The Amazing Spider-Man 2
(142 minutes, PG-13)
I have consistently talked about the studios’ notion that sequels must be bigger; and sometimes this idea pays off like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, though this concept improves the action set pieces, the screenwriters bobbled the plot and dialogue of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. And the sad part is that I really wanted to like this sequel; I saw it with a great crowd on a real IMAX screen, but like its predecessor, for every step forward, it took two steps back. Now, add the fact that the sequel seems limited by its need to establish the Sinister Six spinoff and like the original, the follow-up gets bogged down under the studio’s plan for future films: basically suffering from ‘Iron Man 2-syndrome.’ Also, the rushed script, which is equal parts bad and overcrowded, has too many villains that do not get enough screentime.
But like the previous rendition, The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s disappointments begin with its three screenwriters: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner. The original also had three writers, but at least they knew how to pen decent dialogue; I am not saying The Amazing Spider-Man had Tarantino quality lines, but the passable screenplay did not hinder the overall product. Instead, the audience gets treated to a script, in which J.J. Abrams’ alum wrote the most unintentionally hilarious dialogue of 2014: and I am not over-exaggerating because lines such as “I wrote I love you because I love you,’ was seen as quality work.
On top of this, the horrid dialogue takes place in pointless scenes that could have been trimmed to make the sequel a tighter product. For instance, Gwen and Peter’s break up, which takes place at the beginning, feels weirdly thrust upon the viewer; these scenes blatantly foreshadow an ending that most comic book fans already knew was coming. Furthermore, the heavy handed nature of the Denis Leary scenes show that the writers believe their audience is stupid and that they want to blatantly telegraph the so-called surprise ending: which means that Leary’s futile inclusion was from lazy writing. I was desperately hoping that the successor’s open canvass would allow the writers to pen an audacious script that took chances with Spidey; while I will say that some of the elements of this story took guts, the necessity to establish future movies plus lazy writing equals to an uninspired sequel that could have been so much more.
But like The Amazing Spider-Man, this movie thrives under the direction of Marc Webb. As previously mentioned, the studio’s choice of Webb left many fanboys scratching their heads; but the director who got his start in romantic comedies, surprisingly knows how to direct action. However, some of Webb’s choices left me puzzled. For instance, the much dreaded shaky cam that graces the first ten minutes of the picture: but then, as soon as the prologue ends the shaky cam technique disappears. Perhaps, he did that because the prologue is more up close and personal, but I was worried that the technique would dominate the action for 142 minutes. Also, it feels that Webb watched way too many Michael Bay projects before filming the CGI-heavy action sequences; there are way too many moments of ‘slow motion,’ which can last up to ten seconds in a particular scene. But the saving grace of the slow motion is that the CGI looks amazing; personally I liked Webb’s practical effects of the original, but as we all know, the idea of bigger was going to severely cut down the ability of Webb to use on-set material.
Either way, the fight scenes looked visually stunning. Between the CGI and the camera set ups, Webb knows how to visually set up and shoot an intense action sequence. Yes, the common trope of Manhattan getting destroyed is present, but the difference between this and Man of Steel is that Spider-Man actually attempts to save people in distress: rather than cause the disaster and pick up the pieces in the aftermath. And it is important to point out that Hans Zimmer’s score perfectly fits each scene; his Electro music uses synthesizers to match the intensity and craziness of the onscreen action. However, I do not understand Webb’s choices with mainstream music; yes, Peter Parker is a young kid whose iPod would have Phillip Phillips or Kid Cudi music, but the bedroom sequence with Phillips’ ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ resulted in the collective laughter of the audience. It just seemed out of place when listening to the seemingly brilliant Zimmer score, which will be divisive enough on its own.
With that said, the most jarring aspect of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be the portrayal of the villains. First and foremost, the casting of the Rhino, Green Goblin, and Electro was unbelievable; this all-star cast of Paul Giamatti, Jamie Foxx, and Dane DeHaan looks amazing on paper. However, the packed movie does not give enough individual screen time to Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. The movie rarely has more than one villain onscreen at any given time; which means that an antagonist could be introduced but then disappears for long stretches of the flick. For instance, Paul Giamatti’s Aleksei Systevich appears at the beginning and does not even get his Rhino suit until the very end; so basically his role sets up the Sinister Six movie and can be seen as nothing more than a forced cameo.
