BSX Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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YES!

Hello and welcome to another installment of BSX Reviews! I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was really anticipating the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2; the trailers (all 600 of them) really did their job selling me a ticket. So last night, spur of the moment, the BSX gang decided to take a field trip to the local cinema and midnight release the Amazing Spider-Man 2! This review will cover minor spoilers, so you’ve been warned!

Da Crew!
Da Crew!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (TAS2) is the continuation of the Spider-man reboot, produced by Sony Pictures. It picks up four years (I think?) after the first Amazing Spider-Man, and opens on high-school graduation day. Peter and Gwen are still a couple and seem to be in a very close relationship. Peter’s alter ego has become much more confident and comfortable with his abilities, and his wise cracking is, in my opinion, at it’s best. In the first Amazing Spider-Man movie the story treaded water; again, we had to watch the origin story of ol’ web head. You know the story: Dead parents, living with Aunt May and, of course, Uncle Ben’s death. With all that out of the way Sony Pictures now had a clear opportunity to go in a different direction and try something new. Sony has taken some small risks while playing within the boundaries of the Spider-man canon, while still playing it safe with all the major plot points. Let’s break down the three good points, and three bad points before delivering judgment.

 

The Good:

AGHHH Kiss Already!
AGHHH Kiss Already!

Gwen Stacie

Usually when a movie gives anyone but the protagonist or antagonist screen time, it’s meant to progress the story or give exposition. Today’s modern movie going audience is much more mindful of these types of tonal shifts. Subconsciously or consciously, we know we’re most likely going to have to wait to see another punch being thrown. TAS2 could have easily fallen into this trap since they’ve focused so heavily on Peter and Gwen’s relationship. Gwen doesn’t play the damsel in distress, or any other clichéd archetype for female leads, and that’s exactly what makes her interesting to watch. When you remove the expected outcome to character interactions, the dynamic conversation on screen is much more engaging. It’s also nice to see a side character do something, actually do something, to help the hero defeat their antagonist. If I had to nit pick anything about Gwen’s role in TAS2, it’s that her foreshadowing was far too heavy. A minor complaint compared to the abundance of her scenes within the movie. Hats off to the actors, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, who both deliver funny and heartwarming dialogue, and had wonderful chemistry on screen.

Pretty cool scene
Pretty cool scene

The Action

If there were one thing I can definitely point to and say, “that is the best element of the movie”, it would have to be Spidey’s movement. His swings felt dynamic, and you could really imagine what the momentum of a 200 foot swing must feel like. In the original set of Spider-Man movies directed by Sam Raimi, the action seemed too jilted and stiff. I understand we’ve had over a decade since the first move was released, as such, the VFX have become much more realistic. Even so, in those movies, Peter never felt like he was nimble, or fought the way we’d expect Spider-Man to throw down. Something that came through in TAS1, is that he’s not trained in martial arts, so his punches and kicks look very unique. Essentially, he’s using his spider sense to anticipate his opponent’s attack, and he throws out any appendage he can to take advantage of their openings. In TAS2, he has expanded his fighting style to more creatively utilize his web slingers, and control the situation. I don’t know how else to say it, other than, watching Spider-Man fight is mesmerizing. You don’t want to blink because you want to see every unique move he makes. Bravo to the character animators that made his swinging, fighting, and web slinging so realistic. In terms of set pieces, and action sequences, there are four featured fights within the film. I won’t spoil them, but if you’ve seen any of the (1,000) trailers for the movie, then you’ll know Spidey fights Electro. Those sequences make the movie worth seeing, if only for the spectacle of all the VFX and simulations happening on screen.

This is how people look at me when I cried at Aunt May.
This is how people look at me when I cried at Aunt May.

The Emotional Core

Walking into this movie, I expected it to be based on a very monumental story in Spider-Man’s past. The story I’m talking about is a very emotional and profoundly soul crushing experience in Peter’s life. In the comics, it’s something that affected Peter for years, even decades after it was originally penned. From the outset, you know this movie doesn’t have the same tone as the first one; it balances moments of levity and humor, with stark reality, and sadness. All of the key characters in this movie have tragic backgrounds they can pull from, and when executed correctly, pay off in a big way. Specifically, a scene with Aunt May is very effective at not just pulling at your heart strings, but running a rosined bow across them very, VERY slowly. I can’t go into too much more without spoiling it, but I really appreciated the depth they gave most of the characters, it made them feel more realistic.

 

The Bad:

Looks like he's posing for a selfie.
Looks like he’s posing for a selfie.

The Exposition

It’s an unfortunate side effect of one of my other points, but due to the amount of antagonists and rogue characters within the movie, the exposition is doled out at break neck speeds. If there is one character that really got the shaft due to the limited running time, it’s Harry Osborn. If I remember correctly, three of his four introductory scenes have him spouting exposition, to other characters, which return dialogue in kind. It’s really a shame since Dane DeHaan, the actor portraying Harry, is so good. If they had cut about 8-10 minutes of the Rhino’s (Paul Giamatti ) footage out of this movie, then Harry could have taken the time to build his character naturally. Imagine if in The Dark Knight, Joker came into the mob boss meeting and said: “Guys, I’m an agent of chaos, and I’ll help you kill the Batman.” Then one the mobsters — let’s say Gamble — tells the rest of his peers “Hey, we shouldn’t trust this guy, I’ve heard he’s crazy and blew up a hospital in Bludhaven”… That’s the caliber of exposition Harry Osborn has to work with, back-story, met with back-story. Remember one of the rules of narrative filmmaking: Show, don’t tell.

