Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" Entangled in Too Many Angles

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 43 by Leroy Douresseaux

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Running time: 142 minutes (2 hours, 22 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi/action and violence
WRITERS: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and James Pinkner; from a story by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, James Pinkner, and James Vanderbilt (based upon the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)
PRODUCERS: Avi Arad and Matthew Tolmach
EDITOR: Pietro Scalia
COMPOSERS: Hans Zimmer, The Magnificent Six, Johnny Marr, and Pharrell Williams


Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Sally Field, Dane DeHaan, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Marton Csokas, Max Charles, B.J. Novak, Kari Coleman, Michael Massee, and Stan Lee with Chris Cooper and Denis Leary

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a 2014 superhero film and drama from director Marc Webb and stars Andrew Garfield in the title role. It is the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, the 2012 film that was a reboot of Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man film franchise, and this movie is also the fifth Spider-Man film in the series.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2 finds Spider-Man facing a former admirer turned super-villain, while Peter Parker worries that being Spider-Man will endanger his loved ones.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 begins as Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), are about to graduate from high school.  Peter is also loving his life as the costumed, crime-fighting superhero, Spider-Man.  Peter, however, is currently haunted by the specter of police Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary), Gwen's deceased father.  As Capt. Stacy lay dying (in the previous film), Peter promised him to keep Gwen out of his life because of Spider-Man.  Peter reluctantly tries to break up with Gwen, but the two teenagers deeply love each other.  Peter's attempts simply sow confusion.

Meanwhile, at OsCorp Industries, Peter's former friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns to New York City in time to take over the business of his recently deceased father, Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper).  OsCorp's past as a company on the cutting edge of controversial genetic research, however, threatens both Harry and Peter.  Also, a new villain, Electro (Jamie Foxx), appears.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lacks focus, and I think that there are two reasons for that.  First, the screenplay wants to be a story of young romance, but the romance and character drama are overwrought.   Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone give good performances, but Peter and Gwen's relationship is like a car stuck in mud and pointlessly spinning its wheel.  The car isn't going anywhere, and until the end, neither is Peter and Gwen's relationship, and then, that is only for tragic affect.

I think the second reason that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems muddled is because it is more than just a superhero movie; it is the birth of an expanded universe.  Sony, Columbia Pictures' parent, wants to take some of the characters that belong to Marvel Comics' line of Spider-Man comic books and use them to expand their Spider-Man film franchise into a Spider-Man universe.  They want something like Marvel Studios' “Marvel Cinematic Universe.”  Why have just Spider-Man movies when you can have movies starring Spider-Man adversaries like Venom and the Sinister Six.

Marvel essentially used the 2010 film, Iron Man 2, to expand its universe, and that movie tended to drift and lack focus, but in the end, Iron Man 2 was a good movie.   The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is meant to expand the Spider-Man universe, but in the end, it is not really a good movie.  The character melodrama is at odds with the showy action-fantasy violence that is the Spider-Man vs. Electro subplot.  Electro is probably the worse villain yet in the Spider-Man films.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has an engaging visual style, and it is probably at its best when it depicts Spider-Man swinging over New York City, through its canyons and around its buildings and skyscrapers.  Even the fight scenes, which seem tacked on to the story, look good, when they focus on Spider-Man.  Nothing about Electro looks good.  Hopefully, the third installment of The Amazing Spider-Man can be itself, a stand-alone movie that does not have to carry the hopes of Sony's corporate board and accountants.

4 of 10

Monday, September 15, 2014

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