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 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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I am genuinely of the opinion that Marvel could release a film that was nothing more than the Avengers characters farting into a microphone and dicking around for two hours and it would still be far superior to practically anything else released in the movie world. Sure there’s been some slight misfires along the way (Thor, Iron Man 2 etc, although these still piss on any of the poor relations in the comic book world such as Fantastic Four and the never-to-be-spoken-of-again Green Lantern and Spider-Man 3) but with a canon as strong as Marvels they can practically do whatever they bloody well like to for all I care.

It’s the return of the Cap for Marvels latest blockbuster. After the shenanigans of The Avengers, Steve Rogers finds himself still in present day America trying to adapt to modern life, doing his usual fearless soldier schtick whilst battling with some naughty folk from his past. Basic premise: There’s a mole within S.H.I.E.L.D and it’s up to Cap to find them and save the day as usual. Plenty of S.H.I.E.L.D, the lovely Scarlett and nods to the other players in The Avengers, but the focus remains firmly on Cap and it certainly doesn’t feel like Marvel are just killing time until Iron Man or The Avengers can ride again. It’s everything you could want from a Marvel film; the usual insane action sequences, the usual pop culture and poking fun at themselves gags and the usual Stan Lee.

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This is how superhero films should be. None of this “oh no, I’ve lost my superhero mojo, I need to find myself, become in control and powerful and save the day again.” Just plenty of Chris Evans / Cap doing what they do; cracking some skulls and getting the job done. I’m glad that Marvel didn’t go down that “finding himself” route as seems to be the norm for superhero sequels these days. This is briefly touched upon with Cap trying to adapt to life away from gramophones and box social dances (or whatever those crazy kids did in the 1940’s) but thankfully it was a just a brief nod to that instead of a two hour hour soul searching feature. Cap’s not someone who needs to find himself and become the hero that S.H.I.E.L.D needs him to be, because he already is that hero. A soldier, a patriot and a lean, mean, bad guy grilling machine.

I feel like I’m one of the few people who adored the first Captain America film and it baffles me that people consider Thor and the like to be bigger draws at the box office. Fair enough I’m a sucker for an origin story and the 1940’s, but still… With such a great and well rounded character, incredibly strong solo feature films and with him basically being Top Dog in The Avengers, you’d expect him to be knocking Iron Man off his lofty box office perch.

Everything is set up nicely for Marvels next major ensemble piece, but this is far more than just a stop gap feature, it rightly deserves to be up with there with the cream of the Marvel crop. A stunning addition to an already stunning set of films.

9/10

 

Rick