Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Get out your web-shooters and rhino suits, we're reviewing The Amazing Spider-Man 2!

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is trying to balance his superhero life and his love life with Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), but that's going to be hard when new electrified villain Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) and long-lost friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) come into his life.

DAMMIT SONY, I TRUSTED YOU. I actually LOVED the first one, and you pull THIS?!


Y'know, it’s honestly not that bad. But it’s just not good, either; it’s a generic bloated mess of a movie. Still better than Spider-Man 3. Not as good as Amazing Spider-Man. And hey, they made a reference to Hipster Spider-Man, so that's something.

Didn't I just get done talking about how tired I am of stories about straight white dudes with daddy issues and heteronormative sex-hang ups? Didn't I just??? That is the entire movie. It's – it’s just so very annoying. I'm not sure what's worse here – the daddy issues or the love interest. Probably the love interest. There is SO much stuff about the relationship between Gwen and Peter, and I know that Gwen is kind of a big part of this movie and all, and normally Gwen and Peter are the best things about this new universe, but there is just so much forced back-and-forth melodrama. It's too much. The thing about Spider-Man is that everything terrible happens to him at once. The world shits on Peter Parker. He has money problems, school problems, job problems, family problems, girl problems, and on top of all THAT he has bad guys that want to kill him dead. But in this movie, the only thing he's concerned about is having a girlfriend. He's supposed to be out of high school but the only thing he seems to worry about is if his girl likes him or not. 

And the whole "I promised your father I'd stay away from you" thing feels so forced. The whole relationship feels forced. They break up when the story needs them to break up, and then get back together when the story needs them back together. The chemistry between Garfield and Stone is there, but the organic nature of their relationship is somehow lacking on screen. Just pick a decision already! Do you want to keep her safe or do you want to be a selfish prick? It should not be that hard for Spider-Man.

That said, I still like this Peter Parker and Spider-Man. I still think Andrew Garfield is a great fit, and here he's a lot more friendly with people and seems to be having a ton of fun. I think maybe New York loves him a little too much because of the whole 'world shits on him' thing, but he's still a fun Spider-Man who has a great time helping kids with their school projects. And I really like that they changed to the more iconic Spider-Man costume. It even feels scaled down to the ultra-flashy version used in the original trilogy! Unfortunately, all the style of the first movie – all of the creepy crawling and cool moves he used to actually make himself look like a spider – is gone. The fighting is still good; just as good as any Spider-Man fight with flipping and web-shooting. But that iconic dark and creepy look is gone and I miss it. He's still a good Spider-Man. I like that this is a hero that will swing in and try to calm a villain down before rushing in web-shooters first.

Also, is Stan Lee just pretending to be Stan Lee here? I can't tell if he's revisiting the role of the librarian from the first ASM or if they just didn't bother here.

One thing I DO like in this movie is Electro. They got Electro's look and story just right. His set-up is a little goofy; they explain him as having been a lonely, unappreciated inventor and– NO! I DON'T CARE! HIS BACKSTORY IS BEING BITTEN BY ELECTRIC EELS! If it's good enough for the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon, it's good enough for this! And WOW the electrical effects are great. I never thought they could get Electro and his powers so right! He is very cool and Jamie Foxx looks like he is having a blast in that role. The fights between Spidey and Electro are the highlights of the film.

Green Goblin, on the other hand? Ugh. First of all, THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR CALLING THE FIRST GOBLIN THE GREEN RANGER! LOOK AT WHAT YOU'VE WROUGHT! I never had a problem with the look of the Green Goblin in the first film, and Dafoe was the perfect choice. He gets that creepiness and cackle perfectly. Dane DeHaan on the other hand? He plays a pretty conniving Harry Osborn, but his Green Goblin is severely lacking. The transformation looks horrible and- What is he even doing with that laugh? The bigger problem is with his origin story. I don't have that big a problem with Oscorp being connected to all of the villains and Spidey in one way or another, but I DO have a problem with the Goblin suit and glider just SITTING THERE and Harry picking them up and INSTANTLY KNOWING HOW TO USE THEM. Like, guys? You aren’t even trying. This is just as bad as the Symbiote falling from the sky in Spider-Man 3. And Rhino is just an afterthought for this movie. Why they thought they had the right to promote him in the trailers when he he's only used in 5 minutes at the very end I will never know. 
Andrew Garfield carries this movie with his personality and the charisma he has with his fellow actors. He's a likable guy. And some of the best parts are when he's with Gwen or Aunt May. I actually really like Sally Field as Aunt May, she seems like she's got some bite on top of her doddering old coot-ness. Sadly, she has a side-story that goes nowhere. There are some generally hilarious parts with Spider-Man. I love him fighting Electro with a big fire hose while wearing a fireman's hat and gloves and high-fiving firemen. It makes me think of the silliness in the comics.

