies, both critically and commercially. The film I started the day with was the Kevin Costner thriller, Revenge. And it is a bad film. If it wasn’t for some rather handsome shots within its Mexican backdrop, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this wasn’t a Scott film, rather the work of a run of the mill hack director. Once again, like The Hungerit is a film that leaves many an incoherent gap, and is bizarre and dreary in its subject matter. Costner plays an ex-jet fighter pilot (yes, it starts like Top Gun) who goes on holiday to Mexico, where he has a friend (quite how they’re friends in never truly explained). His friend (Anthony Quinn) is an elderly powerful businessman (or politician, again, that is never quite clear) who values trust, and does not take too kindly to betrayal. Which doesn’t work out too well for our friend Kevin, who falls for his bad Mexican friend’s beautiful young wife. Once Quinn finds out, he leaves Costner for dead and puts his pretty wife in a whorehouse. Once recovered, Costner teams up with two Mexicans (one of them being Leguizamo, who doesn’t say anything throughout the course of the film) to get…REVENGE. Costner is hard to buy as a bad-ass seeking revenge, although his love scenes with Madeline Stowe do have a sizzle, and the two definitely have sexual chemistry. But, once again aside from some rather beautiful shots, the film is poorly paced, and I watched the Director’s Cut, the original cut was over two hours! The violence is rather effective but it is clearly used as a shock tactic, as it is rather un-stylized. A disappointing blip on Scott’s career; it is fundamentally clear that his heart was not into this project, from its dull start, to its thoroughly depressing end.

The better of the two films today was still a rather disappointing effort from Scott, as it is a rather cliched paranoid thriller with a rather dull performance from Robert De Niro. De Niro plays Gil, a down-on-his-luck, yet rather obsessive Baseball fan. He cares greatly about his son, but his wife is frightened by him , and he  is very close to losing his job as a knife salesman. His only grace in life is his love of the beautiful game, namely his admiration for the Giants newest player Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes). Soon enough, his admiration becomes something much more disturbing and dangerous, as Gil decides to take matters into his own hands when Rayburn starts to go through a rough patch. As far as psychological thrillers go, this doesn’t offer anything new, apart from giving a rather deranged look into mind of a fanatic. De Niro could do this role in his sleep, and you get the feeling he is at times, yet Scott does what he can to crank the tension. There is some very sharp editing on display, and in one scene during a confrontation between De Niro and Snipes, he employs a great use of close-ups to create a paranoid sense of claustrophobia. However, these moments are far and few in-between. Snipes impresses as the earnest Baseball superstar, holding his own against De Niro, and Leguizamo  actually gets to speak in this one, but the film takes far too much time building up the tension between the pair. And although the final act is ludicrous, it is still rather satisfying, as this is what the whole film has been building up to. It is a shame then, that the ending once again falls back on cliches  and predictability, resulting in a very generic and  un-original psychological thriller.

Day Seven- Crimson Tide (1995)

I know I promised a double-bill today, but it was far too nice to stay in and watch films (I know, even I am saying that). So, for today, I only have my views on Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State shall follow tomorrow. Crimson Tide is one of Scott’s most successful films both commercially and critically. And it thoroughly deserves all the praise that it gets. Crimson Tide is an effective post-Cold War thriller, clearly showing that nuclear tensions still run high. Denzel Washington works with Scott for the first time here as Lieutenant Commander Hunter, who joins the crew of the U.S.S. Alabama, following a Rebel takeover in Russia, that threatens to throw the world into World War Three. On board, he clashes with the ship’s Captain (Gene Hackman) and the two collide when an incredibly important  decision has to be made, and if the wrong choice is made, it could bring about a Nuclear Holocaust. No pressure then. Crimson Tide is one of Scott’s most effective thrillers, as it grabs you from the very start, and doesn’t let you go until its utterly gripping ending. The editing is masterful, the sound design faultless, the score pulse-pounding (another Hans Zimmer masterpiece) and the cinematography stunning. Working with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (the man who shot the Pirates movies, and Prometheus for one), Scott uses the restrictions of the submarine setting to his advantage; close quarters create nerve-shredding claustrophobia, the bold colourful lighting from the machines creates an ominous atmosphere, and wonderfully involving tracking shots create a sense of urgency through the long corridors of the U.S.S. Alabama. It is also incredibly entertaining to see two heavyweight actors go a few rounds in the form of Washington and Hackman. It is hard call the winner, as Washington remains strong and dignified, while Hackman is a tough as nails Captain, who perhaps deserves whats coming to him. It is a thrilling action picture, that not only gets the pulse racing but gets the mind working too, as you are also forced to question the moral dilemma’s that face Denzel and Gene. What decision would you make? Another highly recommended movie, that strikes a chord between style and substance!

