“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”: It’s doing some things right, some things wrong

NateHarris

Let me start off with a warning. I am writing this about 30 minutes after the credits rolled, so it’s fresh in my mind. I may accidentally reveal too much about the movie, so spoiler alert!

So “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” I’m not sure where to begin.

When the original Spider-Man trilogy with Tobey Maguire started in 2002, I was seven. I didn’t know superheroes very well, and so Spider-Man became my first superhero. He’s not my favorite now, but for a while I’m pretty sure he was. I had not read the comics, so all I knew about Spider-Man I learned from the movies. Over time, as I grew older, I understood more about the real Spider-Man, realized the flaws with the trilogy, at the same time losing natural interest in it due to age. Spider-Man has always been the more child-focused superhero of Marvel. I’m not exactly sure why, but of the people in the theater tonight, half of them were kids under the age of 12, wearing Spider-Man shirts and cheering the masked vigilante on the entire film.

That might be a good place to start, the audience. The film just came out today, and yet for an 8 o’clock showing on a Friday night, the theater wasn’t even half full, despite all the admiring children and their parents, who were likely wondering why they paid twelve dollars to see the fifth Spider-Man film since the new millennium.

Let me give the movie credit where credit is due. The movie, this reboot series, has done a much better job of translating the comic books over to the big screen. I could go on for a while about this, so I’ll spare you the time and just let you look it up the mistakes with the original trilogy. In the comic books, Spider-Man is a character who breaks the fourth wall almost continuously. In the first “Amazing Spider-Man” movie, there’s one scene, one line where Spider-Man at least seems to be talking to the audience, which apparently caught the attention and praise of many diehard fans. The studio must have seen that reaction and said “Add more of that! A lot more!” The first movie got the look and origin story down; in this movie, between the fourth-wall breaks and the quick puns and jokes, especially in the opening action sequence, the movie finally presented a Spider-Man indicative of the one in the comics. Personally, I found the constant stream of puns a little too overwhelming, but I’m sure any comic reader will find it spot on.

Now for the things that are wrong with this movie. Let’s start with smaller details, like the opening theme song. It sucks. It’s absolutely terrible. I listen to it, and I do not think Spider-Man. I’m not sure what I think of when I hear it, but it’s certainly not an awesome, butt-kicking human-spider mutant superhero. You’ll see in the movie, if you ever end up seeing it. You can’t miss it. When you see the giant spider logo, both at the beginning and the end of the movie (why they felt the need to book-end their film, I’ll never know. Is it to remind you what film you just watched?), you’ll hear it, in all its non-Spider-Man glory.

Speaking of music, the audio and sound mixers were lazy in this film. Every time the main villain Electro shoots electricity, there’s dub-step music. Straight up bass-drop followed by a Skrillex screech. Why they decided that dub-step equaled electric shock, I can see that. Doesn’t take away from the fact that they did it and they shouldn’t have, though. If that wasn’t bad enough, they undertoned Electro’s voice, so every word he said had a booming and crackling echo to it. It sounded cool at first, but soon it just sounded like a broken microphone. And during the big fight between the hero and villain, dub-step the entire time. Ugh… The only thing worse than that was the forced, out-of-context use of Philip Philips’ “Home.” Wouldn’t be a movie with a Top 40 hit in their somehow.

When it comes to plot, I feel there was a good balance of the love story between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy (albeit reminiscent of the Peter/Mary-Jane relationship in the original trilogy), the backstory and continuously-unfolding mystery of Peter’s parents (which wasn’t integrated in the original trilogy at all, but may be integrated a tad too much in the reboot) and villain character development and action. That is, if Electro was the only villain in this movie. All movie descriptions of this film mentioned three villains: Electro, the Green Goblin and the Rhino. However, seeing Paul Giamatti on-screen, sporting a bad and undeterminable foreign accent (I think he was going for a Russian sound, but it could very easily be Hispanic) for five minutes at the beginning of the movie and five minutes at the end in a “cliffhanger…?”-type ending doesn’t mean he’s a villain. It makes him more of an extra than anything else. And when it comes to the Green Goblin, there’s a backstory developed throughout the film, though it seems a little underdeveloped, but the actual Green Goblin (distance yourself from the 2001 film if you have an image of a green metal full body suit) is on and off faster than Venom was in Spider-Man 3. So really, our only villain in the film is Electro. He’s a good enough villain, as much as the Lizard was in the first “Amazing Spider-Man,” but there are some things that just don’t sit right with him from a character standpoint. His motivation (I won’t give it away) is effective yet cliché. He teams up with someone else in the middle of the film. Again, cliché. And the final battle seems a little rushed, but at the same time, it’s actually kind of boring. Mostly Spider-Man just runs away or gets shocked. He defeats Electro eventually, but only through the power of teamwork. It’s basically the ending of Iron Man. And of course, the entire battle takes place with giant Tesla coils around them. You know, because he’s Electro, and electricity, and irony. And the dub-step returns. I would also like to point out that the director and everyone on the crew of this movie clearly has no idea how electricity actually works.

However, on that note, I would say that this reboot is doing something that hasn’t been done in a while. It’s going against the grain as far as comic-to-movie interpretation. The original trilogy has some elements of fantasy in them, but at the same time felt grounded in reality. Iron Man has a similar feel (Captain America and Thor both have to do with mystic powers and gods, so they don’t necessarily have that reality sense, but are still rooted in the realm of possibility). The best example would be Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, where fantasy backstories behind the villains were replaced with realistic scenarios. They felt very real. The “Amazing Spider-Man” series seems to be reversing this trend, and instead trying to keep the same fantasy present in the comic books on the big screen. And that’s a good thing. It takes a while to get used to after Nolan’s Batman adaptation, but it’s a good thing.

Now back to the bad things about this film. How about the fact that this film isn’t a stand-alone film? They make references to the past movie constantly. These are not going to be four separate films; these will be one story spread out across four films and six years. I have a problem with this, because they spend too much time trying to draw dots and then connect them into one big scheme as opposed to making sure that an individual movie is satisfying from the beginning to the end. How about the unnecessary use of slow-motion? I haven’t seen so much pointless slow-motion action since 300 and The Matrix. Except that slow-motion actually served a purpose to an extent. Here, it’s slow-motion for the purpose of slow-motion. And it’s annoying. Really annoying. How about all the clichés and cheesy plot points: the inspirational speech that Peter didn’t hear the first time but saves him later in the film, the attempts the movie makes to be humorous (sometimes it works, but a lot of times there was silence among the audience) or the emotional turmoil Peter goes through with his relationship.

Overall, this movie is truer to the comics, which diehard fans will appreciate, but the plot seems regurgitated and cheap. Electro is an okay villain, but the others shouldn’t even count. And the fact that this movie is more of a follow-up to the previous movie and a continuation of a series as opposed to a film that could stand on its own leads to some dissatisfaction when the credits roll (with a Jamie Foxx rap over them, what else?). Go see it if you’re into Spider-Man, dub-step or just want a comic book movie as opposed to a comic book character in a movie; otherwise, maybe wait for it to come out on DVD, you’re not missing much. Girlfriend fell asleep.

SEMI-SPOILER: Quick question: Why does every Spider-Man movie have to end (or near the end) with a funeral scene?

 

(cover photo courtesy screenrant.com)

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