Batman Forever + Iron Man 2 = The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The_Amazing_Spiderman_2_posterWhile laziness in filmmaking makes me angry, the thing it pains me the most to watch is a would-be good movie that can’t get out of its own way. Sometimes that’s worse than watching a just plain bad movie. It’s easy to dismiss the awful and lazy, but it’s incredibly frustrating to sit through a movie that is making some good decisions and can be at times engaging and compelling, but also makes terrible decisions and swings into boring/uninteresting territory. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 falls into that latter category. It’s frustrating and sometimes outright annoying to watch what could have been an incredible movie stumble repeatedly over its own ill-fitting clown shoes, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. Not the worst Spider-Man movie—that title still belongs to the execrable Spider-Man 3—but the most disappointing for sure.

The thing is, out of all the superheroes, Spider-Man is the most user-friendly. He’s the most immediately understandable, his world comes with the highest stakes—when people die in Peter Parker’s world, they STAY DEAD, no take-backs—and with all the advances in cinematic technology over the last twenty years, his high-flying acrobatics through the urban canyons of Manhattan make for some of the most stunning sequences in any superhero movie, period. All of that stuff works in this latest installment in the rebooted franchise—Peter is likeable and sympathetic thanks entirely to Andrew Garfield’s charming, spot-on performance, life and death matter (oh boy, do they ever matter), and this is best-looking Spider-Man movie (and one of the best-looking superhero movies) made yet. At points, it’s a pleasure to watch.

Please be my best friend--I mean, the Gwen parts are legit good.

Please be my best friend–I mean, the Gwen parts are legit good.

But then it inevitably comes crashing down. And frustration mounts, and dissatisfaction sets in. And it is incredibly annoying because Goddamn it, Garfield is SO GREAT as Peter and Emma Stone is SO INCREDIBLE as Gwen Stacy and Dane DeHaan showed SO MUCH PROMISE as Harry Osborn that they deserved a much better movie than they got. At least the part of the movie about those three did work very well. The best sequence in the movie was when the scene cut between Peter and Harry as they unraveled their fathers’ respective secrets and began to fully understand what those legacies would mean for them.

More of this, please.

More of this, please.

And Gwen, though short-changed on screen time, was wonderfully written and realized and her death was handled beautifully in every respect. It was genuinely moving and you wonder how Peter will ever really move on from Gwen, who was a true partner and confidant. Spider-Man’s life is incredibly lonely—he has no sidekick, no one knows his secret (though in this movie it seems like maybe Aunt May has figured it out), and Mary Jane always seems to be dating other guys. But now, since Gwen was so incredible, the movies have a chance to explore a Peter who chooses that loneliness because he’s still carrying a torch for Gwen, rather than falling into it because his friends keep trying to kill him and Mary Jane is always fucking off to date someone else.

What did not work—what OVERWHELMINGLY did not work—were the various villain plots. Paul Giamatti’s Rhino was nothing but a silly, cartoonish cameo that could have been disposed of entirely. It served no purpose except to set up the Sinister Six and tonally, it didn’t fit with the rest of the movie at all. Jamie Foxx’s Electro was little better. His backstory plays like a carbon copy of the Riddler in Batman Forever and any real sense of menace Foxx generates is undercut by Hans Zimmer’s frankly ridiculous dub-step theme. Also, Pharrell Williams’ “Enemies Unite” song was ludicrous within the context of the movie. Again, cartoonish, silly, atonal and serving no purpose other than to advertise a future villain team-up movie.

LESS OF THIS NONSENSE.

LESS OF THIS NONSENSE.

I would have much preferred to see the movie hinted at in the scenes between Peter and Harry. Dispose of all the villains—at this point we’ve seen enough superhero movies to begin breaking the genre’s rules—and let us spend time with Peter and Harry as they both reestablish their friendship and try and deal with the burdens their fathers left for them. Make the B plot all about Gwen trying to move on from Peter but ultimately not being able to because besides their love, she is also a hero, unable to walk away when she knows she can help protect people. I don’t need to see Spider-Man engage with a real “villain” until the very end when the Green Goblin is introduced.

You want to set up future installments in a franchise? That’s how you do it—make us care so much about these characters that when the “oh shit” moment drops at the end, we simply MUST see what happens next. Don’t rush us through a supervillain’s backstory, butcher a worthy heroine’s character arc and cheat the hero out of enjoying the good times before it’s all taken away just so you can cram in reminders about a future movie every twenty minutes.

