The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 2014
There’s one thing that I’ve been enjoying about 2014 that I did not enjoy about 2013. Even though there have been roughly the same number of superhero and comic book movies, last year they were all packed into the 3 or 4 months of summer, while this year they have been spread out to mostly 1 or 2 a month. August has been the biggest month with three theatrical movies, and the rest of the year is pretty wide open with only the limited release Birdman, the graphic novel adaptation The Scribbler, and the first Disney/Marvel animated collaboration Big Hero 6. To date, I have only missed a couple theatrical movies including this one. It’s actually surprising because if you would have asked me last year, this would have probably been number two on my most anticipated list behind X-Men: Days of Future Past. But as I learned more about the movie from the trailers and the early reviews I decided not to take the time out of my busy schedule to go see it and instead waited until I could watch it at home. Ultimately, I think that was the best decision for me to make because when all was said and done, this is my second disappointment of the year next to Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t nearly on the same level as that movie, there is still plenty of fun to be had here, and some great action beats. The problem is that it tried to combine too many characters and interconnected sub plots that just made it too confusing. It isn’t a Spider-Man 3 debacle, but it’s a far cry from the other movies. And finally I will give a quick spoiler warning as I will be mentioning a significant plot point from the end of the movie.
It’s interesting that many of the trailers sell the Rhino as one of the big three villains in this movie, but he’s really much more like a bookend. And honestly, both of those scenes are some of the best parts of the movie. When Andrew Garfield gets to play Spider-Man, that’s where he really shines. His quips are funny, he knows how to use his abilities, and the best part is how he interacts with the people of New York. I absolutely love how this Spider-Man not only helps a kid out with some bullies, but talks him up and offers to walk him home. This is the kind of hero we need to see more of in theaters. He’s likable, he’s funny, and he cares about the people. Not just as people that he needs to save, but he realizes that as Spider-Man, he is a symbol and a role-model for people and kids to look up to. Paul Giamatti was a lot of fun in his brief role even though he didn’t get to do a whole lot other than toss out a couple lines in a cheesy Russian accent. And while the CGI in this movie was incredible, I did have an issue with the Transformer-like Rhino suit at the end, especially how Giamatti was not integrated into the suit very well at all for today’s standards. And while the moment with the kid in the Spider-Man costume was a nice touch, there was too much suspension of disbelief that everyone there would just stand by and watch it happen.
From the few positive reviews I’ve read and heard about this movie, the big take away from this movie is that it treats itself much more like a comic book than a movie. There are more of the comedic elements, the secret lairs, the double dealings, the impossible origins, and the quippy one-liners. But there was a lack of weight or cohesion tied to these elements. It actually reminded me quite a bit of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer which I just recently watched. In both movies, there are several different things happening, but there is no significant connection happening between them. They are just many different things happening in his life at the same time. He’s finding out about his father’s past while he is trying to mend his relationship with Gwen Stacy. He’s trying to deal with Electro while he’s trying to deal with Harry.
Often times, a superhero movie is only as good as its villain. And in theory, there are two strong villains here. There’s the extremely powerful Electro who can test the limits of Spider-Man’s fighting abilities. And next to him is Harry Osborn who becomes the Goblin. I’m not entirely sure which one as they don’t refer to him by name and I know there are several versions in the comics. Whether he’s the Green Goblin, the Hobgoblin, the New Goblin, they all have Goblin in there so that’s what I’ll stick with. Anyway the Goblin has the complicated relationship with Peter as the two are friends while the Goblin and Spider-Man are enemies. Both are great villains in concept, but this film had a hard time executing them. Max Dillon before he becomes Electro is the overly downtrodden nerd with delusions of grandeur. He tells these lies about his social life that are so ridiculous and desperate that it makes it hard to really root for him. Not only that, but he is just so completely beat down by everyone around him that it becomes a caricature beyond a caricature so that when he falls into the vat of electric eels to become Electro it feels like the obvious way for him to get his revenge on the world. There is a single moment before Max becomes Electro where the audience gets to see the rage that is inside him as he imagines himself accosting his huge jerk of a supervisor before quickly snapping back to reality. But it’s not something that’s revisited and so it feels jarring and out of place with the rest of the movie. The scene in Times Square is a great moment, it’s one of the big action set pieces in this movie and it’s also a big character moment for Max as he starts to become Electro. There are great moments here as Spider-Man tries to diffuse the situation before it begins, but things get out of hand. And the drama of the scene gets undercut as Electro spouts out the one liner “Now it’s time for me to light my candles.” He did not need to become this pseudo-action star in his own mind, and unless I missed it, he never even gets his comeuppance to his jerk supervisor. One thing I do have to mention is that he is visually gorgeous. All the electricity effects look amazing and while dubstep might be an obvious choice, it works so well here as does the entire soundtrack behind Electro, something that sells his underlying rage much better than his cheesy one-liners do.
