Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Amazing Spiderman 2 Review

Director: Marc Webb
Screenplay: James Vanderbilt, Alvin, Sargent, Steve Kloves

Okay, let´s put all the cards out on the table before I begin.  I am a huge superhero fan and as a child I ate up the comic books and watched the cartoons – but very few of those were of Marvel origin.  My exceptions were Beast, Ghost Rider, and of course Spider-Man.  Yet, when it comes down to the explosion of superhero movies that we´ve had in the last 15 years or so, this DC fan-boy has to admit Marvel characters have shined on the big screen where DC characters have tried, but failed.

Not following Marvel characters outside of their motion picture versions may make it easier for me to watch the films, as I don´t notice major storyline changes or character representations which may make others cringe.  That said, I think superheroes should be built for the flexibility of filling the medium in which they are being presented.  I am someone who looks forward to seeing how a new director or writing team envisions Batman or Wolverine.  So I went into The Amazing Spider-Man 2 not wanting to compare it to anything other than the mess which was the first movie.  I was full of high expectations, by the end I wanted my 142 minutes back.

The major flaw of this movie, is the major flaw from the first reboot: too much exposition.  The writers decided early on that a major plot point in the series would be the true origin of Andrew Garfield´s Spide-Man´s powers: or, “whatever the hell happened to his parents”.  The problem is that this great mystery carries absolutely no weight at all in the present state of affairs.  Peter Parker doesn´t become more or less angsty, his powers don´t increase or decrease, his view of the world isn´t radically changed.  It is, simply put, a mystery that doesn´t need solving.  Nonetheless, we have to sit through chunks of screen time dedicated to this troubling question, a question that most fans had already figured out by the end of the last movie.

This movie also spends a considerable amount of time, and sluggardly so, dealing with Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone, and her relationship with Peter Parker.   A lot of people who have seen the movie say that the chemistry was there.  I didn´t buy it.  Mary Jane´s incessant screaming as she fell from some edifice through most of the first series got annoying, but Kirsten Dunst seemed to bring more warmth to the screen. Stone plays Stacy a bit tougher.  This is refreshing in parts where she needs to assert herself as more than just the damsel in distress, but takes away from the magic of having a superhero boyfriend in others.  This is important if one is to be sold on the crux of the whole story between them in this movie: how she can´t take watching him be Spider-Man while being so in love with him.  I never felt the urgency of that emotion coming from her.  She came off more like an independent girl who needed to live her life, and who needed Peter to live his.  This is fine, but isn´t the makings of a great screen romance (upside down kiss anyone?).  But I said I wasn´t going to compare, so on to the villains.

As a counterpoint to how slowly the two aforementioned “character” story lines trudge on, our villains waste no time with such needless backdrop information.  This hurts the film at it´s core.  A good villain needs a good reason to be bad, and is usually what makes a film work.  Where superheros can afford to be a little one dimensional a villain is never afforded this luxury – his job is to make the audience gasp in horror while creating that little spark of, “I sort of see where he´s coming from.”

We´ll start with Jamie Foxx, who plays Max, a guy that has a psycho crush on Spider-Man after having had his life saved by him.  He later suffers a really bad accident at work, which involves electrocution and electric eels, which turns him into what else – an electrically charged monster.  Max seems to be just as befuddled as the viewer as to the true nature of his condition.  Have the eels somehow entered his psyche?  Why does he feel the urge to destroy so many things?  When Spider-Man arrives and tries to talk to him, an officer (in true NYC style) shoots him when he seems to be no longer of any apparent threat.  He decides that he wants to turn on Spider-Man instead … and on with the movie.

The second villain, The Green Goblin, takes a little bit more time to develop but only because there are so many scenes in between involving Gwen and Peter´s on again off again relationship, and yeah, that Parker daddy issue.  For a second I thought I was watching Twilight – there´s a limit to the amount of teen angst I can take.  Here, Harry Osborn, played by Dane DeHann, has a more open bromance with Peter Parker than Max.  Their scenes together were touching.  But all it took was one rejection from Spider-Man to drive the young Orborn insane and unleash the Goblin inside.  I liked that the writers at least made an attempt at showing some connection between the two boys, to bad that they didn´t do the same with Osborn and Spider-Man.  When Spider-Man rejects him there is really no explanation for the fit of rage – other than some serious case of butt-hurt.

So what do you do when you have two separate villains who haven´t created a strong case for why they want to be evil?  Put them together and see if that helps.  Well, if seeing another final battle royale with a lot of swinging, running, and girl almost falling, is your cup of tea then you´ll love the last segment.  If after 2 hours of watching absolutely nothing happen you want to scream, “Somebody die already, so we can get this over with!” I wouldn´t blame you.  When I say, “absolutely nothing happens,” I really mean that, by the way.  Where the first film spent more than half of its time setting us up for the finale; this whole film seems to be setting us up for the next installment.  It´s one long prologue with a few explosions along the way.

I really hate that I didn´t like this movie, because, as I said at the beginning I love Spider-Man.  And as fun as the Raimi films were, they felt too cartoony in parts in comparison to the sleuthy and grittier Spider-Man I loved.  I was looking forward to these reboots only because they looked like they were going to strike the happy medium which is Spider-Man for me – not as brooding as Batman but also not as shiny and bright as Superman.  Marc Webb had two chances and failed miserably.  While focusing so much on the teenage angst, which is part of Peter´s life, he forgot the fun which is Spider-Man swinging through New York – getting beat up but coming back for more.  Here´s hoping that all the explaining is over and that the next film jumps right to the chase.

Post by Phillihp Ray

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  1. "an officer (in true NYC style) shoots him when he seems to be no longer of any apparent threat." Lol I was definitely scratching my head at this scene.