Even though I still like Andrew Garfield and the chemistry he has with Emma Stone, he doesn't feel as scientific as Peter Parker. They took away the scientist (and the skateboarding – WHAT IS THIS? NO WEB-SWINGING OLLIES!?) and left the moody teen. All we see him do when he's out of costume is mope around. There's one scene where he does science, I think? This is where it would have been nice to see him in college or something. I mean Harry tells him that he's dying, and he doesn't instantly go into science mode like he did with Curt Conners? What gives? Also, he's not wearing his father's glasses anymore. That’s a bummer. Also also, UGH they did too much with his dad and over-explaining his origins. All that stuff with his dad and Oscorp and the green goblin at best don't make sense and at worst make his origins dumb.

The score is hit or miss. There are parts I really like, and then the rest is generic movie backwash. It's really disappointing. The thing I've loved about the Spider-Man movies in general is that they would give each character a theme, but that was mostly back in the Danny Elfman days. Even the score for the previous film I thought had that skittish spider personality. Electro's theme is basically dubstep. And it's ridiculous in a dumb way that I kind of like? There's one part where he is straight-up shooting Spider-Man with dubstep blasts. It's crazy. But I guess – Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams? THAT'S who did this score? Wow, I expected much better. Hans Zimmer, what happened? You used to be cool.

Ok, I have to talk about this, so I'm just going to put a SPOILER ALERT for the next two paragraphs, but I mean, if you've read a Spider-Man comic, you knew this was coming, right? We all knew this was a possibility. So SPOILER ALERT: they kill off Gwen Stacey. And I know they do it in the comics, but they did not need to do it in the movies. Can we all just agree that killing off Gwen Stacey is perhaps the biggest example of Women in Refrigerators? Because it is. It doesn't need to be done. And it feels especially unnecessary here. I was really hoping they'd let her live just to spite the fans and because I loved their relationship in the first movie. It completely feels like they just did it because that's what happened in the comics. It feels so tacked on. And it's so very annoying because they could have cut out the last 20 minutes, let her live, and the movie would have felt like a much fuller experience. Doubly so, because Gwen just got done being a useful person who helps save the day, and then they turn around and make her a damsel in distress. They could have made it a complete arc, and they'd have set up the villain for the next one. And if that's all you're using Green Goblin for, it's a waste of him as well. But then they went and had the green goblin kill her off just for the sake of following comic canon. What a waste.
The only reason it worked in the comics was because Peter and Norman had a deep relationship together. It was built up. Here, they shove Harry into the story after being away for 10 years and just expect us to believe they've been friends this whole time. Harry puts on the goblin gear that he literally just found lying around, and then kills Gwen off five minutes later, right before he finds out Peter Parker is Spider-Man. It is so forced and rushed. Say what you will about the original trilogy (and I do, I am not a huge fan of the last two) but at least they knew how to build it up. Ugh. It's just – you didn't need to do that. END SPOILER ALERT

So yeah, I don't know. I enjoyed a lot of it, but it is a mess and it feels like a slapped together trailer for the next movie(s). There's barely any soul or style. It's a bloated mess. But hey, at least Andrew Garfield is a better crier than Tobey Maguire. 

Also, the 3D is ok for some shots of Spidey swinging, but mostly non-existent. And don't bother staying to the end credits. They put an extended trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past and want you to think it's a stinger. What the what?

THE GOOD: Cool fight scenes, better costume, great chemistry between actors, Andrew Garfield, some good bits in the soundtrack, funny, Electro done well, Jamie Foxx, Spider-Man is a fun guy.

THE BAD: Spidery fighting style is gone, too much romantic BS, Green Goblin is shoved in, feels bloated and trying too many things, dumb ending, generic soundtrack, Peter doesn't have enough troubles, story is a mess, no real plot, science is questionable, another white guy with daddy issues and heteronormative sex hang-ups. 

THE VERDICT: $$$ UGH WHY. WHY CAN'T THIS BE BETTER? I mean, it's serviceable. There are some really good parts but then there are a lot of parts that don't fit. I – I don't know guys. It's not as good as the first. 

MOVIES LIKE IT: Spider-Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men: The Last Stand

ONE SCENE METAPHOR: Peter and Gwen are broken up but talking about relationship stuff when Electro pops up. So Peter swings off to fight Electro, and it's an amazing fight, and then right after he swings back to Gwen to deal with dumb relationship issues. This feels less "the world is on your shoulders" and more "the world revolves around you."

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