In the original Raimi trilogy, one of the best things is the Harry and Peter relationship. It’s something that develops and changes over the course of three movies and it feels completely natural and believable. All of that relationship is compressed not just within a single movie, but as the C plot within a single movie. Dane Dehaan is a great actor and he showed his ability to go dark over the course of a movie in Chronicle. But in this movie, everything is so compressed for time that just like Max, Harry comes off as a caricature. He goes from being a businessman, to being Peter’s long lost best friend, to dealing with his life-threatening disease, to resenting Spider-Man for not agreeing to help him. His character turns on a dime, not to mention the fact that the disease that killed his father at age 61 with no visible effects until his last few years is developing rapidly in Harry over the course of a few weeks at age 18. There is plenty of room for sympathy given the fact that his father died, he is also dying, he inherits this giant company, and that company is shortly schemed out from under him. But rather than playing up the sympathy of the situation, it’s played as fuel for his villainous fire.
I’ve come this far and I haven’t even touched upon what should be the heart of this movie: the relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy. They are at a point where they are on again, off again because Peter keeps seeing the ghost of Captain Stacy whose last words were essentially to stay away from his daughter so she doesn’t get caught up with Spider-Man’s villains. This was so poorly done that it was very distracting from the rest of the movie and reminded me of another movie that used the same technique to poor effect just recently in Sin City 2. There is still the great chemistry that carries over from their real life relationship, and Emma Stone gives Stacy a great attitude in the few scenes where she has to carry her own, including her last scene. One thing I do have to mention is that I loved the way that the movie handled her death. I did know going into this movie that she wasn’t making it out alive, but I didn’t know the circumstances surrounding it. And while it is a tragic moment that is important to Peter Parker as a character, I had a hard time getting past the joy I had seeing at least some respect to physics given here. As she is falling to her death, Spider-Man catches her at the last moment with his web. If this movie had been made 15 or 20 years ago, she would have survived. But instead of falling 50 feet and hitting the ground, she fell 49 feet and the sudden stop was still violent enough to kill her.
I’ve gone on about so much in this movie and there’s still quite a bit I haven’t covered yet which goes a long way to say how this movie is overfilled with plot so that none of it is given enough weight to impact the audience. There’s the side story with his father’s secret subway station that’s still working 100% aside from a few cobwebs despite being untouched for 10 – 15 years or so, and really the only relevance to the rest of the movie is that Peter misses Gwen’s phone call telling him that she made it into Oxford. Aunt May also has a few moments of character development as she is secretly taking nursing classes that never really amount to anything and instead she is mostly used for comic relief. She does get yet another moment near the end that makes you wonder if she really does know that Peter is Spider-Man and is just pretending she doesn’t know the same way she does with the nursing classes. There really is a lot to like about this movie, but in the end, I was taken out of the movie so many times that I had a hard time staying with it for the entire run time. I still have hopes for both the Sinister Six movie as well as the untitled female-led superhero movie from Sony in the Spider-Man universe, but this was merely a mediocre effort with hints of greatness. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.