Saturday, May 10, 2014

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Over the past year, I've become a fan of Spider-Man and that's mostly due to one of the Web-head's co-creators, Steve Ditko. In fact, in the past year it's fair to say that I've become a bigger fan of Steve Ditko than I have of Spider-Man. 

Growing up, Spider-Man had his own cartoon series that I would occasionally watch but never got into. When I was in my teens I thought the first Toby Maguire movie was just...OK. It was a decent origin story but for the love of God, some of the dialogue was crap I roll my eyes at even when I was in grade four. 

The second one was pretty good but at the same time, I felt it was a bit overrated and was even shocked that Roger Ebert put it at #4 on his Best of 2004 list. And the third film...well, the problems of that movie will be coming up later on, don't worry.

I watched the first 'Amazing Spider-Man' a few months ago and...it was slightly OK. I didn't like how Peter Parker went from science nerd/photographer to hipster/skateboarder with just a dash of photography thrown in. But, it had potential and I plan to review that movie one day but let's focus on the movie I saw just a few hours ago: The Amazing Spider-Man 2. 

This image is a perfect metaphor for the movie.

Look at the above image with Spider-Man trapped under the fallen masonry while the water is rising. Change the masonry into the plot and the water into the film's running time and that's what you have: Spider-Man is trapped under so much weight of what's going on around him that it feels like there's barely enough time to tell a decent story.

And what makes this difficult is that there are so many opportunities there to tell a decent story. Change a few plot points and there you go, problem solved. 

So Peter Parker almost misses his high school graduation and almost gets caught in his Spider-Man outfit by Stan Lee in a cameo to once again remind you of two things:
1) That he co-created Spider-Man
2) That he is still alive

Now you're probably wondering how long after the first movie this takes place and you're going to wonder about that the whole time because it's never revealed. At times it feels like it's supposed to be a normal two years but other times they're covering stuff like what happened in the previous movie like it happened some time last month.

Oh and as for Peter's educational future, fuck that shit, it's not even mentioned after this. There is one throwaway line where he mentions that he's going to be in college but what college and studying what? Another good question that doesn't get answered.

Oh but he's making money for the Daily Bugle selling photographs of Spider-Man and trying to convince J. Jonah Jameson that Spider-Man is not a menace to society. Yeah, that all takes place over a twenty second scene and the most we get from Jameson is just an email.

But after seeing this movie I realize that if they had included stuff like Peter working at the Bugle or dealing with Jameson, there wouldn't be time for important scenes in the movie...like Peter crying.
I'm not shitting you, Peter Parker in this one film cries more than Maguire did in the entire Sam Raimi trilogy.

And that brings me to Andrew Garfield. I have nothing against him personally, I thought he was great in The Social Network but in these films as Peter Parker, he reminds me of someone I wish he didn't: Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones.

"It's all Electro-I mean, Obi-Wan's fault!"

His performance is so stiff and unnatural that it seems like he doesn't know how to act like a human being. I think it mostly stems from the fact that I look at Garfield and I can't believe that this guy was ever a nerd or a social outcast. A rough week at school for him is when he only gets laid twice.
And I think what doesn't help is the fact that he's playing a recent high-school graduate despite the fact that the actor is turning 31 this year.

Why can't a high-school student play Spider-Man? I want someone to answer that and please don't give me the "no one's going to believe that this fifteen or sixteen year old actor is really Spider-Man". That's a bullshit answer because if you don't think an audience will believe that, you're forgetting that this is a movie about a kid who has the powers of a spider.

So Spider-Man has a number one fan named Max Dillon, played by Jamie Foxx. Through a freak accident he gains electrical powers and an even bigger hard-on for the limelight than he previously had. I'm not joking. Before, all Max wanted was to be noticed. After he gets his powers he gets enraged when cameras are focusing on Spider-Man and not him.

This had the potential to be something pretty cool but to be honest, I found Max more interesting than his alter ego, Electro. It would have been nice to see Max try to be a superhero but instead causes problems and when Spider-Man tries to stop him, becomes his nemesis.

But instead, Max gets arrested, put in a secret maximum security prison where he's tortured by an evil doctor with a thick European accent. As soon as I heard this character speak I said, "Oh for the love of God..."

