Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Let’s take a quick break from X-Men Month, shall we?


In 2012 Sony rebooted the Spider-Man film franchise with a straight face and zero irony. While the film was successful it was critically mixed. I gave it a pretty good review but even I couldn’t ignore the film’s major problems: it was full of plot holes and unforgivably dark for a Spider-Man film. Regardless The Amazing Spider-Man did well enough to warrant a sequel.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 features the return of Marc Webb, who directed the original, but has a completely new writing team (Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner). This flick was already working through some pretty bad mojo since, let's be honestly, pretty much everyone agreed the first one wasn’t great (but to be fair that is likely mostly due to The Avengers also coming out that summer making every other superhero movie look boring and stupid by comparison). Sony did not help their situation any by their marketing strategy of “let’s show Spidey fighting as many villains as possible” as there are clear scenes of the title character fighting Electro, Green Goblin II, and Rhino with obvious visual cues to Doctor Octopus and the Vulture. This implies that Sony learned absolutely nothing from Spider-Man 3. Allow me to break this down: in order to properly develop a villain in a superhero movie you need time and thus the more villains you feature the less time any of them will have and the more shallow they will feel as characters. Half the reason Spider-Man 3 sucked was because it tried to develop Sandman as a sympathetic character, included the ENTIRE Venom origin which is probably too complex for one film, and feature the Harry Osborn “I’ll kill Peter Parker/Actually I lost my memory/I got it back and now I’m a dick again/Just kidding, here’s my redemption scene” plot line that took up way more of the film than it should have.

Of course this is conjecture. We can’t know exactly happens in a movie until we look at it and judging it before that is ridiculous and short sighted. Then again as I write this intro I HAVE seen this movie…so take that how you want.

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: The following review contains HUGE amounts of spoilers so read at your own risk.]



A great, longtime friendship...that's not really mentioned before this
It’s been a short while since Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) gained his amazing powers and became the vigilante known as Spider-Man. While he’s gotten the hang of crime fighting he continues to struggle with his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) who has can’t bring himself to commit fully to due to the deathbed promise he made to her father to stay away from her. Meanwhile Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns from exile to New York to take over his father’s company Oscorp only to lean that he is dying from a mysterious genetic illness and is now desperate to find a cure despite constantly having to combat the company’s other higher ups. Elsewhere in Oscorp Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) a lonely and awkward engineer is involved in an accident that gives him incredible dubstep electrical powers, making him a danger to everyone in New York City.

Spider-Man’s appearance is given an overhaul from the previous film and he now wears a proper costume based on the original comics. In addition in this film the script calls for Spidey to engage in banter with the crooks he fights which is a pretty big contrast to that previous flick and, indeed, the Sam Raimi films as well. Plus the effects look fantastic and Spider-Man web slinging through New York City or fighting super criminals have never looked better. Also visuals are brighter and much of the action takes place during the day or otherwise properly lit. So the tone feels accurate to the comics and I can actually tell what’s happening; that’s obviously better than the first flick. Hell, that’s better than Man of Steel. I will make the bold statement that as far as the character of Spider-Man goes he is portrayed better in this movie than any other before it. Now Peter Parker on the other hand…well, we’ll get to that. The cast does its job; it’s not exactly anything that I think you’ll take home with you. Jamie Foxx feels kind of forced to me which is different from what I’ve read in other reviews that say he’s great. I don’t know guys; Foxx usually seems forced and wooden to me in most of his films (but not all; he was awesome in Ray for example). I should point out that Electro is weird as using his powers seem to result in dubstep being played which is cool if you like dubstep, I guess. I’m a punk rock guy, so whatever. There’s still very good chemistry between Garfield and Stone. Dane DeHaan is, not surprisingly, pretty good as Harry Osborn and I wish he was used a bit more. In fact a lot of folk are doing less than they probably should be.

Though the film looks fantastic and has a ton of great action sequences I’m sad to report that the film has a bunch of issues that make it a chore to watch. The most obvious thing is that, yes, this film is goddamn crowded. Between Harry’s plot and Electro’s plot, and Peter’s dad plot and the “Will They, Won’t They” romance plot that absolutely has no business there at all there’s barely enough time to really develop it all…and this movie is actually very long as it is. There’s just too much shit going on and, based on how sudden the ending occurred, I feel like this was only part one of an even longer film. I suspect that Sony is trying to set up for a movie where Spider-Man battles the Sinister Six and was squeezed as much stuff into this flick as possible to that end but unfortunately it doesn’t work. I can see not wanting to make Electro the only villain here as in the comic he’s pretty much just a thug with a ton of power but trying to squeeze the Green Goblin in here was a huge mistake. Just having Harry Osborn as the man behind Electro would have been fine and even Osborn getting all the stuff he needs to become the Goblin to set him up as the villain of the next film would have been fine as well. But forcing them both in there ended up taking up precious time. Thankfully Rhino is a non-issue. Despite the posters and trailers clearing showing him as a major villain he actually only shows up twice: once as a thug early on and again at the very, very end in a battle suit. He’s there so little that his being in the film all feels like a waste. Certainly casting a great actor like Paul Giamatti for a glorified cameo feels like a waste of talent and money. So who at Sony is the asshole who maliciously decided to heavily involve Rhino in the film’s advertisement knowing full goddamn well he barely shows up?

