Monday, May 5, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Currently, as I write this, I'm sitting at home, deciding whether I should take a trip to the local multiplex to see the new Spidey flick.  After 2012's reboot, the world of Spider-Man was ruined for me (for that review, click here).  Being a diehard Spidey fan all of my life, that's a tough thing for me to admit.  I've actually considered putting a halt to collecting all things Spidey, due to that one movie.  Where Sam Raimi solidified my love for the comic book character, Marc Webb is making me reconsider.

It's funny, looking back at the first (rebooted) film, how a lot of changes were made just to distance that new movie from Raimi's trio of films.  The crudest of changes was the costume...ugh!  The photos released were rebuked and ridiculed by all the fans as it gave us an early look to how the film was going to be.  To hear that Raimi wanted to feature The Lizard in his (never accomplished) part four film and Sony talked him out of it, only to have that same villain in the reboot is ludicrous.  The constant boasting that they were going to cut down the CGI and simply use practical wire work to display Spider-Man's web swinging, then the movie CGI'd the shit out of The Lizard, was a little confusing.  The worst, by far, is that the whole world of Peter Parker was a big Twilight vibe that just reeked of shitty writing.

I'll say this for the sequel to 2012's reboot-at least the production listened and decided to go back to Spidey's traditional look that Raimi's films captured, even going a bit further to make him look exactly like the comic book depiction.  But what I've seen so far in the trailers-the mechanical Rhino and the hair gelled Green Goblin-makes me want to skip this.  I can already see that everything is tying into Oscorp, with all the villains gaining their abilities or toys from the company.  Plus it looks like they're going to continue the boring saga of Peter's parents and why they left him as a child.  It was uninteresting in the comics and it appears unexciting in this new rebooted franchise.

Now, a lot of people are pissed that Sony has the rights to Spider-Man and that they wish Marvel would gain the rights back for their film production company, getting the character involved in their cinematic universe, and I agree.  But that's the way things happened, Marvel Comics sold the live-action movie rights to the Spider-Man character a loooooong time ago, way before they had their own movie production.  I'd hate to admit it, but if it weren't for them selling the rights to Spidey and some of the other Marvel characters, we probably wouldn't have the movies they'd given us so far, leading to the upcoming Avengers 2 and beyond.  But we can all do something about it...we can join the "Boycott Remakes" movement and help the cause to have Marvel gain all their characters back (for more on that, click here).

Well, I'm going to try and have an open mind...I'm going to head over to watch The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Okay, after a scant 3 hours (movie plus previews and the interesting after-credits stinger), I'm back.  So, without beating around the bush, I'll admit, it was a good movie.

Before getting into some of the aspects and scene expositions of the movie, let me break down the story for you.

The film opens with Peter Parker's parents, in a flashback scene, showing them heading somewhere on a private jet after fleeing their home and leaving their son with his aunt and uncle.  As Peter's dad, Richard (Campbell Scott), is trying to transfer a file to somewhere called "Roosevelt," one of the pilots comes out of the cockpit to try and kill them.  The plane becomes crippled and is about to crash, but not before we see that Richard was able to complete the file transfer.  The film then cuts to present day, where we see Peter/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) at work, helping police stop an armored car jacking.  During the chase scene, Spidey saves the life of Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), a lowly electric engineer of Oscorp who later becomes an electrically supercharged villain named Electro after an accident at work.  Struggling with the promise he made Captain Stacy (an uncredited Denis Leary) about staying away from his daughter, Gwen (Emma Stone), Peter goes up against the powerful Electro and defeats him.  But after escaping his incarceration, Electro returns, more powerful than ever, going up against Spider-Man, to try and destroy him for good.

Well, to go over the film, piece by piece, let me start from the beginning, because there's a lot more to that short summation I'd just given.

So the opening with the plight of Peter's parents was interesting, especially after seeing where it went as it was revealed near the end of the film.  I still think it's a little unnecessary to bring the story of Richard and Mary Parker into this franchise, but it was a nice little thrilling scene to start the film.  As I'd read the comics and the saga of Peter's parents reemerged back into his life, I thought it was interesting.  I'm sure every fan of the comic book series wanted to know whatever happened to his parents and how he ended up with his aunt and uncle, so the series answered those questions...until they were revealed to be a couple of androids put into Peter's life by some villain. But hopefully, and by the looks of it in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the story has been put to bed in the new rebooted franchise and we've heard and seen the last of his parents...but I won't hold my breath.

It's good to see Peter has honed his skills perfectly since the first film.  While he was a little bungling and clumsy when he came into his powers in part one, he now can swing and maneuver beautifully throughout the buildings and sky as if it were second nature to him.  Even though I refused to see this in 3D (still not convinced by the gimmick that costs an extra five or six dollars to experience...not only that, but in accomplishing my Boycott Remakes Movement, I had to see the standard version of the film), the scenes of Spidey web-slinging and travelling through New York's cityscapes was amazing.  Not only that, but the way he uses his webbing to achieve some of the movements he needs to perform to avoid danger was pretty incredible-kudos to the special effects crew for that CGI (so much for wire work, eh, Marc Webb?).

