Raja Sen feels the DVD of The Amazing Spider-Man it's all good fun, but the disc leaves you wanting a lot more.
For those who haven't read my review of Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man, here's where I stand on the film: yes, it was too soon to do a reboot, yes, they didn't have to start up the origin story all over again, and yet it was still a charmer.
And despite what you might mistakenly think about that Dark third outing from the crusader in need of a Strepsil, the Spider-film remains the second-best superhero flick this year (the best being beyond debate).
This is because Webb, like Spidey, is a romantic at heart, and (most of) his revisionist choices with the Spider-Man mythos are clever or, at the very least, compelling. The heavy-lifting for the film, however, is done by his leads.
The effervescent, striking and picture-perfect Emma Stone is the kinda Gwen Stacy that John Romita would have drawn, and casting Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker is a stroke of genius.
A fine, multitalented actor who captures the playful cheesiness at the heart of Spidey as well as the awkward angst of Peter, Garfield is as good a mainstream superhero casting decision as Christopher Reeve was for Superman. And their chemistry is dynamite.
So, the DVD. It's a pretty solid transfer of a shiny looking film, but -- as is when you are watching a film shot in 3D made for the big-screen on your home player -- it's the kinda thing that makes your LCD television look way too small. The disc promises some pretty standard features, and leaves you wanting more:
1. The Production Art Gallery is a good place to discover, through character sketches and doodles, the synthesis of the Spider-man characters and costume, and the bit about the Web-shooters is actually the coolest thing here. It's somewhat skimpy overall, but a quick flip through is fun.
2. The Stunt Rehearsal Footage turned out to be, surprisingly enough, my favourite part of the DVD, highlighting the non-CGI contributions from real stuntmen. It's absolutely fascinating to see real men in tights flying through the air superheroically, moving with impossible fluidity as they do trapezey webswings.
They vault around trucks, skateboard without using actual skateboards, and fight off people -- all while wearing most amusingly exaggerated b-movie expressions. They're no actors, but man, they matter more than you might think in a movie that relies so much on computers.
3. Deleted Scenes: There are nearly a dozen cut scenes in the film, and all save one are pretty completely finished, which means they were shot for inclusion but cut last minute.
Most of the chopped scenes involve Rhys Ifans really chewing the scenery as Curt Connors (The Lizard), mouthing dialogues with spoofy self-seriousness.
There are a couple of good scenes though -- one seriously creepy unfinished scene with two girls in a bathroom stall; and one with Peter and Gwen sitting up high and kissing by the light of the Clock Tower. Oh, and ever you wondered what happened to Irrfan Khan's Dr Ratha who disappeared abruptly from the film, you'll find out right here.
4. The Commentary Track: Featuring director Marc Webb and producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, the commentary track is good-natured but lacks edge.
Webb is refreshingly flippant as he throws around anecdotes and details and appears eager to credit his actors and technicians.
Arad, the big man at Marvel Studios, has a thick enough accent to sound a bit like a retired Eastern-European supervillain, and often seems a bit too congratulatory as he lauds their own film.
The best thing about the commentary is that it emphasises Webb's approach to Spider-Man and Peter Parker, and he clears things up quite smoothly.
He also seems to have a man-crush on Garfield, often raving about him at length -- about his talent, his body-language, how "Andrew was interested in dramatizing the trickster component of Peter" and how the terrific sequence where Peter asks out Gwen without really asking her out "made my heart beat faster."
Webb, perhaps because of the last name, appears a proper fanboy, citing direct comic influences on visual cues and hoping purists love the famous mechanical webshooters as much as he does.
He also duly acknowledges the screenplay's romantic debt to Alvin Sargent, who was also a writer on the great Spider-Man 2, the gold-standard in superhero movies.
It's all good fun, but the disc leaves you wanting a lot more. This package contains no interesting conceptual featurettes, no (potentially infectiously giggly) commentary from real-life lovers Stone and Garfield, no clips from the audition process.
There's so much that could have been done to make this a more entertaining, enthralling package. It works, mainly because Webb's a nice guy and the stuntmen are a revelation, but only just.
And again, it's a film that works much better on a truly giant screen.