He has a disease that's slowly turning him into a goblin
Why? Because this movie is dumb
As much as I think the portrayal of Spider-Man is well done in this film the portrayal of his alter ego of Peter Parker is really terrible. Which is weird because Spidey isn’t like Batman or Superman where it’s a hero pretending to be something else and thus essentially two different characters (studying Batman pretending he’s Bruce Wayne is probably of therapist’s dream job). Peter here is poorly written; he’s kind of a jerk, he’s clingy, short sighted, and indecisive. Anytime the Webhead is out of costume he kind of sucks. I’ve seen people say Andrew Garfield is a good Spider-Man but a lousy Peter Parker but that’s an extremely unfair statement. In truth Spidey is written great but Parker is written in pretty much the most unlikeable way without making him a villain. On a similar note the relationship between Peter and Gwen takes so many steps backwards and morphs into that stupid “Will they or Won’t” they that it damages the film.

Of course if we’re going to talk about Gwen Stacy we need to enter super spoiler territory so you may want to skip the next part if you’re not interested in such things. Also it’s about to get a little rant-y on this blog which some people might also have a problem with that.

So I’m not sure how many of you reading this article right now are long time visitors but for those of you not in the know two years ago I wrote a blog about Gwen Stacy. The main points I made, in addition to giving background on the character, were that writers who work on modern adaptations of the character always feel like that have a duty to kill the character off because Marvel trained them to believe that’s her only reason for existing. And sure enough that’s exactly what happened here. Gwen dies during the film’s climax, one of the only times a love interest in a superhero movie had been killed. In the context of the movie it’s pretty lousy. It hits out of nowhere and is completely contrary to the tone of the rest of the film. They managed to make a pretty lighthearted affair, after botching that aspect in the last film, only to create a mood whiplash by basically having the saddest thing happen for no good reason. 

There are two arguments for why this death worked in the comics but not here: 1) In the original comic the murder of Gwen Stacy was the penultimate act in a war between Spidey and the Green Goblin that lasted for YEARS (which in turn lead to the Goblin’s death in the very next issue) and, like it or not, there was a certain sense of natural progression where as in the movie Harry Osborn had only been the Goblin for ten minutes and the whole thing felt significantly more forced and rushed. 2) One of the supposed reasons Gwen was killed in the comic was because she had become a terrible and boring character, which she totally was. However Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is awesome, or at the very least much better written than the comic book counterpart. Gwen was originally killed because nothing else could be done with her, which is not necessarily a good reason for killing someone off but that’s neither here nor there, but that cannot be said in regards to this version;She was a good character with a lot of stories to be told with her but no one really cared. It was telegraphed too, man; as soon as Peter told her he'd go to England with her I knew she was dead. It feels like, as it always does, the only reason she was killed was because the writers (or perhaps producers) ONLY VIEW GWEN STACY AS SPIDER-MAN’S DEAD GIRLFRIEND and didn’t even want to consider writing her for the long term! Of course the filmmakers are not the only ones guilty of that mindset as EVERY WRITER IN COMICS AND CARTOONS AND MOVIES ALL WANT TO KILL GWEN STACY no matter how cliché or overdone or predictable it is! That this is yet another example of this unnerves me enough that I was completely taken out of the movie when it occurred and it negatively affected the score.

Hey kids! Do you like Gwen Stacy and thinks she's cool?
Too f**king bad!
Oh yeah, one more thing: where the shit did Electro get that goddamn costume right before the climax? That’s a professionally made costume too; it even had f**king lightning bolts on it. This really bothered me.

The Amazing spider-Man 2 is not a bad movie. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers saying this. But this is yet another example of a potentially good movie that makes nearly every bad decision possible in the execution. It’s also an example of taking one step forward and two steps back as clearly the filmmakers paid attention to the complaints from the first movie and moved to fix them but in the process made an even bigger mess of things than before. It’s crowded, the characters are flat, and the big twist (if you can even call it that) is predictable and cliché while also pretty much screwing up the flick’s overall tone. This film may not be bad but it sure as hell isn’t that good.

But hey, he looks good. And that's the most important thing
(Unless you, you know, care about substance or quality storytelling)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


 Pros 

-Spider-Man looks and sounds like Spider-Man for pretty much the first time ever

-The overall tone is less dark and brooding than the previous film

-Much of the action is well lit

Cons 

-Peter Parker is awful

-The film has far too much going on plot wise

-Superfluous “Will They or Won’t They” romantic subplot

-Electro and Green Goblin should not have been in the same movie like this

2 comments:

  1. Just a bit better than the first, if only because that one was terribly mediocre. Good review Beta.

    ReplyDelete