Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

Well, here it is. The big one. The one movie I have been dreading for a multitude of reasons. It's critically divisive to the point where people will argue over the quality of the movie at a drop of a hat. A movie that has so much expectation behind it that it will either be great or a massive failure. A movie that has comic book fans all fighting each other over how Peter Parker and Spider-Man should be interpreted in movies. So many factors are going into this review that this was the first time I had to do extensive research and thought pondering before I even saw the movie. I watched ALL of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, and the first Amazing Spider-Man movie just to get ready for this. Strap yourselves in, cause it's going to be a bumpy ride.

I'll come right out and say this now just so we can have a discussion about the movie and not fanboy over it. One thing I have found abundently clear whenever I do a comic book review is that any criticism that can be made towards the movie can be countered easily. There are usually countless examples in the Spider-Man comics that can justify what happened in the movie, or how a character is portrayed, or how the characters interact with each other. In other words, everyone can justify or denounce most elements in any comic book movies, and that's fine... to a point. Each critic is their own, and when it comes to movies about comics, they should be taken as films first and not as comic books first. The films will establish their own universe, and therefore should be taken as their own. When you add comic semantics to the mix, then it just becomes a cluttered mess of criticism that blurs the lines between critiquing the movie and critiquing the comics. Bottom line, I'm taking The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as a film first and not as a Spider-Man movie.

With all that said, I liked the movie. It was good, but definitely not great. There were a lot of flaws with it, but the flaws came from more internal aspects of the movie that were apparent on screen. There were moments that worked and moments that didn't, but on the whole I was fine with what I saw.

Yeah this isn't accurate at all
 Wasn't expecting that? Well it happens. I went into this movie fully expecting it to be a letdown, but I was pleasantly surprised with it for about half the time. The other half just felt rushed, poorly handled, and disappointing. In order to fully get my criticisms, I'm just gonna break this review into three sections; the good, the bad, and the weird. I'm going to be making comparisons to all of the Spider-Man movies up until this point, so spoilers be warned for all Spider-Man movies that aren't this one. You've been warned.

The Good
There are really three big things about this movie that I really did enjoy, but man did they sell the movie for me. First and foremost, Andrew Garfield is the perfect Spider-Man. He's quick, he's witty, and he just works when he's flying around the city doing heroic stuff. My biggest problem with the Sam Raimi movies was that Peter Parker never felt like Spider-Man to me. He always seem uncomfortable in the Spider-Suit and never gelled with me personally. Garfield on the other hand gels perfectly with what I think Spider-Man should be and how he should act.

And for that matter, I felt that the villains were fun. Dane Dehaan was a terrifying Green Goblin, more so than Willem Defoe, even though I love the man. He just fits with the insanity of the character and is genuinely terrifying. Electro, though pointless to the story, was an effective villain for what he was (we'll get to that). He served as a good threat to Spidey and while unremarkable outside of his villainy, was a good buffer villain. Rhino was a great deal of fun because of Paul Giamatti's acting, but it's Paul Giamatti, so I expected a great ball of fun. I wish he was in the movie more, but I feel this won't be the last time we see the Rhino.

Adding off of that, the action was serviceable too. Nothing great mind you, but the few action scenes there were stuck out and were good as a whole. Nothing like Pacific Rim levels of action, or even Spider-Man 3, but still good action. But I just want to emphasize that Spider-Man himself was absolutely great in this movie and is the best interpretation of character on screen, and I don't say that lightly...

The Bad
... That being said, Andrew Garfield is a horrible Peter Parker. I'm sorry, but I don't buy for a second that this guy is supposed to be nerdy, dweeby, or socially awkward in the slightest. I get that this is a new universe and is heavily influenced by the Ultimate universe, but the problem here is that Peter Parker and Spider-Man seem like the same person, and that should never be a thing. Sam Raimi was spot on with Tobey Macguire as Peter Parker, because Peter Parker is meant to be this unpopular kid so that Spider-Man can elevate his self confidence to the point where he is able to mature and grow up. The problem with how most people interpret Spider-Man is that they think he should permanently stay a teenager and never grow up, being youthful and full of energy, but Peter Parker needs to grow up eventually, and Andrew Garfield is playing him as an average teenager; perfectly content with his position in society and never growing up because of it. When Peter Parker is able to disarms goons and act like a goof doing it because he's trying to look like a clumsy nerd, it comes across as fake and is played up for laughs, which gets just the general concept of the character wrong.

That's my biggest complaint about The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but it's a big one. Peter Parker defines most of the movie with his actions, but I can't get behind Andrew Garfield portraying Peter Parker as essentially a cool kid. Then there's the family mystery plot with Peter's dad disappearing, which didn't work in the first movie, yet continues on here. The reason why the Raimi movies didn't have a subplot about Peter's father was that it wasn't needed. Nothing would have been gained from adding it in to the movie, and absolutely nothing would be lost without it. It just added padding that had no real purpose outside of how they're explaining Spider-Man's powers, which never really needed any explaining to begin with in that amount of detail. 

The Weird
It's no secret that Sony is planning on having The Amazing Spider-Man become a huge franchise, and because of that a lot of this movie was spent setting up plot points and character motivations for future movies to handle. Because of that, this movie felt like it was nothing but padding until ASM3 and the inevitable Sinister Six movie. Looking back on this movie, I had to ask what was really accomplished in this movie? The only answer I could come up with was that at the end of the movie, Peter has reason to go after the Green Goblin, and that was about it. Everything else felt irrelevant and most likely won't be addressed until later movies. 

The Sinister Six began to be formed, but we saw no result from it. The plotline regarding Peter's dad may have received some resolution, but it didn't redefine Peter significantly, and even Electro had no purpose in the movie. He was thrown in because Sony couldn't release a movie that was all set up with no action in their action movie, so Electro was shoe horned in, but he had no impact to the overarching narrative. He was, at the end of the day, a villain of the week. Someone who was thrown in to be menacing, but has no greater impact besides being a villain. Electro was well acted and gave some great action scenes, but there was no purpose to him being there other than being a villain. 

And that's the weirdest thing about the reboot. Both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had no real punch to them and left me waiting for a movie that will come eventually. Say what you will about the Sam Raimi movies, but at least at the end of each movie you felt that Peter had to overcome obstacles and came out a changed man because of what he faced. Spider-Man had him face killing Norman Osbourne, who was the closest father figure he had after Uncle Ben, Spider-Man 2 had Peter reveal his identity to Mary Jane after Doc Ock and Harry Osbourne nearly ruined his life, and Spider-Man 3 had him mature and defeat impossible odds with both allies and friends and realized the price of being Spider-Man. Now, we just have movies that are all buildup with movies that'll come eventually and we are left to hope that the later movies will be good. That's the weirdest thing about this whole reboot; Sony has a plan, and they're telling about this plan, but they're telling us nothing and showing us nothing at the same time, so why should we have faith in them?

Again, I liked this movie. I thought that it was an entertaining movie, and I'd even rank it as being the 3rd best Spider-Man movie of the 5. Not great, not bad, but right in the middle. When it worked, it was entertaining, but I never was mad at this movie, nor was I frustrated. I was entertained by this movie, and nothing more. I'll still watch the other movies when they come out, but the reboot isn't holding a special place in my heart, and the original movies don't either. Spider-Man as a series is just entertainment in its purest form; fun action, fun characters, and fun plots. Here I got that, but I could tell that it was mostly pre-orchestrated and meticulously thought out for some mythically awesome Spider-Man movie down the road. It's not bad, but I can see the strings on the puppet being pulled. I give The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a 3 out of 5. 


At least I was able to see a relatively good movie this week.

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