Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 REVIEW

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Well, it was going to happen.  I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 again, so I’m going to review it.  And you’re going to read about it (maybe).  At least the next review I publish will be for Spider-Man: Homecoming, which *should* be better than at least the last 3 Spider-Man movies I reviewed!

This is one of those movies that has a number of good points, but each of those good points comes with a major caveat.  And then there are a whole bunch of other issues with it.  So this movie really does deserve all the hate it receives.

Let’s start off with the Peter/Gwen relationship, considering that it’s the biggest thing in both of their character arcs.  Positively, every aspect of their relationship is acted well.  Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield were in a relationship in real life at the time, and that chemistry does carry over into the movie.  There was a good deal of cheesy dialogue like the first movie, but nothing quite as bad.  Unfortunately, this relationship is seriously over-complicated in the movie.  First you have the whole “Ghost Dad” situation (which isn’t as funny without Bill Cosby (too soon?)):  Peter feels guilty for being with Gwen when her father told him expressly to “Leave Gwen out of it.”  This is an interesting dynamic to play with, consider that Peter is a “good person” and wants what’s best for Gwen, while at the same time having serious feelings for her.  However, on top of this there is also the situation with Gwen moving to England to study at Harvard, which is also rather interesting as it pulls Peter in two different directions between his role as New York’s hero and his love of Gwen and desire to be with her.

These two subplots are both interesting, but they pull the plot in two different directions.  They would have been so much better off to focus on just one of them in this movie.  Personally, I would have put Gwen’s “This is my choice” speech in the first movie, right after her father’s whole “Leave Gwen out of it” thing (where it belongs).  That way you get it out of the way and move past it with their relationship, instead of retreading the same “will they/won’t they” story from the first movie.  Then the second movie can take a little more time to explore Peter’s thoughts about Gwen leaving and why he doesn’t want to go with her.  This would then give Gwen’s death even more meaning for having seen their relationship in a much more positive light—because they were actually in one for most of the movie!

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On the subject of Gwen’s death, it was certainly an emotional moment.  However, they drew it out far too long.  In fact, every last part of the conclusion was drawn out far too long.  The “Death of Gwen Stacy” had way too many surprise “She’s not dead yet!” moments.  The funeral and Peter mourning lasted too long (movie time and seasons).  The big reveal of the Rhino and Spider-Man’s return (with its unfulfilled fight-tease) was drawn out way too long and had way too little actual fighting.  They could have trimmed everything from the Goblin’s reveal to the end of the movie in half and the movie would have been so much better.

The Goblin himself may have been the worst part of this entire movie—and that’s saying something!  Norman Osborn hardly factors into the movie, although Richard Parker reveals that Norman was planning to sell the spider technology to a foreign government to make a quick buck, which doesn’t make any sense when he’s doing everything in his power to cure his “Goblin Disease” (all I remember of the actual name is “hyperplasia”).  And on that note, WHY IS “GOBLINISM” NOW A DISEASE???  What makes him the Goblin is that he chooses to be selfish and evil, rather than having it thrust upon him by some random nonsensical disease.  And that’s without even mentioning Harry Osborn.

Harry himself doesn’t actually get any real character development; he gets exposition dumps to explain his daddy issues and his history with Peter.  The rest of the movie doesn’t improve his character:  he’s flat and one-note and really just a jerk.  He never goes through anything like a transformation or development; he’s just a whiny little brat.  I don’t think this is a problem with the actor; I think the script just didn’t know how to get him from “Peter’s old friend” to Goblin and cut as many corners as it could.

The character design on the Green Goblin is terrible, although the sequence with Harry reacting to the spider venom is intriguing.  He just looks like a guy in an armored suit—and we’ve see plenty of those.  The colors are far too muted on the suit and his face.  He shows no variety of emotion or expression beyond the manic face he makes the whole time he’s on screen.  The movie would have been a whole lot better without the Green Goblin.