Meanwhile Peter Parker is conflicted about whether he should give some of his genetically altered blood to save long time friend Harry Osborn who is dying from the Random-Kill-You virus which also killed his father. Oh, you didn't know that Harry and Peter were friends? Relax, I don't think the writers did either. So yeah, Peter has this good friend but in all the times that Oscorp was mentioned and visited in the last film, Peter never mentioned, "I have a friend named Harry Osborn. His father runs this company." It had to be either that or Peter knew nothing about this childhood friend of his.

This shows that either Peter is completely aloof to any/everyone around him or that he might be mildly autistic.

See, if Harry and Peter's friendship had been shown in the last film or mentioned then it would have worked. But now, they admit they haven't seen each other since they were little kids and Harry's willing to stop a board meeting to say hi to Peter?

Also his transformation into the Green Goblin seems so rushed that it feels like the writers realized they were running out of time and decided to just throw it in there.

I liked the idea of Peter researching electricity to defeat Electro but I'm a bit confused about Gwen Stacey here. She's working in a genetics lab, going to Oxford to study medicine and yet she's able to work the power grid and knows exactly how it works? I know she's supposed to be smart but come on! In episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Crusher wasn't getting called down to Engineering every time there was a problem with the warp core.

The movie sticks close to it's comic book roots in which Gwen Stacy dies despite Spider-Man's best efforts to save her. Now, where that should have been where the movie ends, sadly it doesn't. It starts to set up the Sinister Six storyline and shoehorns Paul Giamatti as the Rhino at the end. He was in a scene earlier in the movie playing a criminal who was captured by Spider-Man.

Sadly as talented as Giamatti is, I feel that his talents are just wasted considering that he has less than ten minutes of screen time. That and I found his Russian accent to be comical but that goes for anyone with a Russian accent. He looked and sounded like Rob Schneider.

The movie's ending though was terrible because there was no ending. Spider-Man is about to battle Rhino and cut to black. A lot of people in the audience were clearly surprised and confused.

I think what's tragic is that Gwen Stacy's death (A very important moment in comic book history) is treated almost as just a plot point. It should have been like that moment in The Empire Strikes Back where Han Solo is frozen in carbonite or Darth Vader reveals to Luke Skywalker that he is his father. It should have left the audience thinking, "Wow, how is this going to affect what happens in the next movie?"

Instead the writers treat it like Luke getting his hand cut off and then getting a robotic one fifteen minutes later. It's like they said, "There, problem solved."

And now, some random thoughts I had during this movie:
-Why hasn't Peter caught Uncle Ben's killer yet?

-Wouldn't people be suspicious when Spider-Man yanks Gwen off the street in the middle of a traffic jam. I'd like to think someone could put one and one together.

-Are people going to be as outraged about Spider-Man killing Electro as they were when Superman killed Zod in Man of Steel?

-How did Harry find out that Peter Parker was Spider-Man? Again, it's like the writers said, "Shit, we need to fit this in. Fuck it, he just knows, all right?"

-So now there are two villains who know the secret identity of Spider-Man. I'm sorry, why isn't Harry shouting, "PETER PARKER IS SPIDER-MAN!!!" at every free moment?

-How does Peter not know that his Aunt May is taking nursing classes?

-Also, why is Aunt May talking like she's in charge when the power comes back on. She literally shouts, "All right people, let's get back to work!" Lady, you're a student. My own sister is a nurse and she's not dumb enough to even attempt giving orders to people who have already graduated.

-Why are New Yorkers gathering around to watch a super-villain with heavy artillery attack police? Also, why do they have their kids with them while doing so? This is New York, if you want your kids to get used to seeing people shoot at the police and treat it like it's a parade just move to Detroit.

If you want something good with Spider-Man to watch, find The Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon online and watch that. I might talk about that series one day but I've talked enough about arachnids for one post.

All in all, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is trying to be a good movie, probably even a great movie, but with too much going on and no real organization it just feels like a garbled mess that wasn't confident in telling a simple story. It reminds me of something Chef Marco Pierre White said about cooking but can also apply to storytelling: "Simplicity has always been a secret. The more you add the more you take away so you have to know when to stop."

How I felt once this movie was over.

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