Day Eight- Enemy of the State (1998)

Two top-notch thrillers from Tony Scott, two days on the trot. I am on a roll! I will not lie to you, the Scott marathon is getting tiring, trying to make sure I watch one a day (going to struggle this weekend, so I may be taking a hiatus as I am going away), but it is movies like this and Crimson Tide that make it worthwhile. I remember seeing Enemy of the State when I was about 9 years-old, and not really understanding it. I must have been a pretty slow 9 year-old, as it isn’t a hard film to grasp. It is intelligent, yes, but the general plot-line is nothing too taxing. Will Smith plays Bobby Dean, a happily married Attorney who finds himself embroiled in a Government conspiracy, as he unwittingly winds up with a tape showing an National Security Agency official (Jon Voight) assassinating a Congressman. The NSA use all the tricks at their disposal to ruin Dean’s life in an attempt to force him to give up the tape that he doesn’t know he possesses. Forced to go on the run, Dean teams up with an ex-NSA agent (Gene Hackman) to uncover the conspiracy and get his life back. Once again, Enemy of the State demonstrates Scott’s unique style of direction when it comes action; quick rapid editing, canted angles, a vast variety of different shots, all designed to excite and involve the viewer. The tone of the movie is fantastically well developed. It is a high-tech conspiracy thriller that would not be out of place in the 1970’s; the decade of paranoid conspiracy thrillers. It does push the boundaries of how much of the technology is grounded in reality, but at times you get so wrapped up in the conspiracy that you begin to worry just how much the government really does know about our individual private lives. The cast is also on fine form; Will Smith does well to prove himself as a dramatic actor; Hackman is given a more layered role then what he had in Crimson Tide, and Jon Voight also makes a decidedly smarmy villain. Also keep an eye out for the likes of Jason Lee, Jack Black and Seth Green. Yet another superior thriller from Mr. Tony Scott that would make a very entertaining double-bill with, say, Crimson Tide. 

Day Nine- Spy Game (2001)

Back to the Tony Scott movies after a weekend away! With five left, I think I can safely say that I will finish the retrospect by the end of this week. I have thoroughly enjoyed looking back over his varied career, and the most recent run of films has been brilliant, and Spy Game can easily join the ranks of Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State. Set in 1991, CIA Operative Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is taken prisoner in a Chinese Prison Camp for espionage. Back in Langley, Bishop’s old mentor Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) is about to begin his last day working for the CIA, but he decides to put everything on the line to save his protege. Through the course of the film, as Muir tries to buy Bishop sometime, he tells the story of how the pair met and their resulting relationship, from Vietnam to the Lebanon war. The story is very involving and the flashbacks do a great deal to establish character, and Redford and Pitt make for excellent lead pair, seeing as Pitt is essentially our generations Redford (they look eerily similar as well). The story becomes much more convoluted as it progresses, but it remains involving, largely due to the fact that you want to try and figure it all out and see quite what the outcome will be. It is an intelligent and sophisticated espionage movie, that makes for an effective spy thriller double with Enemy of the State. It also marks Scott’s second collaboration with cinematographer Dan Mindel, following Enemy of the State, and the two effectively establish a distinctive look; visceral yet bold with colour (the Vietnam flashback is brilliantly shot). It is a style of film-making that is incredibly synonymous with Scott, and was somewhat employed by his brother for Black Hawk Down, released in the same year. Spy Game I personally think is the better of the two films; more sophisticated, focused and better performed. Once again, a superior thriller from Mr. Scott.