We definitely get a better Spidey in this sequel-wisecracking, joking, and humorous camaraderie with police and firemen-it's almost right out of the comic book pages.  Garfield certainly improves in this one, as does the costume, so it's obvious that the filmmakers listened to the gripes of the real Spider-Man fans.  Though I still love the look of the character in the Raimi films, this new look comes pretty close.  I guess it has a lot to do with Garfield's physique, because he's a tall gangly kid and already looks a little strange sans costume.  I only wish they'd fit the costume a little better, but I believe it was done purposely to give the outfit a more realistic look to it.

I had my reservations with Jamie Foxx as Electro-I'd quit collecting comic books in the late 90s and I'm not familiar with the "Ultimate" titles or volume 2 of the "Amazing" title of books-but my concerns went away when I witnessed him in this film, especially when he becomes Electro.  As he was being portrayed as the nobody before gaining his powers, I felt it was a little cartoony and out of place, losing the realism of the film.  Memories of Jim Carrey as Edward Nygma in Batman Forever came to mind when I was watching Foxx play the pre-Electro character.  However, it was soon forgiven after his transformation into the villain.

The continued story of Gwen and Peter is pretty well done as we see great chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield.  I guess it helps that they're a couple in real life, but I'd think they'd pull off their performances regardless.  Gone is the Twilight-esque vibe we'd gotten from the 2012 film with more of an upbeat love story between the two in this one.  However, besides being the love interest of Peter Parker, the character of Gwen Stacy really didn't add much to the story.  What the character did provide-a few plot devices that helped Spider-Man in his second encounter with Electro-could've been thought up by the hero himself, which is pretty much what he'd do in the comic books.  I do have a few more words of critique I'd like to impart, but I don't want to give any more of the story away so I'll leave it at that.

The one character that was wasted and had nothing to add to this story was Aunt May (Sally Field).  Besides being in the movie to show her being upset with Peter for being late to graduation or turning the laundry red and blue, there really was no need to include her in the film.  But, of course, that would upset fans like me who'd decree it a sin to have a Spidey flick without Aunt May.  I just wish they'd give her more to do or have the character be more influential to Peter/Spider-Man.

Two characters I didn't mention in the synopsis were Alexsei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) and Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan).

Giamatti's scenes were very tiny, with the few minutes in the opening to reestablish the audience to Spider-Man's heroics and another at the end to introduce us to Sytsevich's alter-ego, The Rhino.  Although very short, Giamatti played the part a little too animated and way overboard on top of that.  We really get no character development about his part, but maybe we'll get it in the sequel or in the "Sinister Six" standalone
movie that has been promised.  Above all else, I really don't get why Oscorp developed an armor that resembles a rhinoceros.

Dane Dehaan's Harry Osborn has a bit more to do in this film and is responsible for some of the chaos that goes on near the middle act of the story.  But the whole introduction of his character was a little forced and rushed.  One thing that had me amused was that Harry's brought in to take over his father's estate and company.  As Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper, also uncredited) is on his death bed, he lets his son know that his disease has been passed down to him as it's hereditary.  Just then, Harry's hand starts trembling and soon after, he starts feeling the effects of the disease.  It just seemed a little strange that Harry shows up looking to be in perfect health and after his dad says he has the same ailment, he starts looking sickly.
Overall, the continued everything-ties-in-to-Oscorp storyline is already getting tired in my opinion.  But I guess it gives the villains credence to how they gain their super-powered abilities and/or subsequent mechanical devices.

One last thing before I get into my final words of this film is the music score, credited not only to Hans Zimmer but also Johnny Marr and Pharrell Williams.  If there's anything I dislike about this movie is the music featured throughout.  Oddly enough, Zimmer's themes were a little off and didn't mesh well with the themes.  The music seemed to want to go somewhere that the scene was not portraying and I noticed it right away.  But the worst was the decision to include pop songs peppered during the film; it ruined whatever was happening and stuck out like a sore thumb as not belonging whatsoever.

Well, without further ado, here's my final "bit" on The Amazing Spider-Man 2...

The film is a much more confident and established movie than the 2012 film.  Where the first (rebooted) film left plotlines dangling or just had open voids that went nowhere, part two answers some questions and leaves no doors unopened.  Director Marc Webb seemed to have a better plan here and stuck to it, proving to be more poised with his storytelling of the webbed one.  The movie has very superb action scenes and entertaining dialogue, so it won't disappoint the average movie-going fan.  The only downfall to the villains was their short range of going from liking Peter Parker/Spider-Man to outright hating him.  Other than that, the film was pretty solid in its entertainment value.  But as a Spider-Man fan, I'd still say this franchise pales in comparison to what Sam Raimi accomplished back in '02 and '04.  If I were to grade all the Spidey films, Raimi's and Webb's combined, starting from worst to best, these would be the rankings:

5) The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
4) Spider-Man 3 (2007)
3) The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
2) Spider-Man (2002)
1) Spider-Man 2 (2004)

So, right down the middle is where this film falls in contrast.  But don't get me's a very good film, great for the whole family and it won't disappoint.  Even if you're a comic book fan, you'll enjoy it and like the improvement from the first rebooted film.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is worth a watch while it's still in theaters, but don't fall for the hype of 3D and just enjoy it in the standard format (not to mention avoiding the migraine-like headache you get when wearing those glasses).

So, that's my look at the latest Spidey film...not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I'll stick with my movement to stop remakes (click here for more info).

Until next time, you can reach me on Twitter or Facebook.

Thanks for reading!