Along Came a Spider Reviews
If I had realized that it was based on a James Patterson book, I wouldn't have bothered at all. The plot twists that are stupid and implausible are what I expect from him. Hence I don't read his books.
When other reviewers have said there are credibility problems with this movie, they are being kind. I gave up trying to suspend disbelief after the first 10 minutes.
Although Along Came a Spider is the second film chronologically in the Alex Cross film series, as it was based on the first novel in the series I felt it would be more appropriate to see it in the original intended order as opposed to the sequence in which the films were made.
The actual first scene in the film has nothing to do with the original novel. It depicts the same generic setup seen in countless other thrillers in which the protagonist is indirectly responsible for the death of someone close to him. It is a standard movie trope which actually contributes nothing to the story. It is clearly intended to be part of the wreckadge of Alex Cross' past. As the novel was the first in the series, the wreckadge of his past was originally all in regards to the loss of his wife, Maria. But he still stood strong as a determined police officer who refused to back down. In the film, he is cursed with the inability to forgive himself. While this is something that Alex Cross would indeed feel as explained in James Patteron's writing, it isn't right for the story at all. This is also partially because it the racial undertones of the original text. In the source novel, Alex Cross is pulled off the investigation of the murder of multiple African-American children and put onto a case about the kidnapping of two Caucasian children, aggrevating him. In the film adaptation, there is no reference to that and instead Alex is brought in from retirement to investigate. So basically, not only is the plot of the story changed significantly in this adaptation of the novel, but so is the context. So it takes little time before fans of the original novel have to let go of any hope that director Lee Tamahori is gonna honour the source material which was painful for me because I was a thorough fan of Along Came a Spider, and this piece of crap was nothing more than an insult to the great novel, to James Patterson and to me as a fan.
There are a lot of key elements from the original novel which are ommitted from the film. The main ones would be the background for Alex Cross and Gary Soneji in the story, the relationship between Alex Cross and Jezzie Flannigan, Gary Soneji's motivation, the legal proceedings and imprisonment of Gary Soneji and much more. Marc Moss' screenplay cuts out way too much from the original novel for it to even be considered a sensible adaptation in the slightest. All it does is turn the film into a derivative and senseless thriller with entertainment value far too minimal and an excess of convolution in its narrative. While Lee Tamahori's visual style is nice with Along Came a Spider maintaining a lot of atmospheric cinematography which captures the legitimate scenery of the film and is edited at a decent pace against the backdrop of a sensible musical score, the visual style of the film is one of the few things that can really be boasted about. When put up against the incoherent storytelling, senseless narrative and general disdain for essentially everything that made James Patterson's novel good. Everything in the story is crammed into a meagre running time of 103 minutes and given a rushed pace. This is barely enough time to tell the crappy watered down story of the film, let alone nearly close enough to tell the full story in Along Came a Spider. There is so little actually supporting the source novel that it just collapses, and a few small pieces of it are picked up and put into this overly familiar and dull thriller which wastes the name of James Patterson's novel.
As common with all film adaptations of novels, a film cannot get into the depth and description of the novel because a film is limited to tangible qualities. This means that viewers have no idea what is going through the mind of either Alex Cross or Gary Sonejii, but with Lee Tamahori directing it barely even seems as if he tried. His adaptation of the text is extremely far from the source material as it is, but the fact is that it is an incredibly shallow adaptation which favours visual style over storytelling. And considering that the visual style is only decent at best, there is little for it to boast about in the end.
I wouldn't say that Morgan Freeman is the perfect casting decision for the role of Alex Cross, but he does his part. The issue is that as the film was shot in 2001, Morgan Freeman was aged 64 when he played the role. James Patterson described a much younger man when he wrote the story, and I imagined him to be younger as such. Both I and James Patterson agree that Tyler Perry fitted the profile a lot better when he portrayed the role in the 2012 thriller Alex Cross. But I will admit that Morgan Freeman does contribute a certain level of charm to the role. Morgan Freeman has a natural ability at conveying wisdom, in part due to his iconic tone of voice but also due to the fact that he has an intelligent sense of the character. His line delivery is spot on and he always ties his emotions into the word excellently, ready for whatever situation he may have to face. Morgan Freeman does what he can with the part, even though the screenplay leaves him with minimal to work with, and he works hard to ensure that he is not a regrettable casting decision in the role.
Michael Wincott isn't perfect either. He has a naturally ability to portray psychopaths, but the material in the film really dumbs down the character Gary Soneji so much that it requires very little of him. He plays out the part with a decent level of antagonistic charisma, but the role is such a generic and derivative villain that there are no surprises in the part. If the script propertly followed the novel then perhaps it could have been one of his best performances, but as that is not the case he only ends up giving a performance which is half decent at best. He's a decent presence, but the material gives him no oppurtunities to maximise his potential.
Monica Potter also has no spirit in the part of Jezzie Flanagan.
So thanks to extensive deviations from the source material and the addition of derivative and generic plot elements which do nothing more than dumb down the characters and the intelligence in James Patterson's writing, Along Came a Spider is simply one of the worst adaptations of a fine novel that I have ever seen.
The story as it is set up is an intriguing one, but it gets so polluted along the way with preposterous plot twists and silly story lines that are never fully resolved. Morgan Freeman cannot be faulted as Cross, despite the fact that he is saddled with some pretty lame dialogue meant to make him sound wise and mysterious. It does little to convey the character as the master sleuth he's meant to be.
The rest of the cast is disappointing, with Monica Potter little more than just another pretty face playing a Secret Service agent and Michael Wincott as the not-very-menacing villain. The real bad guy here is screenwriter Marc Moss, who litters his script with meaningless complications and shocks that only work because they're so outlandish that there's no plausible way they make sense. It's bad enough he throws one Secret Service agent in on the kidnapping plot, but when the final twist is revealed, you'll want to head for the exits. Yeah, you won't see it coming but that's not a compliment because the whole thing defies logic.
The pieces for a good puzzle are all present in "Along Came a Spider". The problem is that when you put them together, you discover you have a lot more pieces than you need.