Just got in from seeing THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 – and generally – I liked it quite a bit. The problem though is everything is so rushed, for no real gains. Now – this review will go into spoilers – because I can’t really get into talking about this film without discussing the various twists and turns… but let’s start this review off discussing what absolutely works…
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone… Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. This combination could’ve supported a good half dozen AMAZING SPIDER-MAN adventures. The charisma between these two is more electrifying than nearly all the CG used to bring the Ultimate vision of ELECTRO to life. The scenes of them together, just works. Even if he’s on a skyscraper looking down upon her in the streets and choosing to stay watching her versus saving some lives. In fact, that’s the heart of the character right there. The choice between what his heart wants and the responsibility he feels – and the rules of Spider-man requires that if he’s happy, he’ll end up in tears… but through it all, he is there to do what must be done.
Andrew Garfield is a perfect Peter Parker for me – and his wise ass cracks in the costume mean everything to the character. Watching Spidey help a kid with his science project tickled me through and through. That’s Spidey!
The VFX… the special effects are out-standing! Now, I’m more old school when it comes to my Spidey – and if I had my way – there’d be a PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN series on TV set in the 60’s and helmed by the MAD MEN team. But everyone has “Their” SPIDER-MAN. The VFX work here in creating a dynamic web-slinger fighting an ELECTRO that is far more powerful and magical than the Electro I grew up with… Well, it is dazzling. Watching it in 3D at the IMAX was breath-taking and the little boy that grew up in a comic shop run by my Dad was delighted at the visual candy that Sony has served up. The web-slinging in IMAX 3D is just kind of marvelous, natch!
Things you really need to know going in. This is an ELECTRO movie. The Green Goblin and Rhino scenes are brief. And tagged on unnecessarily on this film. But let’s discuss Jamie Foxx’s Max Dillon/ELECTRO. I’m not real sure where the social pariah part of the character came from – his character did have some slight ego issues with feeling like a lesser super-villain… but here, Foxx plays Max as a fragile genius with electricity working at OsCorps… Now, hearing about the cut scene where Foxx was supposed to kill his mother, really really hurts the character – and definitely should’ve made the film. But I get it, they needed the time to tell more of the pointless Parker parent saga. His turn to evil felt too instantly erratic… and I felt the ascension to power madness wasn’t realized as well as I feel Foxx probably could have mustered, but once the character is unleashed – there is some pretty significan awe & wonder at his powers. But this isn’t the character that I grew up with – so I gave it quite a bit of latitude, because what they were doing with the character I found mildly interesting.
As for the big reveal… As soon as we all saw that certain outfit on Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, we knew what was going to happen here. I love that she was in the outfit. Doing it in this film was just kinda crazy. So many films strive so hard to try and capture a quarter ounce of the charisma that she and Garfield have on screen together. I mean, I suppose Emma Stone must not have signed on for a third film because why the hell get rid of her with this outing. The scene that does it – kind of perfect, but I still feel there was ZERO need to do that in this film. The longer you put it off, THE BETTER. Redefine in the audience’s mind that Peter belongs with Gwen. Two films isn’t enough. In the books – we spent some quality time with these two. Handling it like this just comes across as rushing.
Like turning Harry into the Goblin… it was unnecessary for this film.
What doesn’t work?
Well… The Parker drama. I hate the story of Parker’s parents. I mean, all that time to find out that the spiders were engineered to work only with his family DNA? Ahem… FUCK THAT. That is some midichlorian bs. It serves to only demystify something that needs no explanation. And they spend so much time on it, that I nearly forget about everything else as being a significant plot point. The reveal is a yawn. It takes valuable screentime away from Gwen, Peter & Harry. Dane Dehaan was short shifted in this film, but that’s alright, cuz I see him being pretty fucking significant in the SINISTER SIX and in future Parker tales. That said, they wasted the character. The development of Harry Osborne has now been screwed over by both Raimi’s team and Webb’s. Harry’s drug abuse was central to the character, Peter trying to help him. Honestly though, I really feel you have to do the cornrows. It added a pathetic wtf to the character – and Franco looked great in cornrows in SPRINGBREAKERS – so it isn’t like Franco wouldn’t – and I bet DeHaan would’ve too… it’s a bold character choice – and if Gwen Stacy was defined by her dazzling sense of style in the comics – Webb has been very smart to translate that style to the screen. But Norman Osborne must be the first Green Goblin – and showing him with that Goblin-y look to him only made me pissed that they skipped over Chris Cooper as the Green Goblin – and went straight for Dane. That’s missed opportunities right there. Cooper’s Goblin would’ve been epic.
The other problem is everything having to do with OsCorps… WHO THE FUCK CARES? The only people that care about executive drama are executives, not Spider-Man geeks. Of course, the OsCorps problem is the same problem with “The Parker Drama” – by creating a central system for creating supervillains and Spider-man himself – they have created a storyline that just feels AWFULLY CONVENIENT – and LAME.
But – here’s the thing… Amongst all this nonsense is a really lovely chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield and some dazzling visual effects sequences. But what is missing is a fundemental understanding of the root material… this isn’t just about Peter and Gwen… the supervillains were as developed as the heroes in the books. We got to know these characters – and it is a real slap in the face of the fans to do stuff like make a giant robot Rhino costume – when that Russian mobster is supposed to be experimented upon until he ways somewhere over 700 lbs and pure muscle in a special suit that actually resembles the skin of a rhino – and is obviously meant to be a mo-cap role with a slightly stretched horizontally face.
Extreme care was taken in creating Jamie Foxx’s ELECTRO – which is why RHINO and GREEN GOBLIN feel cheap by comparison – they’re just not fully realized.
All that said… The boy that I keep alive inside of me thrilled to the big scenes of Spidey in action. The suit looks 100% better than it did in the original. The Spidey Sense sequences were beautifully handled and made Spidey seem miraculous – as he should.
Hopefully, they’ve exhausted all the Parker Parent bullshit they have… because the Parker drama that needs to be in play – is Aunt May’s health issues – and the terrible financial burden that Peter feels in taking care of her. That’s his family drama. And it is always gold. Or having Dr. Octavius dating Aunt May… which is splendid beyond words – and must be done.
The big lesson that Sony needs to learn is to respect the comics at every turn. This is a fun outing, but as a fan – to enjoy – I am having to overlook a good deal of material that Sony wasted untold millions upon shooting and polishing – which never should have been in the film to begin with.
The aggravation I have for the film is that there are things being done here better than in any Spider-man movie ever… but it’s mixed up with a ton of just stupid mind-numbingly unnecessary distractions – that keep it from being nearly as AMAZING as it should be.
Sony’s team still has a mountain to climb before they’re on the same field with Marvel Studios productions. But as a life long Spidey geek… this is worth the time to watch in your favorite theater. The Web-Slinging, the Times Square and the Power Plant sequences demand to be seen big. But there’s a whole lot of room for improvement. Sony’s got big plans for the franchise. My recommendations would be to cast a great Betty Brant – and still hold off on Mary Jane. Don’t rush to bring MJ to the story. Her appearance should be teased for at least two movies, before showing up right before the credits roll on film four.
As I said before, the film is absolutely worth it for Peter/Gwen… shame we won’t see any more… unless it is in flashbacks. On the other hand, I suppose we should be happy that we ever got to see Peter and Gwen at all on screen. That is the most special part of Spidey’s whole history to me.