The Amazing Spiderman 2 (2014)
It’s a little presumptuous isn’t it, inserting adulatory adjectives like ‘Amazing’ into your movie title, it’s almost tempting the
celluloid digital gods in a suicidal act of hubris. Starting as we mean to go on I’m sorry to say that the only ‘amazing’ element of this sequel to 2011’s wall scuttling superheroics is just how resoundingly tepid this film is, like its predecessor it’s not necessarily a bad film but it never fully swings into action, another flatline in the recent annals of Hollywood blockbuster boredom. In that sense its an ideal companion piece to the first film which was similarly average, a few moments of fun dialogue and fan service nesting among the digitally crafted tedium, again not a terrible film per se but certainly a picture which swiftly evaporates from the memory banks upon exit from the theatre like a casually dislodged cobweb. I’ve never bothered to go back to the first issue for another look and can barely remember any details (wasn’t there a over-acting lizard? Some silly ra-ra America fuck-yeah with some cranes?) and that speaks volumes as I do tend to give movies another shot on the small screen, somehow I don’t think I’ll bother giving this sequel another sticky screening. There will be some spoilers in a clearly marked section as there is one place that the film went which I was neither expecting and which almost pulled the film up from the doldrums, but first lets set the comic book scene.
With the origin story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), a young orphan in New York city infected by a radioactive spider bite and enhanced with an arachnids strength, agility and dexterity out of the way in the first movie then the path should be clear for some carefully arranged super-heroics. Spidey is now an established figure in the big apple, the masked vigilante dedicated to fighting crime, righting wrongs and honouring the memory of his male role model Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen seen only in a wordless flashback). Juggling his secret identity with his domestic arrangements with Aunt May (Sally Field, tolerable for a change) and a strenuous romance with his sweetheart Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, poorly sidelined) young Peter is in electrifying trouble again when a new villain Electro (a spectacularly mis-cast Jamie Foxx) materializes on the scene, and his resumed friendship with OsCorp inheritor Harry Osbourne (Dane DeHann), a corporate takeover plot-line that may well reveal some clandestine details of his mother and fathers (Campbell Scott) abandonment of him as a child…..
It’s difficult to get your webslingers aligned on exactly what the problem is with this franchise but overall it’s simply so flat, framing the film with Peters parents mysterious flee from some unspecified retribution certainly doesn’t help as an opening act prologue, especially when this scene is coded with a frankly laughable scramble to download a computer programme as a dramatic lever – welcome o the 21st century. The film spins out far too many competing storylines across a web which seems beyond the filmmakers prowess, as ambition to stick the competing arcs together in a final resolution, leaping from one scene to the next with little of the central characters legendary dexterity – didn’t they learn the lesson that three, yes three bloody villains is what also sunk Raimi’s atrocious Spiderman 3? Much of the gliding and acrobatics stretch CGI credulity to breaking point when they should really be punching your eyeballs into the visual shock and awe territory, and alas I just can’t quite accept Garfield as our wisecracking and ineffectually tortured hero. Some early reports praised Emma Stone’s role in the script as a modern, intellectual agent of her own not just some screeching damsel in distress, but it’s mere lip-service as she is still situated in the attractive hostage guise – a script defect scribed by our old nemesis Alex Transformers Kurtzman Roberto Cowboys & Aliens Orci. What should be charming, amusing character banter scenes meekly lie mutilated on the screen, if this was the best the editor could select from reputedly the films heavy improvised shooting then the mind boggles at what was omitted at the quality control threshold.
