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Amazing Spider-Manner! – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

May 2, 2014

asm22

  1. Going into this if you’d have told me that Foxx would be the bright spot (no pun), I would have laughed in your face. And maybe punched you for being stupid. I’m not the biggest fan of Foxx’s oeuvre, and his post Ray Charles career has been a mixed bag in which you can hear the echoes of Booty Call ringing in your ears. And the aforementioned look of this Electro was off-puttingly lame in isolation. But it’s only after he makes his transformation early on in the picture that the film rises out of its morass of lame dialogue and actually feels like a pulse-pounding, senses-shattering blockbuster — and his coming out party in Times Square has the best energy (sorry…) in the whole two hours. Is his origin — a meek employee at a large corporation made into a villain by his own invention — borrowed from Jim Carrey’s Batman Forever Riddler? Yes. Does he look like a Revenge of the Sith Emperor when he’s wearing a hoodie? Yes. Wouldn’t we all want to see the original yellow and green costume on a big screen, even if it would make its wearer look like a full-grown version of a baby dressed as a sunflower? Yes yes yes. Alas. But this iteration is a more than adequate substitute, with real hate and real powers and a surprisingly good look. Knock me over with a feather.
  2. Garfield and Stone were the buoyant parts of the first film, likable characters even if they were saddled with some clunky plot elements to work through. There’s too much emotional Sturm und Drang here, though, with icky relationship dialogue delivered by two actors speaking over each other’s lines (Iron Man 2 and 3 style) that brings back bad memories of Raimi’s third, rushed movie. (Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, omnipresent crafters of cookie-cutter summer script after cookie-cutter summer script, have their hack hands — or fingertips — all over this.) I sort of bought it the first time around, but not again — enough with the Talkin Bout Bein Sad nonsense. And, God help me, one might even say that Garfield is LaBoeufing through many of his scenes, which is never a good thing. It falls as flat as a pancake — and then that pancake is drenched in too-rich syrup. Or at least I think that’s how the metaphor should go. (Also, super-stalking is apparently endearing now. Superman Returns was ahead of its time. Someone tell Singer, he could use some good news.)
  3. This Spider-Man? He’s all right. Not quite as jerky as he was last time, and, bless his heart, he keeps his mask on while he’s in costume, not like Tobey who’d rip that thing off every chance he got. There’s a really nice, sweet scene where he rescues a kid from a pack of bullies, patches the kid’s broken science project and makes him feel like a million bucks. Unfortunately the kid shows back up again in the cloying coda and that pretty much washes away the sentiment, but still. It was fun while it lasted.
  4. Man, if you like exposition, telling instead of showing, you’re in luck.
  5. If this movie does a service, it at least dispenses with the saga-building, plot-deadening foot concrete of the Parker parents. That all still weighs down this picture, as does Richard Parker’s need to vlog his every thought, but it seems to be largely squared away by the end of the runtime. But if you’re a fan, fret not, there’s still a good seven or eight minute action prologue to open this movie, so you can get your fix of Richard Parker: Agent of SHIELD or whatever. Because the parents have always been such an integral component of the Spider-Man mythos.
  6. Should your first response upon seeing the Green Goblin be to laugh out loud at how goofy he looks? Maybe it should– I honestly don’t know. He was always silly looking in his heyday. That said, and I may be attacked for this, but I think I might prefer the Power Rangers outfit from thirteen(!) years ago. Definitely prefer Willem Dafoe, though that’s no slight to DeHaan. Dafoe rules.
  7. There are any number of structural problems here, almost all of which grow out of Sony’s understandable but annoying desire to make more Scrooge McDuck piles of money by branching off their Spider-Man license. Instead of focusing on the core of the story in front of them, they try to hard to force feed a Sinister Six plot on us — and they aren’t even doing it right. It completely undermines the fun of villains banding together when they’re brought together by Oscorp as some sort of dirty half-dozen. Are Doctor Octopus, the Rhino and the Vulture as fun when their regalia has been sitting in an Oscorp vault for who knows how long? No. All Paul Giamatti does here, an actor of Academy Award winning reknown, is serve as a barely seen bookend which does nothing but figuratively say “Bigger things are coming!” But what about this movie? There’s a cliché out there about keeping your eye on the ball. It’s apt.
  8. Hey, that broad named Felicia, is she supposed to be the Black Cat youknowwhatidontevencare.
  9. BIG SPOILER TALK SKIP THIS ONE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW ALL THOUGH YOU CAN PROBABLY GUESS WHAT IT IS BY NOW. Sure? Okay. It will come as no surprise to any longtime reader of Marvel comics that when Gwen Stacy makes a certain sartorial decision, her fate is sealed. Because when that coat is worn, a destiny cannot be escaped — and Dennis Leary’s haunting, frowning, forbidding Captain Stacy ghost doesn’t help matters. In spite of the clumsy handling of the Gwen-Peter relationship leading up to it, the Death of Gwen Stacy (you can’t even type that without capitalizing Death — see!) is handled with genuine skill, throwing a few curves with a bridge here, a drop there, rescues everywhere. It’s a testament to how important this moment is to not just Spider-Man’s story, but that of the entire Marvel Universe — it ranks alongside such world-crashers as “The Coming of Galactus” and “Days of Future Past” — that it’s managed so well, that this group could rise out of all the problems and still craft a sequence that shocks you even when you know what’s coming. Though, still, you can’t help but wonder if it would have sung even better if everyone hadn’t been so worried about getting the Sinister Six (brought to you by Oscorp!) up and running.
  10. There are some really boring stretches, enough to make me thankful that I had a cup of strong coffee before walking into the theater, piss-breaks be damned — because I would have been out like that time I went to a midnight showing of The Thin Red Line and lapsed into a coma in the fortieth minute of a disillusioned soldier swimming with half-naked native children. You know what I did during the long, dull, awake stretches here? Searched the New York City skyline for a sign, any sign of Stark Tower and that big A. Because I want so bad for Spider-Man to meld into a broader whole. We’ve had five solo Spider-Man films in this young millennium and one reboot of the character, and I think we’re all ready to see him teaming with Daredevil. Or Thor. Hell, I’d take Moon Knight. But we’re as far away from that as we’ve ever been, and that’s depressing.