On the other hand, the two main villains, Electro and the Green Goblin, provide decent foes for our web crawler; however, both characters, especially Harry Osborn, feel under written. Dane DeHaan is an amazing ‘up and comer,’ but his Harry Osborn felt extremely whiny. Yes, DeHaan does his best in a bad situation, but his acting cannot develop his character or save scenes with terrible dialogue: his friendly exchanges with Peter can only be described as cringe-worthy. And while the audience can understand his motivations, the ultimate transformation into the Green Goblin is unsatisfying because of DeHaan’s unintimidating look and line delivery. Webb attempted to make DeHaan look like a goblin, instead of using a Goblin mask: and his look is terribly ’emo.’
With that said, Jamie Foxx’s Electro has one of the coolest villain designs in a modern superhero flick; unfortunately, his performance leaves a lot to be desired. The audience sympathizes with Foxx’s Max Dillon because he has been ‘kicked around’ his entire life, which makes his transformation into a villain satisfying and understandable. However, Foxx has way too much charisma to play a dorky introvert; instead of seeing the sad and lonely Max Dillon, I see Foxx in a bad comb over. But this charisma pays off when Foxx is turned into Electro; his synthesized voice perfectly matches the larger than life villain, which is exquisitely accompanied with Zimmer’s electric score. Both the Times Square sequence and the final battle, work perfectly to make Dillon a sympathetic but threatening antagonist. With that said, the amount of villains in this picture leads to the disappointing fact that only one does battle with Spider-Man at a given time; instead of getting a preview of that Sinister Six future, the villains, stupidly, attack Spider-Man on their own. Why not have planned efforts? Is this just a tease that is supposed to make me come back for more? If so, then that is stupid because the beginning action builds up to an ending that is ‘sort-of’ a letdown in retrospect.
But again, the highlight of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is Andrew Garfield’s performance and his chemistry with Emma Stone. And it seems that the director and writer figured that out, because most of the story revolved around them; but as previously mentioned, I did not agree with the ‘will they or won’t they’ storyline, which results in some horrid dialogue that slightly works because of the leads’ rapport. Emma Stone makes some really awful lines sound almost believable. And their pointless break up was an attempt by the writers to build tension until the inevitable conclusion.
And the surprise ending truly shows Garfield’s ability as an actor; yes, the scene is effective because of Webb’s direction, but it is Garfield’s performance that ‘tugged at the audience’s heartstrings.’ Garfield’s ability to switch ‘emotions on a dime,’ makes him the most charismatic actor to put on the red and blue tights; his humorous action sequences, where he toys with the villains, is just as good as his emotionally taxing scene with the fabulous Sally Fields. I cannot deny that they made Peter Parker into a hipster; but at least, Webb and company perfectly portrays Spidey’s audacious and sarcastic personality, which was severely lacking in Raimi’s original trilogy.
But all in all, Emma Stone’s independent Gwen Stacy equally matches Garfield’s performance; in my opinion, she is the most independent female character to ever be in a superhero film. And while I was not a huge fan of the couple’s storyline, her banter with Peter or independent nature makes her one of the more developed characters in this universe. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 perfectly shows that Peter Parker needs Gwen just as much, if not more than she needs him. Gwen is what makes Peter human, and again, their budding romance highlights this deeply flawed picture.
In the end, the public is treated to an entertaining comic book film that has more problems than advantages. It is nice to be back in the Spidey universe, but I wish that they used more time to clean up the script and perfect the villains. Like the original, the audience gets treated to a movie that points toward the future, rather than worrying about the present. But I do love the little comic book ‘shout outs’ that are scattered throughout the flick: the name of Harry’s assistant or the inclusion of the Ravencroft Institute, which reveals the closest thing we will get to a Schumacher Spider-Man movie, are small things that made the audience cheer. But in the end, the rushed script attempts to put all of Sony’s ‘eggs in the Sinister Six’s basket.’ And though this might pay off for future endeavors, it did not pay off with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. However, I still attempted to enjoy this seemingly average affair.
Cool Tidbit: There is only one after credit scene, which features the X-Men; do not get excited about a crossover because this was done by Sony to cover Webb’s contract with Fox. However, if you Shazam the first post credit song, which is Alicia Keys’ ‘It’s On Again,’ you will be treated with six teaser pictures that hint the aforementioned villainy group.