Day Ten- Domino (2005) 

Another movie from Tony Scott that I had seen before embarking upon this feature; the action? thriller? black comedy? The strange concoction, lets say, that is Domino. Scott, with a script from Richard Donnie Darko Kelly, presents to us the sort of but not really true story of the real-life female bounty hunter, Domino Harvey, the daughter of actor Lawrence Harvey, and all out hell raiser. Keira Knightley plays the archaic young woman, who embarks upon the dangerous world of bounty hunting in yet another way to rebel against her privileged background. The first time I saw Domino, I remember being incredibly confused but also very impressed with the style of the movie. But particularly in retrospect of Scott’s whole (or majority of) career, it is one of his movies where the style is perhaps too much. Domino is one of the weaker movies from Scott’s filmography, namely because substance and style fail to make a potent enough mix. For one, Kelly’s script is incredibly incoherent and very scattered, and in some way it feels deliberate, it order to capture the archaic and frenzied nature of Domino’s life, who sadly passed away months before the film was released. Scott once again works with Dan Mindel, and his style can only be described as Tony Scott. But Tony Scott on acid. The colours are bright and vivid, yet he maintains a strongly visceral sense of environment. But the camerawork and editing is far too rapid and disorienting in this case. You constantly feel distant from the proceedings; the film never allows you to get too close to any of the characters (reflecting Domino’s own M.O. of not getting too attached to anyone or anything in life). It is clear to see what Scott and Kelly are trying to achieve; a subversive , unusual take on the biopic genre, but it ultimately is too convoluted to make much sense, and they end up failing to engage as effectively as they could have. Knightley impresses, as does Mickey Rourke, but there is not enough attention given to anyone, particularly Domino herself. It is a wild, sexy, mess of a movie, perhaps a perfect reflection on Domino herself. Scott’s style however does not do any favors to the already fractured script. Although I am pretty sure that Domino Harvey would have been satisfied with the film’s rather unique archaic and visceral spirit.   

Day Eleven- Man On Fire (2004)

Another Tony Scott movie that I had seen before embarking on this retrospective feature, but one I remember more fondly then Domino. And for good reason. Marking his second collaboration with Denzel Washington, Scott presents here a hard-hitting, brutal and very emotional revenge thriller. Something that Costner failed to do. Denzel plays ex-CIA operative John Creasy, who is hired as a bodyguard for the nine year-old daughter of a Mexican Businessman in Mexico City. At first, Creasy remains cold and detached, but is slowly thawed by the charms of the girl he’s been hired to protect, Pita (Dakota Fanning). Together, the two form a unique bond; with Pita giving Creasy a new reason to live, and Creasy helping Pita to excel in swimming. Soon enough though, Pita is kidnapped by unknown assailants, who leave Creasy for dead. Once he is recovered, Creasy embarks on a hell-bent mission of revenge, as he goes out to find Pita’s kidnappers, and kill anyone responsible. The first hour or so of the movie rides through entirely on the chemistry between Washington and Fanning, who have a genuinely sweet natured relationship that completely pulls you in. Fanning displays a wonderful air of maturity and wisdom in her performance, putting in a performance far beyond her years, and I am yet to see her do better. Washington is his usual dignified self, yet here, he effectively combines both his lovable giant persona with the gritty unrelenting determination that characterizes his performances in the likes of Training Day. Scott’s frenzied, kinetic style is pushed to its limits (limits that Domino pushed too far) in this movie, as the high-key strobe effect lighting threatens to distract from the content at times. But he certainly knows how to present visceral action, as he drags us along on Creasy’s mission, effectively injecting the ferocity of Creasy’s anger into the spirit and minds of the audience. We certainly do not think any less of him for wanting to exact pain on the individuals responsible for Pita’s kidnapping. Another highly recommended thriller from Mr. Scott, and with only three movies left, and all being Washington movies, they should hopefully be in the same ball park.

Day Twelve: Deja Vu (2006)