He looked better than I thought he would.
He looked better than I thought he would.

The “More Villains = Better Movie” Fallacy

Reading an early review of this movie by one of my cousins, he equated this movie to DC’s Batman and Robin. While that’s pretty harsh insult to lay at the feet of this film, I can see where he’s coming from. This movie has too much going on, too many villains, and too many overlapping story lines. First off, there is one main antagonist; thank god they didn’t over extend themselves there. Electro, for all intents and purposes, is the “bad guy” of the film, followed by Harry who is set up as a mastermind for the sequel. Rhino is almost non-existent in the film, and is used to bookend the movie. Very quickly I’ll discuss the look and motivations of the characters.

vvv  MINOR SPOILERS  vvv

My face watching the Rhino...
My face watching the Rhino…

First up, Electro. Max Dillon — an introvert and schizophrenic obsessed with Spider-Man — finds himself with transparent skin and the ability to absorb and project electric energy, after an accident involving electric eels. I remember seeing this in preproduction, and thinking, “Wow, that’s going to look stupid”; thankfully, I was wrong. His look is actually kind of cool! The translucent skin is very well done, but his voice is a little…weak? Decent bad guy, though. I would’ve preferred if they’d left Rhino out of the movie and developed his Max’s mental condition even more. His motivation to attack Spider-Man is because he feels Spidey betrayed him and he wants to “Be seen.”

The Sex
The Sex

Harry Osborn is young, aggressive, and full of hatred due to being mistreated by his father. To top it all off, Harry is dying, thanks to a genetic condition passed onto him by his father. He believes Spider-Man’s mutated blood can help him recover and beat his fatal disease. When he finally does turn into the Green Goblin, it’s very, VERY underwhelming. The glider, pumpkin bombs and ear pieces get very little spotlight, which says to me, that this isn’t the “Green Goblin” this is simply Harry in a tactical battle suit. I hope they revisit this character in the next movie, and actually show him take on the moniker.

Yup... That's Rhino
Yup… That’s Rhino

Rhino: Unnecessary, stupid, and boring are words I’d use to describe Rhino (and just did!). I think he’s supposed to be a funny character, but I couldn’t really understand him or his motivations. Also, the Rhino mech looks REALLY stupid; the head bobs along, entirely too high, looking like something an amateur cosplayer would make.

WTF is this? lol
WTF is this? lol

Plot Holes and Camp!

There are glaring potholes in this movie, one in particular that I won’t cover here. Everything just seems too convenient, not for Peter Parker mind you, just the villains. They didn’t seem to have a purpose, to be organized, or have any sort of plan. That’s okay, they don’t have to have a master plan, but some rhyme or reason to the madness would really be appreciated. Then there are the “characters” in the movie; actors that don’t act like any rational human being, they disregard self-preservation, and apparently have no fear in the face of certain death. Again, Rhino’s character, he must be mentally impaired and psychotic to boot. NO ONE would try to reload a jammed rifle, while driving highly explosive plutonium down a busy intersection. All while Spider-Man is just hanging out, outside the door of the truck talking to you(???). There’s also a German scientist who works for Oscorp; he studies Electro and he is completely unconcerned with his own safety when the electrocution he’s administering to Electro actually empowers him, instead of controlling him. Finally, the NY city public at large! There are MANY times in this movie where the public simply stand behind a police barricade while Electro — a GOD-LIKE being — is flying around wrecking shit! It’s astounding how dumb some of these characters are, and, again, that would be completely acceptable if this movie wasn’t going for hyperrealism. I think that’s my major problem with the stupid “characters” and the campiness of the movie: they’re trying to do a gritty realistic take on Spider-Man. They took a misstep in the same way that Dark Knight Rises did — wanting to plant their feet in comic book world AND the real world. When we see these scenarios play out on screen, it rings false and you start to notice the incongruousness.

It was good, wasn't it?
It was good, wasn’t it?

In Conclusion:

I’d like to close the review by reiterating that this IS a good movie. If you enjoyed the first one, then you’ll most likely enjoy this one; it just seems a little unfocused when it comes to the motivations and stories of the villains. The strongest part of this movie is the human element, particularly between Peter & Gwen, as well as Peter & Aunt May — they turned a movie which could have been a head on collision into a mere fender bender. I remember reading that Mary Jane was supposed to be in this movie, presumably to set up a romantic interest for Peter Parker in future installments; if they had included her in this movie, it would’ve been a disaster. The core of the movie is the relationship between Peter and Gwen, and honestly, that would’ve been more than enough for me.

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