Of course this will make a ton of money — all you have to do with a Spider-Man movie is aim it at the screen and fire, and it’s like a gold bullion slot machine starts paying out. But this still isn’t up to the storytelling standards of the best of the Raimi movies. The action is much better, with a surprisingly effective Electro, but most everything else has taken a step backward — and some of those things were pretty far back to begin with. It’s a Spider-Man movie, though, so I can’t tell anyone to not see it. Tons of people will love it, and more power to them. Maybe I’m just a grumpy not-yet-old man — though in my defense I liked the recent Captain America movie, which had its share of flaws.

And yes, I’ll probably be there for whatever Sinister Six or Venom spinoff they fling at us. Because COMICS.

Two and a half Paul Giamatti’s out of five — I usually make a graphic, but I won’t this time, since it’s rather fitting for his invisible screentime.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Phil permalink
    May 2, 2014 11:24 pm

    I plan on seeing this at the dollar theater. Does that sound about right?

    • May 3, 2014 12:30 am

      In the movie’s defense the two Electro battles are well-done and worthy of seeing on a big screen. A matinee wouldn’t be a waste, but a full Imax 3d evening ticket would be pricey for the goods received.

  2. May 14, 2014 11:32 pm

    What was it about the dialogue you hated so much? Just curious, because personally it felt more natural to me than a lot of other super hero movies. Much less Spiderman and Gwen Talk About Things and more a girl and a guy go on a date.

    • May 16, 2014 12:30 pm

      It didn’t feel like date dialogue — it felt like Hollywood Writers Write What They Think People Say On A Date dialogue. It felt artificial, an odd complaint to make in a movie about a man with spider powers fighting an electricity guy, but there you go.

      The biggest problem was that I just didn’t care at all about their dopey little relationship, and will-she-or-won’t-she go to goddamn Oxford or whatever.

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