We are nearing the end of my Scott retrospect, and the last movies of his career all starred Denzel Washington. A fine actor, who has constantly proved himself to be a commanding and charismatic screen presence, even in the most ludicrous of scenarios. Which proves quite handy in this case. Deja Vu is one of those high concept Sci-Fi action movies that dresses itself up as very intelligent, but when you really dig into the concept, it is simply built around a dumb, but ultimately cool concept. The plot runs as such; Denzel plays Doug Carlin, an ATF agent who is brought in to investigate a recent terrorist attack on a Ferry in New Orleans. Soon enough, he is roped in to a secret government program, code-named ‘Snow White’, that uses a new science to allow people to look back four days into the past. Whilst using this technology to simply observe the events preceding the attack, Doug soon begins to learn that there is more behind this new science then he originally thought, namely that it involves wormholes and time travel. And sure enough, as the investigation to find the terrorist draws to a close, Doug begins to suspect that  the ‘Snow White’ can be used for so much more, namely to prevent the attack itself from ever happening. As with any movie that involves complicated time-travel, not everything entirely makes sense, creating not so much giant plot holes as giant paradoxes. Scott reigns in his style somewhat here, as not to distract from the rather, once again, convoluted story. It is easy to keep track, but if you do begin to question the certain logistics of its time travel conceit, like I did, then it does begin to unravel in its final act. However, Washington does his best to sell us this concept, initially sharing in the audiences disbelief, but soon becoming wrapped up in its possibilities as his determination to save a beautiful girl drives him to realise the ‘Snow White’s’ full potential. The love interest subplot involving Paula Patton’s Claire feels rather shoehorned, but it is a noble attempt to install some emotion into the high-concept driven movie. Source Code seems to have borrowed certain aspects from this concept, but certainly improved upon it (namely because it thought out its paradoxes). Scott seems to be very much on sleeper mode with his direction in this movie; the cinematography is not as interesting compared to his previous movies, and the camerawork is not as inventive or as involving. It is as if he is relying on the script, which isn’t as strong as he may have originally thought. Thankfully though, it is an entertaining enough Sci-Fi action movie that, thanks to Washington’s charming performance, certainly keeps you interested until its conclusion.


Day Thirteen: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

The penultimate movie of Scott’s career, the first of a double-bill of train associated movies, also marks the first and only time the director ever produced a remake. The film in question is The Taking of Pelham 123, a 1970’s action thriller starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw. Denzel and John Travolta take over the roles here in what proves to be a somewhat unremarkable action thriller, but an entertaining one none the less. Good old Denzel plays Walter (a nod to the original) Garber, an MTA officer who monitors traffic within New York’s subways. When a train, Pelham 123, is over-run by terrorists and thrown into a hostage situation, Walter must negotiate with the mastermind behind the crime, known only as Ryder (Travolta), who has asked for $10 million to be delivered to him by 3:13pm. And for every minute over the deadline, he will kill one of the hostages. With time not on his side, Walter must step up  to the plate and buy as much time as he can to save the hostages, all the while playing a cat and mouse game with Ryder over an intercom microphone. For most of the films’ running time, the action is restricted to the back and forth between Walter and Ryder in their two separate locations; the MTA headquarters and the train. That may not sound particularly exciting, but thanks to the manic performance from Travolta, and the once again very driven performance from Washington, aided with a witty and surprising script, the scenes entertain enough to keep the audience’s interest afloat. It is when we are removed from this back and forth that the films weaknesses shine through. Scott’s kinetic action style tries to bring in urgency to the already rather tense set up of the ticking clock (and after Spy Game and Deja Vu, it would seem that Scott rather liked a ticking clock motif), and the action that Scott supplies just comes off as unnecessary and rather shoehorned. It also features some of the worst police escort driving that I have ever seen. The climax as well results in a rather predictable sense of plotting as Scott and his scriptwriters take the action out of the train. You know how all this is going to unfold from the very start; it offers nothing particularly new to the ticking clock scenario and does lack the style that some of the more superior Scott thrillers were characterized by. So, as Scott’s untimely penultimate film, it is a very by-the-numbers affair, that while entertaining, is not the roller-coaster train-ride that perhaps the premise alludes to. Maybe he was saving it all for Unstoppable.  

Day Fourteen: Unstoppable (2010)

