Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Directed by Marc Webb.
2014. Rated PG-13, 142 minutes.
Andrew Garfield
Emma Stone
Jamie Foxx
Dane DeHaan
Sally Field
Felicity Jones
Colm Feore
Paul Giamatti
Campbell Scott
Embeth Davidtz

To begin our second go-round with the web slinger, we meet up with Spider-Man (Garfield) on the day of his high school graduation. As usual, he's running late because he's busy saving the day. This includes rescuing Max (Foxx), an Oscorp employee. Later that night, he decides to break up with Gwen Stacy (Stone) in order to keep a promise he made to her now deceased father. He also obsesses over what has happened to his own dad. Soon, Harry Osborne (DeHaan) comes into the picture. As his father Norman passes away, he finds out that he is also dying. After finding out a few things about the company he inherited, the aforementioned Oscorp, he comes to the conclusion that the only thing that will save his life is Spider-Man's blood. Bad guy. In the midst of all this, Max has an accident at work and can suddenly control and conduct electricity within his body. Yada, yada, another bad guy. Oscorp execs not named Harry, more bad guys, trying to cover everything up ensues.

Since I like to start things off on a positive note, let's look at some of the good stuff. One place where the movie succeeds in bringing the comic books to life, is in our hero's persona during the heat of battle. In print, he is always making wisecracks, giving off the impression that he is having a great time. He loves what he does. The movie does this perfectly and injects plenty of life into the proceedings. Of more importance to how things plays out, though, is the performance of Andrew Garfield in the titular role. In the first movie, the air of confidence he has belies the type of person Peter is supposed to be at that point in his life. Here, it works perfectly. He's been Spider-Man for awhile, he knows what he's doing and has been highly successful. Garfield is also able to convey all of the various emotions this young man is still going through.  Another performance that is really good is Sally Field's in the role of Aunt May. She's not given much to do, but makes the most of it. The most heartwarming parts of the movie belong to her. The majority of the rest of the cast delivers every line they have with both fists full of ham. However, that fits in with the overall tone of the movie so I won't knock it.

Unfortunately, that's where my praise ends. The biggest issue is one that plagued Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 in the original trilogy. There's far too much going on. There are so many different strands to the story, none of them are sufficiently explored. They come off half baked and slapped into place. When Harry pops up, we're just supposed to accept that he and Peter are old pals. Was he even in the first movie? I don't think so. He doesn't have to be, but nothing that happens between them suggests strongly enough that they ever even liked each other, much less were bestest buds. This means when Harry inevitably turns heel, we don't really care about him. We see him as just another bad guy. It's all rather empty. To compare it to Raimi's movies, when this same event happened there, that relationship had been been cultivated for two and a half movies. There was some emotional depth to what was going on.

Whatever time is devoted to Harry and Peter's (non) relationship, takes away from the development of Max, aka Electro. His loneliness and social awkwardness is something that could be examined and used to create a great villain similar to the way it was in Chronicle, ironically starring Dane DeHaan in that role. Instead, he's reduced to being a simpleton and a henchman even though, from a physical standpoint, he's the most formidable villain in the movie by a long shot. It doesn't help that the special fx portraying him are shoddy. Hmmm...fx. More on those, later. That both Harry's and Max's story lines are wrapped up in a generic one about corporate greed and cover-ups is also a hindrance. None of the OsCorp execs trying to keep things under wraps is the least bit interesting. I couldn't even be bothered to figure out what any of their names are. Why should I? Who needs the name of someone with no personality? This might be forgivable if this plot line included some insight or poignancy. Instead, it's all faceless suits doing generic things and just gets in the way of everything else.

While not the biggest problem, the one that might be most troubling is the way our love story is handled. As in the first movie, no sparks fly between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. We're told that they're passionately in love with and can't stay away from one another. Garfield's performance even lends to the idea. However, we never feel it when the two of them are together. They feel more like colleagues than lovers. Truth told, I like Emma Stone as an actress, and I don't really think she did anything wrong here, necessarily. I think the combination of the way her scenes with Garfield are written and how much other stuff is going on conspired against her and her co-star creating something we can latch onto. The real shame of it is that we've already seen it done. As good or bad as you think the Sam Raimi Spider-Man flicks were, it's hard to deny that the one thing it did better than anything else was give us a whirlwind romance that we really believed in. What Peter and MJ had sizzled through all three movies, even when whatever else was happening did not. This helped ensure that we always felt something real was on the line even beyond the bad guy destroying the city. Here, the love of the couple in question miserably fails to transcend the screen.