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5 Responses to “Batman Forever + Iron Man 2 = The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

  1. Tina M. Says:

    I have to admit, I somewhat despised all of the father backstory in this movie. Agreed that Stone was luminous and confident and graceful and pretty much everything I’d wish for in a portrayal of a young female scientist about to go rule the world, but even she ended up subject to the exact same fate as her dad (wonder if she’ll be ghostin’ it in ASM3). One of my favorite things about Spider-Man is that he was basically a nobody who set himself apart by choosing to live by the “great power/great responsibility” credo. That was later retconned when the comics put forth that his parents had been working for SHIELD, but they can’t do that in this franchise anyway, so why bother turning OsCorp into a pale imitation? Instead, they’ve taken Peter’s choice (and really shortchanged Martin Sheen’s great Uncle Ben from ASM) out of his hands and made him “The Chosen One.” Same thing with Harry – the tragedy of the Osborns is that despite having everything they could have wanted (money, power, smarts) they succumb to evil out of their own weakness and obsessions, not because of some disease that turns them into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

    It’s frustrating because Webb (and his CGI team) have absolutely captured the joyful essence of Spider-Man out in the city fighting crime. He’s a little bit of a cocky jerk, but backs it up by showing real concern for the people out on the streets. He’s somewhat strong, but mostly clever and resourceful. I think Garfield brings a little too much of the cocky a-hole back into Peter Parker, but he shows a real joy and aptitude for the masked iteration of the character. And thankfully, because they’re using so many effects, they let him stay masked, which was one of the most irritating parts of the original trilogy. But overall, this is a themeless mess of a movie wherein nobody really learns or realizes much of anything. Even SM3 had Peter realizing that it’s better to be his goober self instead of some weird hipster-emo douchebag.

  2. Oh dear. I haven’t seen ASM2 yet, and I’ll only be seeing it for Dane DeHaan (an outlier of my celeb crushes), but this movie’s entire foundation reeks of Sony’s growing panic and desperation to create a Spidey version of the MCU.

    I read somewhere that the writers for the movie didn’t have much experience writing for film (they mostly wrote for TV, Alex Kurtzman/Roberto Orci)? So WHY on EARTH would Sony hire inexperienced film writers for the sequel of their biggest and most important (and only major) franchise? Would that be a producer or studio decision? It goes against all common sense and logic in the handling and development of the anticipated sequel for a major franchise of one of the most popular superheroes .

    It sucks that ASM2 turned into an enormous commercial. I know Sony (and the studios in general) only cares about money, but wouldn’t it understand the importance of sustaining a good Spiderman brand by maintaining narrative and quality, especially since the Spidey reboot already has enough naysayers? We know, and comic and film fans know, that Spider-Man 3 is horrible, but officially it has better reviews than ASM2, and ASM2 is the first of all the Spidey movies to have bad reviews across the board. Will this matter in the slightest to Sony? (it definitely will if ASM2 can’t hit a billion in the BO)

    • It won’t hit a billion. The projection is $700-800M worldwide, which is still a shitton of money. That’s actually the problem–these movies don’t have to be great and they still rake in the dough, so there’s not much impetus to make them significantly better. Why should they care about the RT score when they’re making the money anyway and, more importantly, selling the merchandise?

      Kurtzman/Orci have had more success on TV, but they’re experienced film screenwriters, they just don’t have a lot of hits to their name. They wrote the 2009 Star Treak, though, and got a bunch of film deals out of it, including Spider-Man. JJ Abrams likes them, and between Star Trek’s success and Abrams’ support, they were able to book a lot of work. But they’ve recently announced they’re ending their writing partnership for feature films, probably because they have not been able to replicate their TV success at that level. But it wasn’t a totally crazy choice. Marvel has made WAY wackier choices in choosing writers, frankly.

  3. Could you please go more in-depth concerning how Gwen was cheated out of her heroine arc? I’d like to understand your point of view better. I thought it was tailored in such a way to make us giddy for the love/sentimental scenes so that when IT finally happened, it would be that much more painful. I’m probably wrong.

    • It’s mostly in the way that she disappears in the middle of the movie. She doesn’t really ever develop as a person in her own right, just as Peter’s love interest. Imagine if they’d cut Electro from the movie (because he was ridiculous anyway) and they dedicated some of that time to developing Gwen as an individual. Then, when she dies, we care not only because Peter is gutted, but because Gwen was a great character we loved for herself, too. The analog would be Peggy Carter in Captain America. She made such an impression as an individual that she is able to carry her own, Cap-less projects. And it didn’t take that much screen time to do it, we were just given a chance to appreciate Peggy as a person on her own, not just as the object of Cap’s desire.

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