The fourteenth, and final, day of my Tony Scott remembrance feature. Scott’s final movie is rather aptly titled Unstoppable, as it works as a rather suitable label for Scott’s career. His films had a great kinetic energy that made them feel as if they were unstoppable in their nature, no matter what their quality, there was always the sense that they had a furious drive behind them. And the man at the wheel was Tony Scott. It is also rather fitting that this movie turned out to be Scott’s last, as it represents all of Scott’s talents as a director. Denzel once again stars alongside Chris Pine, as two train conductors who find themselves tasked with the responsibility of finding a way to slow down a run-away train that is dragging some explosive materials behind it. Running out of options and time, the two conductors must do all they can to stop the train before it enters a populated area. Scott creates a brilliant sense of pace, as the film very much moves like a train; starting slow but building up a hefty head of steam as it drives full throttle to its break neck finale. It does take a while to get going, but once it does, it proves to be yet another gripping action thriller from Scott. The final act is astoundingly intense as our two heroes attempts to stop the train go right down to the wire. Denzel and Pine make for a charming pair; granted their character’s relationship is built upon the cliche of rookie conductor and experienced veteran. Unstoppable demonstrates a great deal of remarkable craftsmanship when it comes to its rail based action. Once again, Scott’s action benefits from its authenticity; practical action always wins out over CGI creations when it comes to presenting a gritty and authentic scenario. The sound design is once again flawless, the trains rattle the bones as much as the cars did in Days Of Thunder, the train is given a great air of antagonism thanks entirely to the sound design. As it’s gunning down the tracks there is a sense that it has a purpose, adding much more urgency and threat to the proceedings. Unstoppable represents what makes a great Scott action movie; gritty realism, heart-pounding editing, kinetic camerawork, stunning cinematography, engaging performances, and all executed with great skill. It is definitely not as good as the likes of  Crimson Tide in the action thriller stakes, and it is not as good a film as True Romance and The Last Boy Scout, as they truly benefit from character, not concept, driven scripts. It is a perfectly fine end to both this feature and Scott’s career, as it proved to be one of his biggest success both commercially and critically, warranting an 86% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I am very happy to end this feature on a movie that I would happily recommend.

The details behind Tony Scott’s death are still shrouded in mystery; what quite inspired the director to take his own life is still not clear. He had many projects lined up, many that I would have loved to have seen, be it the planned Top Gun sequel or the long-gestating thriller Potsdamer Platz. He was a director whose style has influenced many a modern young filmmaker, Edgar Wright and Joe Carnahan have both expressed their admiration of Scott’s work, and their films certainly show signs of Scott’s distinct visual flair. He was a director who gave Hollywood a great deal, and still had much more to give. It is with this sentence, and with this brilliant and touching tribute video, that I bid adieu to this feature and say R.I.P. once again to Mr. Scott. An unstoppable directing force who shall be greatly missed.

I am sure that most of you are aware that this Friday sees the release of The Dark Knight Rises, if you aren’t aware, than you must be a masked vigilante who has been hiding from the authorities for the past 8 years. Or you’ve been living under a rock. With two days left until the highly anticipated release is unleashed, and with me being once again in a position where I don’t know when the hell I’m going to be able to see it (that’s right people, give me your sympathy), I thought I’d give you all my guide on how best to prepare for the experience of Christopher Nolan’s final installment in his Batman trilogy. You may wish to go in completely fresh, experience the film for what it is, but if you wish to find ways to psyche yourself up or learn more about certain aspects of the movie, then here are some ways in which to do so.

Read Knightfall…

I don’t know how well versed you are in terms of Batman comic-books and graphic novels, but allow me to recommend some issues and novels from the past that are relevant to the context of The Dark Knight Rises. The first is a very influential story arc from the early 1990’s, 1993 to be exact. The arc is entitled Knightfall, and it is the most famous arc in Batman’s history concerning the character of Bane, as it features the highly iconic moment of Bane ‘breaking The Bat’ leaving Bruce Wayne as a paraplegic. Most of the 90’s Batman comics weren’t particularly memorable, at this time the highest standard of Bat entertainment was the brilliant Animated Series, but Knightfall is certainly an exception. It addresses the question of whether only one man can be Batman; is it just the image or is Bruce the only man who can truly BE Batman? And it provided Bane with an everlasting legacy as The Man Who Broke The Bat. There has been much speculation as to whether this particular element will be incorporated into Nolan’s movie, it seems they may address it in some way, which they rightly should, considering that it is a major factor as to why Bane is an incredibly dangerous and formidable foe for Batman. The arc of Knightfall not only demonstrates Bane’s Venom-enhanced strength, but also his frighteningly powerful intelligence. He is a man with a plan, and is determined to see it through to the exact detail. This is what we need to see in Tom Hardy’s Bane, and I have the utmost faith in Nolan to respect Bane’s background and character traits perfectly established in the likes of the Knightfall arc. If you physically can’t get your hands on a copy, a little birdy told me that there may be PDF Torrent online somewhere or other. Not like I downloaded it or anything. Ahem.

