Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Goblin up the bad guys.

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In 2012 Andrew Garfield and co re-wrote the Spider-Man play book and manage to breathe new life into a tired and seemingly dead or dying franchise. Another re-imagining of the story of Peter Parker, keeping as far away from the old as possible. The first Amazing Spider-Man certainly managed to quell the doubters, the ones who thought 5 years wasn’t a long enough wait for a reboot, with a rather stunning addition to the comic-book / superhero genre. The hype machine became fully alive for the second offering, with many a viewer salivating with anticipation (myself very much included) and there was a lot of hope that the new cast and crew would allow the Spider-Man franchise to compete on a similar box office and critically acclaimed level to Nolan’s Batman trilogy and any of Marvels Avengers output.

Unfortunately second time is not a charm for the Spider-Man franchise, in a nutshell the film is a bit of a mess, seemingly confused about it’s own identity. Starting with a rather light hearted and comical tone, it suddenly lurches to super serious in tone moments later and continues on this back and forth for the films duration. It’s trying to incorporate what makes The Avengers (it’s light hearted humour) and The Dark Knight trilogy (dark and serious tone) so great but never manages to fully convince at either of these. Not content with being bi-polar, it manages to suffer from multiple personality syndrome, veering briefly into a bog standard National Treasure-esq adventure caper, complete with conspiracy theories and underground wonders. I’m all for films trying to think outside the box when it comes to exhibiting a formulaic genre but it needs to fully convince with it’s core message before venturing out into other fields.

As hard as the assorted players have tried to steer away from the comparisons to the Raimi Spider-Man films, it’s almost impossible to not see significant shared issues that exist within the two worlds. Everyone knows the problems with Spider-Man 3 and how it seemingly blew it’s load with villain overkill and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just no different, with 2 bad guys craving Spider-Mans head on a platter. There’s no time to fully flesh out all of the characters, leaving the film feeling like a bit of a rush job. Dane DeHann, Peter Parker’s long lost old friend Harry Osborne, is quite frankly a poor choice for The Green Goblin, coming off at most times as nothing more than a bland, monotone, almost-reading-off-an-autocue kid with daddy issues. The Goblin himself, seems to have taken most of his cues from the Joker, looks and feel wise, making the character feel more like a poor imitator than a dyed in the wool nasty little so and so. But the problem isn’t just with Osborne himself. Going back to the films villain overkill and inability to flesh out characters fully, the script never really manages to convince us of their friendship and long past, despite Garfield’s best intentions.

 

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Whilst the finale does look visually stunning, as do the opening acts with Spider-Man web slinging his way across New York, it suffers from never really having a proper finishing point. There seemed to be at least 3 or 4 occasions when I was ready to leave the cinema as I presumed it was the end. There’s just too many climatic scenes for one film and rather than being blown away by a climatic ending, it just leaves the viewer clock watching and asking themselves why the film is dragging its multiple finales out.

To its credit, or rather to Garfield and Emma Stones credit, there are a couple of heartbreaking scenes between the two which carry quite a lot of emotional gravitas, their chemistry really being the main shining light in this sequel.

I genuinely wanted to adore The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and it pains me to be so scathing of it, but it really is a mess of a sequel. Its major identity crisis with what film it wanted to be, not learning from the mistakes of the past Spidey offerings and seemingly trying to pander to every fan-boys request means that it’s just a rather uninspiring and confused effort. Sony should consider handing the rights to someone who can continue the franchise and steer it in the right direction. The main pieces are all there, it just needs a little love and care in order to develop into one of the greatest franchises of our generation.

5/10

 

Rick

Review – The Amazing Spider-Man : Suited and Rebooted

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A pessimist once told the world to “quit while you’re ahead.”Sage advice for those of us who only have fleeting moments of greatness, not so sage for those who are destined for a lifetime of it. Unfortunately this advice wasn’t well heeded by the team involved with the original Spider-Man outings, a highly successful franchise practically destroyed in 2 hours with a third installment filled with villain overkill and a badly advised and even more badly received Peter Parker catwalk strut.

Rather than have the studios cut their losses with the franchise or try to repair the everlasting damage, they’ve gone for the ever popular and easy option of a reboot. A re-telling of the story of Spider-Man, different actors and a different spin to keep the money rolling in. A more polite way of saying that the last outing was a bit naff. And who can blame them. The Spider-Man franchise pretty much heralded the boom of modern day superhero movies and it could be argued that without everyone’s favourite leotard wearing roof jumper paving the way along with Wolverine and his mutant cronies, Iron Man and Co might not have had quite the same box office success and critical acclaim that they’ve had in recent years. But I digress…

Taking over the reins from Tobey Maguire is Andrew Garfield as our titular masked hero. Kirsten Dunst and Mary Jane are relegated to the bench and in comes Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Spider-Mans love interest / eye candy. The opening ten minutes could basically have been taken from any high school movie of the past twenty years, the tortured outcast struggling with acceptance in school and struggling to get the girl to notice him. Not to mention the issues with Parker being abandoned as a youngster by his parents. Daddy issues? It seems to be the main prerequisite of being a superhero these days…

Even though the whole “high school outcast” schtick has been done to death, it actually works well in this. Spider-Man isn’t a Batman blessed with money and gadgets or an Iron Man blessed with being a playboy philanthropist, he’s just a normal lad blessed (through blind luck?) with great power.

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The main gripe with Tobey Maguire for me was that even though Spider-Man is supposed to be relatable and more like an everyman than a murderous nasty bastard, he managed to overplay that everyman role to such an extent that it made the character more annoying and unbelievable than relatable. Emotional range as the main thing that’s unbelievable in a film about a guy who gets bitten by a spider and can swing from rooftop to rooftop whilst battling giant lizards… Yep. Garfield manages to play that vulnerability to a tee, keeping Parker / Spider-Man as a relatable and “human” character without overplaying it and becoming more like a figure of ridicule than a superhero.

Garfield and Stone’s sheer likeability gives the film a fair amount of heart, especially in the latter stages, showing us that superhero movies can still be allowed to have a few tender moments and hit those emotional high notes as opposed to just seeing “cool shit getting blown up for 2 hours.”

It’s what you’d expect from a modern block buster: Man starts as tortured man, man gets powers, man is misunderstood, man fights evil, man is understood. All the bases are covered, but it still manages to feel fresh and more than just a rehash of a tired franchise with new faces. The Spider-Man franchise had a lot of soul searching to do after the pitiful 3rd installment, but with this reboot they’ve managed to put a new spin on a much loved and popular character and ensured that the superhero juggernaut has no signs of slowing down. I just sincerely hope that they’ve learnt from their mistakes in the past and don’t make Garfield strut smugly down a dimly lit street in the next outing…

8/10

 

Rick