With very little else going right, we're left with focusing on the look of the film. This is the part when I get back to the special fx, by the way. The biggest brightest of them all surround Electro. First off, he's a glowing blue being reminiscent of Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. I'm not a big fan of the look because it's a constant reminder we're seeing something manufactured. It doesn't help when a being made of electricity suddenly puts on a leather suit, either. How his powers are shown are a bit of an issue, too. It's all lightning bolts and explosions that would've been right at home in 1931's Frankenstein. To be fair, it's probably impossible to show them any other way. For that reason, I won't dock the movie too much other than to say that combined with the way the character is written, it hampers Jamie Foxx's performance. Sure, he's a bit goofy in the role, but he's not afforded the chance to create a worthwhile villain. The same goes for Paul Giamatti as Rhino. Sort of. His appearances bookend the film and only the latter shows him as Rhino. The costume he's stuck with a gigantic, metallic, weaponized monstrosity that's been cgi'd around his face. It's just awful. Never mind the fact that you have a high caliber actor and use him like an extra. His second appearance could be seen as a setup for another installment, probablor it could be completely discarded.

Regardless of what happens with the bad guys. Whether or not the fx are successful really hinge on how the hero is depicted. From a practical effects viewpoint, Spider-Man looks great when standing still. Through Raimi's flicks and the first movie in the rebooted series, there's never been a bad costume for the character, but this one feels spot on with what it should be. Unfortunately, Spidey has to move. When he does, the same issues that kept the first Raimi movie, as well as the first reboot, from being all it could be rears its ugly head, here. When our hero is swinging through the city and bouncing off things, he often looks like a weightless being. It is too obvious that we're looking at computer animation and not at Andrew Garfield. Truth told, had the movie been better I probably wouldn't have minded this so much. It's not. Therefore, while watching I was basically sitting there picking out every little thing that was wrong for two hours. This was the most egregious from a visual standpoint because it's the one thing they have to get right. The audience cannot be left feeling like we switch into cartoon mode every time our hero uses his powers.

If you couldn't already tell, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 did not sit well with me. While trying to cram in as many bad guys and plot lines as it possibly can, it makes a mess of itself. None of it is worth caring about. That said, the same people who liked Raimi's Spider-Man 3 will likely enjoy this one. It has lots of action and lots of things going on. Therefore, it manages to avoid being dull no matter how good or bad it is. That's certainly a plus. For me, it's that odd dish created by that person just experimenting in their kitchen with as many ingredients as they can find in their refrigerator and cabinets. After they've dumped everything in it, they just stir it all together and come up with a strange colored goop they try to tell you tastes good. Yeah, that's this movie.


  1. Ouch :( I have a horrible feeling this is turning into another Green Lantern situation for me, because I really enjoyed this! Granted, there was definitely too much going on, and I don't think it was better than it's predecessor, but I still enjoyed it.
    It sounds like even more will be going on in the third too!
    - Allie

    1. Hey, more power to you for liking it. Nothing wrong with that at all. The rest of my family actually enjoyed it as well. Like I said, it certainly isn't dull. It was just too cluttered for my taste.

  2. This movie is just awful, nothing amazing about it at all, NOTHING. The villains are lame and yep, no chemistry at all between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, which is odd since the two actors are dating in real life. I didn't love the first reboot but it was still way better than this one.

  3. I also didn't like this movie at all, but I actually thought the chemistry with Garfield and Stone was still very good. I didn't care as much for the way their relationship went on and off, but the actors tried to sell it. It helps that they're an off-screen couple. Beyond that, I'm on board with a lot of the same issues. Harry's demeanor changed so quickly, and I feel like they cut scenes that might have made his progression work. I also didn't care about Max, so Electro was only good for some special effects.

    This felt like it was designed more to set up a franchise than to work as its own movie.

    1. That's exactly it! It looks like they're just trying to get to the next movie and sell a bunch of toys in the process.

  4. While I don't rate movies on my site, I would have given it somewhere around a 6. I agree with a lot of what you are saying here, though I thought that the romance angle worked except for the stalker bits. I also thought the CGI was good for Spider-Man and Electro, but very bad with the final Rhino. It wasn't nearly as bad as Spider-Man 3, but not anywhere near as good as the other entries in the two series.

    1. I can live with what they did for Electro, fx wise, wasn't as sold on Spidey. Rhino was just atrocious. As far as Peter and Gwen goes, I actually thought the stalker bits worked better because at least it conveyed some emotion. When they were together it just felt awkward and forced which is weird because, as you said, they're dating in real life. I thought it was pretty much on even ground with Spider-Man 3.