Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Directed by Marc Webb
Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, and James Vanderbilt
Based on characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

     The first Amazing Spider-Man movie looked like a step in the right direction for the reboot. Its decompression of the origin events, addition of wit and humor that had always been missing from the original trilogy, and great use of a villain all made it a winner. And that all makes it so disappointing to see it all fall apart so quickly in the sequel.
     Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is reeling from the events of the previous film, but has also quickly become the people's hero as Spider-Man. But things go bad as he has to deal with his fractured relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), the emerging supervillain and Spider-Man fanboy Electro (Jamie Foxx), and mysteries about his parents connected with Oscorp.
     There's a lot of weak points here, but praise is deserved here for several points. The action sequences are very well done, tightly filmed and with excellent special effects. They're the easy high point of the movie as a whole. There's also Jamie Foxx's performance as Electro/Max Dillon. While there's problems with the writing that I'll get to, early on, we see him as someone pathetically sympathetic, even as he gets transformed. His scene of “attacking” Times Square shortly after being transformed isn't this big first fight against the villain, it's a sad moment of a normal guy who really doesn't want the power he's suddenly stuck with. And finally, the score here is excellent. The character's leitmotifs are done well, and the dynamic nature means that triumphant Spider-Man swinging music gets suddenly turned into heavy electronic beats when the villains come in.
     But sadly, nothing can fix the narrative problems here. The film doesn't really move, it lurches around randomly. The first half of the movie even feels completely different from the second half. None of the Oscorp plotlines become relevant until later, and they just don't spark any interest. Electro's interesting nature as a sympathetic villain definitely seems like it could work, but his sympathies are lost by the end. There's no “redemption equals death” or anything, he just becomes a standard villain. The same goes for Dane Dehaan's Harry Osborn, whose transformation from diseased boy with a father he hates to outright villain is almost ridiculous. It even hinges on Peter and Spider-Man being a jerk to him for no reason—not really something you want out of him. And then there's the Gwen Stacy subplot. You can literally hear the movie grinding to a halt any time it stops to focus on Peter and Gwen's romance, which is uninteresting, creepy (at one point Peter admits to stalking Gwen while they were broken up, and Gwen just laughs at it) and poorly written (this is a movie that actually contains the line “It says I love you because I love you” with no irony). And as if that wasn't bad enough, the chemistry never really hits between the two. Which is weird when Andrew and Emma are dating in real life. Instead, Peter and Harry have more sparks flying between them (and in all honesty, would've explored a much more interesting dynamic that comic fans haven't seen before).

     ASM2's exciting action scenes can't gloss over a story that's just plain badly written. And when you compare this against the Marvel Studios output, it gets obvious that Spider-Man already needs another reboot.

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