Read No Man’s Land…

Another comic, this time from the late 90’s, that if the trailers are anything to go by, Nolan has taken inspiration from for TDKR, and that comic is No Man’s Land. Once again an extended story-line arc for the DC vigilante which saw the US Government evacuating and isolating the city of Gotham, leaving many innocents to fend for themselves against the criminals and gangs that have over-run the city. If you look closely in the trailers for TDKR, you will notice shot in which two bridges explode. Now, one may assume that this is an act of terrorism conducted by Bane, however when viewed upon with No Man’s Land in mind, it forces you to question as to why and more importantly who is cutting Gotham off from the rest of the world. Does Bane’s control over Gotham force the Government to cut off the city for the greater good, leaving only an army of cops to fight against Bane’s legion of criminals? Or is it an act of terrorism? It is an intriguing thought, and I cannot wait to discover why exactly the bridges are being destroyed. I doubt many more elements from No Man’s Land shall make it into TDKR, as it was very much a cross-over story–line, combining characters from the Superman universe as well. However, it does delve in to some very dark places that TDKR could easily cover throughout the course of its 165 minute run-time.

What to listen to…

This one is a no-brainer, and I love Empire even more for providing it. I am of course suggesting that you head on over to Empire Online to listen to the full score for TDKR, composed and conducted by the one and only Hans Zimmer. In fact, Empire’s whole Trilogy celebration is worth a look, as it spans so many details of the Nolan trilogy, from the actors, to the costumes, concept art, vehicles, you name it. But the highlight has to be their exclusive stream of Zimmer’s soundtrack. I am sure that you are all aware how good Zimmer is (if not then what are you doing here?), as he has supplied some of the greatest soundtracks of recent years (Inception, Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of the Caribbean, to name but a few), and his soundtrack for Nolan’s epic conclusion is suitably grand. On solo duties following his collaboration with the great James Newton Howard on the first two installments, Zimmer’s score retains the themes that made those scores so memorable, but also creates some new, incredibly ominous and spine-tingling cues for what could be the Caped Crusader’s Darkest Hour. And don’t worry, none of the tracks titles have any spoilers, so there is no way you can ruin aspects of the film for yourself. I rarely listen to scores before seeing a movie, I do prefer to experience it for the first time whilst it is doing its job on the screen. However, in this case, it was just far too tempting not to preview a new score from Zimmer, let alone the whole bloody thing! I do not regret my decision, as it has merely increased my anticipation for the release of the movie. Which could turn out to be a bad thing if I still don’t get to see it for quite some time.

Re-watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight

The most obvious preparation task that you should under-take; re-watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight Rises seems to be finally breaking the mold by being a third superhero movie that actually maintains the quality of its previous installments, if the reviews are anything to go by. We have also been promised a closing chapter of an over arcing story-line, a very self-contained interpretation of the character. Elements that have been left open from the two previous instalments shall be addressed and wrapped up, so we’ve been promised anyway. Batman Begins is a lot better than you remember it, having been over-shadowed a great deal by the epic crime saga that is The Dark Knight. Begins is a dark, brooding origins tale that builds to an incredibly satisfying reveal when Bruce finally dons the Cowl. It suffers from the lack of a consistently threatening villain, but that is where The Dark Knight excels.  Heath Ledger’s Joker is still frightening and hilarious in equal measure, I don’t believe we’ll ever see a better portrayal of The Joker. He is archaic, unpredictable and a driving force for the movie. Yet, the film itself is a perfectly constructed crime epic that delves into the moral ambiguity of Batman’s responsibility, counter acted with the brilliantly written arc of one Harvey Dent. TDKR certainly has some strong films to match up to, but with the same dedicated team on board, I have the utmost faith.

Revisit Batman Returns and, wait for it, Batman & Robin (bare with me)…

Batman Returns and Batman & Robin are two films which feature two characters that are new to the Nolan Universe; Catwoman and Bane. For a lot of fans, the definitive performance of Catwoman comes from Tim Burton’s 1992 Bat sequel, Batman Returns. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the feline fiend, and the character is more Burton-esque than she is lifted from the comics; she is bizarre but in an incredibly committed and entertaining manner. Batman Returns is a film packed with beautiful production design, but unfortunately the story makes naff all sense. However, Pfeiffer is simply fantastic, but as I stated, her portrayal is a far cry from the Catwoman from the comic-books. Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle seems to be much more in keeping with the traditional and iconic comic-book image of Catwoman, a morally ambiguous character with an agenda against the privileged citizens of Gotham. Early buzz describes Hathaway as a scene-stealer so I am more than excited to see what she brings to the character, it needs to be radically different from what Pfeiffer did with the character, which should be a given, considering how different Burton and Nolan’s movies are.