Some of the action set-pieces do stretch toward blockbuster brilliance and inject the picture with much-needed fun and pyrotechnics, but they swiftly scuttle into the web of the uncanny valley where you’re swiftly aware that everything was rendered in a super powerful computer. Whilst I can give some praise to the films noble attempt to maintain the ethos of Spidey as portrayed in the originating sequential graphic universe – a young man juggling the plate spinning domestic concerns of paying his rent, maintaining personal relations with his remaining family and a complicated romance with saving the city every month – these threads simply do not hold together and the films narrative web doesn’t stick . Worse still they give one of the main villains an utterly unprovoked and ridiculous narrative drive to loathe Spidey, and then in an utterly redundant crowbarring in of an airplane collusion menace which is headslappingly stupid, not to mention a moustache twirling evil doctor called – and not I’m not fucking joking – Dr. Kafka. Around the mid-point these errors hurl the picture from the disappointing into the realms of the actively insulting, and whilst yes its comic book movie where physics, physically reality and deep character introspection can and should be butchered at the altar of entertainment we’ve seen how these movies don’t have to be so lazy, so scattered and diffused, all crowned with an ultimately depressing moment of a young ‘inspired’ kid sans Spidey costume engineering his own Tiananmen square stupidity.
SERIOUSLY SEVERE SPOILERS SECTION – I must have missed it from the rarely glimpsed marketing material so the actual birth of the Green Goblin was unexpected, I kinda assumed they would be leaving that for the next issue in the franchise. Having read many of the golden age classics in my misspent youth I was fully aware of Gwen Stacy’s legendary fate in a hugely beloved and for its time daring story development, so when they actually got around to slaying the broad I was relatively shocked in perhaps the films only genuine moment. But then director Mark Webb evaporates any earned kudos by having Parker overcome this trauma within five minutes of screen-time, go back out on the prowl for a final showdown with yet another unnecessary villain which gets the picture on swiftly curtailed whimper rather than a bang. I’m becoming a little frustrated at the Executives beliefs that these franchise films can cut to end titles in the midst of the action, presumably secure on the knowledge that the fans will be back for the next picture regardless, each movie simply a instalment rather than a self-contained story in and off themselves. There is narrative closure in the Captain America films and in each instalment of the Nolan Batman films which leave speculating enticement for the next movement in the sequence, so it’s not impossible to have the character go through a trial, to best opponents and grow as with any usual movie story-arc, and still leave feverish anticipation open for the next instalment – I honestly couldn’t give a flying fuck about Spider-Man 3 and the rumoured Sinister Six pantheon. Finally, if anyone can explain to me how you can possibly make a Spidey picture and have no appearance of the ferocious J. Jonah Jameson then I’m all fucking ears…SERIOUSLY SEVERE SPOILERS END
The overriding problem with this movie and the franchise as it stands is this – Peter Parker, as Spiderman does nothing daringly heroic other than apprehend a few muggers, all the great arcs of his existence and his decision-making matrix have resulted in violence and chaos, as to date he’s done little more than get those close to him into lethal trouble in a economic four hours of screen-time – perhaps he should have simply donated his body to the vivisection division of OsCorp and actually made some contribution to society. You’re probably heard by now that as is the fashion a post first tranche credits sequence gives a glimpse of the upcoming X-Men picture but it’s really not worth sticking around for, although seeing the final trailer on the big screen certainly clobbered my fanboy anticipation despite the recent disturbing and curiously timed allegations. Just to be clear I’m not suggesting these allegations aren’t necessarily accurate – speaking from the UK and our recent horrifying revelations from the entertainment industry I’m thoroughly acute on the over-riding need to treat every allegation with the utmost seriousness – and it’s not the first time that Bryan Singer has attracted such allegations (remember the Apt Pupil controversy?) plus there has been speculation on his behaviour roaming through the industry for years (some of the stories about the Superman reboot he helmed are particularly ugly), but maybe it’s simple homophobia and/or a chance to extract a lavish settlement from a wealthy man just as his biggest production to date hits screens – I guess we’ll see in the coming months. In any case this is the second of this years tetrad of superhero pictures and I suspect it will be judged as the worst, Winter Soldier has gone gangbusters with critics and the box-office whilst Guardians Of The Galaxy has fans positively salivating in expectation. The Amazing Spiderman 2 is not necessarily the atrocity of Rami’s Spider-Man 3 but its pretty darn close, the most feeble and fecund superhero picture since, well, The Amazing Spiderman;