Although the Green Goblin is terrible, Max Dillon/Electro is actually pretty good.  His story of being ignored and forgotten is surprisingly sympathetic.  However, they couldn’t leave well enough alone and instead had to turn him into a complete nutcase with a freaky Spider-Man obsession.  It would have been better if they had moderated his “obsession” and focused more on making him a complete character.  If they had done that and focused on Electro exclusively, the movie would have been much better as a whole, instead of throwing in random extra villain teases.
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The action sequences are also really good in this movie.  They are bright and colorful and exciting, especially the fight with Electro in the power plant.  I’m not sure why there’s a giant bell tower next to it or any of the logistics behind it, but it makes for an interesting backdrop for the fight.  In fact, this fight sequence almost manages to be the only positive element of this movie that doesn’t come with a qualification.  Unfortunately, there’s still at least one:  why on earth do they keep cutting away from the fight to an air traffic control tower, a pair of jetliners on a collision course, and Aunt May’s student nursing?  I get that they wanted to establish some real-world stakes for the fight, but this didn’t actually do it.  Instead of increasing the stakes, this just distracts from an otherwise-good action scene.  We have no connection to the air traffic controllers or the people on the plane.  Why should we care that these planes are going to crash?  I don’t like seeing innocent people hurt anymore than anyone else, but I don’t have any emotional connection to this thing.  We barely have any connection to Aunt May’s nursing thing beyond that one conversation, and the stakes aren’t for her at the hospital; they are for the nameless, faceless patients.  I would rather just watch Spider-Man and Electro duke it out without cutting to all these extraneous things.

I haven’t talked about one of the major elements of this movie yet, mostly because it just doesn’t fit in anywhere.  Peter’s parents and the mystery of his father’s disappearance:  what’s it doing in this movie?  It doesn’t really add anything to Peter’s character.  It doesn’t connect to Electro, and barely connects to Goblin, since Peter didn’t find out about the genetic thing until after refusing to give Harry his blood.  They built it up as this important thing by making it the focus of the first movie’s end-credits scene, but it doesn’t really go anywhere.  This movie would have been better without this “mystery” entirely.
What's this guy even doing here?
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At this point we need to talk about what Sony was trying to do with this movie:  create its own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  They introduce three villains (Electro, Goblin, and Rhino), and tease a bunch more (Ock, Vulture, Black Cat, Venom…).  However, Rhino is just shoehorned in at the beginning as a Russian maniac and then comes back at the end of the movie in a knock-off Iron Man suit that looks like a rhino.  He doesn’t contribute anything to the movie in his second appearance; Peter could have returned to being Spider-Man for many other reasons.  Ock and Vulture do not appear at all in the movie, but they are teased in a decent manner.  However, Sony’s decision to make Vulture, Ock, Rhino, and Goblin into men in mechanized suits that give them slightly different abilities does not make sense.  The point of super teams is for them to have different powers and back stories to set them apart from each other.  One way this happens is by giving each character a different origin and a different source for their powers.  Of the villains teased in this movie, the only one who really works is Felicia Hardy as Harry’s assistant.  She doesn’t get much to do, but it works that way.  Ironically, Felicia’s character actually winds up slightly better developed than Harry’s!

So there we have it:  the end of Sony’s (previous…) attempt to create a comic book universe without input from Marvel Studios.  It had a moderately promising start in The Amazing Spider-Man, and there are glimmers of hope in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that it could have succeeded, but Sony rushed the story straight to the spinoffs and failed to actually build a good foundation.  Nothing about this movie is an unqualified success, and that’s why it failed to live up to any of Sony’s expectations.

Later this week we’ll get to see what Sony can do with Spider-Man when Marvel Studios is calling the shots, and apparently next year we’ll get to see what Sony can do without Spider-Man when Marvel Studios isn’t calling the shots.  Next week we’ll continue working through movies about current MCU characters who started in non-MCU movies:  Daredevil (and Elektra *shudders*).  Stay tuned!

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