Now, you may completely disregard the notion of ever revisiting Joel Schumacher’s franchise destroying 1997 installment, but in terms of viewing TDKR, it could serve as a rather fun comparison. Batman & Robin was the first time we saw Bane on the big screen, and in this interpretation he was nothing but a word-less thug, who merely did the bidding of Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy. He was nothing like the comic-books had established him to be so effectively in the likes of Knightfall. Tom Hardy’s Bane looks to be an incredibly different beast. Nolan may have removed the Venom aspect of the character (understandable), but he seems to have embraced both the physical and intellectual threat that Bane certainly poses. Not only is re-watching Batman & Robin a chance to see how badly Bane was interpreted, but it also reminds you how hilariously bad this movie actually is. Seriously, it surprises me every-time how bad it is, making it a rather fun experience if you are simply willing to laugh at it. Which is not very hard to do at all.

That brings my Spotlight (Bat-Signal, if you will) to an end. All of you who are seeing The Dark Knight Rises this weekend, please enjoy and let me know how it is. But if you reveal any spoilers, on your life be it, as I shall not be responsible for my actions. Christopher Nolan has made a massive contribution to the legacy of Batman, and the final installment in his trilogy deserves to be all it has the potential to be. So, Bat-fans, until the inevitable reboot, I think we do have a definitive big-screen Batman in the form of Christian Bale and Nolan’s world. Now, prepare to rise.

Spider-Man has had many incarnations over his 50 years of existence, from cartoons, to video-games, to an ill-fated Broadway musical with music by Bono and The Edge. Today has seen the worldwide release of the latest interpretation of the Marvel Comics superhero in the form of his fourth motion-picture, The Amazing Spider-Man. This is the fourth film featuring the character to be released in the space of 10 years, but it is not a sequel. It is a reboot. Reboot. A word which is not unheard of within the bizarre world of Hollywood, particularly within the realms of the comic-book movie. Batman did rather well from it. The Hulk made his way to The Avengers because of it. And Superman, well, it remains to be seen, but Spider-Man is a much more interesting case. Love it or loath it, Spider-Man 3 was the most successful of the original trilogy, and was by no means a disaster on the same level of Joel Schumacher’s 1997 Batman & Robin. So, why the need to reboot? I certainly had faith that Raimi and Maguire could atone for the mistakes of the third movie with a bound-to-be-better fourth installment. But, due to a clash of visions between Raimi and Sony (one of the main reasons Spider-Man 3 became so muddled) Sony decided to pull the plug and start from scratch. Marc Webb (pun intended?) signed on to direct, Andrew Garfield was chosen to don the tights, and Emma Stone became the object of his affections, this time in the blonde-guise of my personal favourite Spidey-love interest, Gwen Stacy. With the film now out, and with me probably not being able to watch it for sometime due to being back in Alderney, I thought I’d write a retrospective feature, discussing how well the original Raimi trilogy has held up, and what this means for The Amazing Spider-Man. So, let’s travel back in time to the simpler times of 2002.

Spider-Man (2002)

This is easily the movie of the previous three that most people will compare The Amazing Spider-Man to, as it is, indeed, the ‘original’ origins tale. Yet, it is also the movie that Webb’s Spider-Man has to remove itself from in order to justify its existence. The origins here take place rather quickly; we meet Peter Parker (the rather brilliantly cast Tobey Maguire) in High-School, living with his Aunt and Uncle, harboring a crush for the girl-next-door Mary-Jane Watson (the endearing Kirsten Dunst). Then, on a High School field trip, he is bitten by a Genetically enhanced super-spider, and sooner or later develops arachnid-type abilities. After the fateful murder of his beloved Uncle Ben, Peter devotes his life to fighting crime with his new-found abilities, as with great power, comes great responsibility. Re-watching this movie, I never quite realized, until now, how rushed the actually genesis of both Spider-Man and his nemesis The Green Goblin are, for the sake of getting to the action quicker. We do get some rather nice character beats, particularly between Maguire and Dunst, however the overall result is much more action focused, which is too its disadvantage, and the CGI of the Spidey character has not aged too well. From the sound of early reviews, Webb’s version seems to be much more character based, and endorses both the use of real stunt-work and CGI trickery to, supposedly, a much more impressive effect, perhaps displaying that it has improved upon the weaker elements of Sam Raimi’s original. However, Raimi’s energy as a director and fluid-ness of camerawork injects the film with an undeniable comic-book energy, style and charm that still impresses and entertains me as much today as it did when I was 9 years-old, craving to see my favourite superhero up on the big screen for the first time. That is where The Amazing Spider-Man is going to have its work cut out; can it be as fresh and as exciting as Spidey’s first-outing? Having made over $800 million in the worldwide box-office, there was no doubt Raimi had a franchise on his hands, so lets fast forward to 2004…

 Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Now that the origins were out-of-the-way, Raimi could really go for gold second time round, and that he did. Easily the best of the original trilogy, Spider-Man 2 takes what worked so well with the first movie, amplifies it and corrects its mistakes (namely by having a down-to-Earth, un-hammy villain in the form of Alfred Molina’s brilliantly written Doctor Octopus). It also features the franchises best action sequences; from the Evil Dead inspired awakening of Doc Ock, to the adrenalin pumping train face-off. But what is even more impressive about Spider-Man 2 is in its characterization of Parker and how he copes with his abilities. Raimi does the very bold move of presenting  the life of a superhero as a far from idyllic lifestyle. He can’t have what he wants, he can’t achieve all the things he wants to achieve and he can’t devote his life to the people he cares about most due to the responsibility he believes he has towards the people of New York City. His powers, rather than expanding the possibilities of his life, restricts them. And Raimi allows the film to effectively display this, with Parker basically living in poverty, making  his decision to leave his life of crime-fighting behind rather understandable. It should also be noted that out of all three of the movies, this is one that pays most respect to its comic-book origins, lifting direct narrative developments and shots from the ‘Spider-Man No-More’ story line from 1967 (I seriously suggest checking out the fantastic artwork from John Romita Snr. on that issue). This is the benchmark that The Amazing Spider-Man has to match  up in terms of the best Spidey-movie to date. With a further $780 million at the box-office, Sony and Raimi  moved on to develop what would turn into the final installment in their collaborative franchise…

 Spider-Man 3 (2007)

What to say about Spider-Man 3? There is no denying that it is a big reason (perhaps THE reason) as to why Sony decided to reboot the franchise. But, as I stated earlier, this is not a disastrous movie, granted, it is the worst of the trilogy, but in my eyes it is still a solid three star movie. Yes, there are too many villains.  Yes, these is too much eyebrow acting. And, yes, the black symbiote should have turned Peter into a malicious bad-ass, not a Jazz loving Emo prick. But, the action is still as inventive as ever, Raimi knows how to create a comic-book spirit, and the film certainly knows that it is being ridiculous when Peter goes all Emo and what not. Maguire clearly has fun playing a less timid, more spontaneous and edgy Parker, and not all the villains are lost in the mix. Thomas Haden Church impresses as Flint Marko a.k.a. Sandman, who is a well-rounded and sympathetically written villain. The one that does suffer is Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom. Grace was an interesting piece of casting, and I would have loved to have seen a film with him as the main antagonist. However, here, Venom, one of the greatest villains of Spider-Man’s 50 year history, is treated as a third act after-thought. What Raimi should have done was end the movie at a point in which Venom was born, paving the way for the fourth movie to be centered around the waging battle and feud between old web-head and Venom. It could have led to some dark and emotionally affecting developments in the franchise, particularly concerning its characters (killing off M.J. for one?). Yet, it wasn’t meant to be. This is where I have hope with the franchise being rebooted, perhaps now villains like Venom, and to a lesser extent The Green Goblin, can be portrayed in a more satisfying and respectful manner. In that respect, I hope Webb and Garfield are on to a winner.

At the time of writing, The Amazing Spider-Man stands at a 72% Certified Fresh Approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (compared to the first’s 89%, the second’s 93% and the third’s 63%, making it the third best, at least). I sincerely do hope that it is a movie that I will enjoy, as I do have a lot of love for the character and his origins. Perhaps it is too soon, perhaps it is a cash-in, but at the end of the day it is still a Spider-Man movie, and that’s good enough for me. Hopefully you can expect a review in the near future, sooner rather later (I hope) depending on when I can get away to see it. But for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this retrospective glance over the Raimi Run of the Spider-Man franchise, and be sure to check out the wall-crawler back at the cinema’s this weekend.

Courtesy of Your Friendly Neighborhood Gaudion.