Sunday, May 11, 2014

6 DEEP Thoughts and 6 Small Thoughts On Amazing Spider-Man 2

We're going to discuss The Amazing Spider-Man 2 here,and yeah, SPOILERS ahoy!

So please, if you haven't seen the flick yet, take off and come back later. We'll still be here.

Spoilers commence after the next 5 pictures...

Still here? OK, commencing deep thoughts and SPOILERS!

DEEP THOUGHT THE FIRST: A pretty entertaining movie...although it does a lot of annoying things that test the limit of my ability to like it, especially upon multiple viewings. But more on that below.

But the good things? The scenes with Spider-Man felt like they were straight out of the comic. The way he moved, Peter's attitude and quips, the mostly really good direction and effects. These portions felt like we were watching a live-action film of the comic.

And the scintillating chemistry between Garfield and Stone is thrilling to watch. I'd be content with a film of just watching these two talking.

DEEP THOUGHT THE SECOND: However, the movie is way overlong. 2 hours and 22 minutes is too long, and doubly so because so much of it is extraneous material that really adds nothing. Take, for example, the near plane crash at the end, during the blackout. Now, the audience doesn't know anyone on the planes, doesn't know the crews, doesn't know anyone in air traffic control...but for some reason, they keep cutting away from the climactic fights that we want to see in order to show us scenes from an unrelated disaster movie that we have no interest or emotional investment in seeing. And honestly, our heroes don't even know this looming disaster exists, so they don't care about it either. It's as if the filmmakers didn't have confidence in the story they were telling, and felt the need to artificially inflate the tension of the climax. Cut it all (unless you're going to put Aunt May on one of the planes or something).

DEEP THOUGHT THE THIRD: And speaking of removable padding that needlessly inflates the movie's running time: Richard Parker.

Look, I'm not hating on Peter's parents. If you feel the need to give them backstory, great. But we already did that in the first film.

And frankly, 98% of what they do here is meaningless, adding nothing to our understanding of the story or of Peter's journey. If you eliminate everything except a) the scene where Aunt May tells Peter he was suspected of treason and b) the scene where Peter finds the recording (but make it simpler...just find a flipping thumb drive...who needs a secret lair), than you have the exact same impact on the story and you've saved 15 minutes of tedium.

DEEP THOUGHT THE THIRD: In discussing the first movie, I opined about the Great Coincidence Machine:

do you expect us to believe a) Richard Parker worked at Oscorp AND b) that Peter Parker's dad "created" the genetic hybrid spider that bit Peter AND c) That same spider was also responsible for the stronger-than-steel "super-silk" that Peter uses to make his webbing AND d) that Curt Connors also worked at Oscorp, and was Richard Parker's "partner," and was perhaps responsible for his disappearance/death AND e) Richard Parker developed the equation that led to the Lizard formula AND f) that Gwen Stacy had an internship at Oscorp under Connors??
Well, as hard as it may be to believe, The Great Coincidence Machine got cranked up even higher in this movie. In addition to what we had above, ASM2 would like us to believe:

A) The only actual crime Spider-Man stops is a hijacking of an Oscorp armored car.
B) Max Dillon works at Oscorp.
C) Oscorp provides 100% of the electricity to New York City.
D) The Rhino, Vulture and Doctor Octopus costumes and powers come from Oscorp "Special Projects."
E) Felicia Hardy works at Oscorp.
F) Alastair Smythe works at Oscorp.

I mean, come on now!! I understand Oscorp is evil and all--but must must every villain and every single plot development stem from them? Are there no other sources of evil (or employment) in this universe? This is the equivalent of a series of Fantastic Four movies where Dr. Doom causes the exposure to cosmic rays AND is responsible for the Mole Man AND the Skrulls AND the Puppet Master AND Alicia works for Doom AND he's responsible for Diablo AND the Trapster and...

Just lazy screenwriting, is all I'm saying. And you risk many of your villains losing their agency and tragedy if you make them all henchpersons or creations of someone else. Stop it.

DEEP THOUGHT THE FOURTH: How rich was Richard Parker?

Good gosh, the guy has a hidden lair!

Do you know how much it would cost to construct a secret elevator to move your under lair/train car underground every time you turned a turnstile? How many workers you would have to hire (and expect them to keep it a secret)? This is not something your humble scientist who rejects the thought of using hs work to make money could afford.

OK, maybe it's something he just found--the abandoned line was supposedly used by FDR, so maybe it was an old S.H.I.E.L.D. Secret Service thing or such. He just stumbled upon it--somehow--and made it his own.

But in the opening, he and his wife are the only passengers on a private jet! And since they were on the run from Oscorp, they certainly weren't using the company plane!!

So Peter--you could have been rich if your dad hadn't spent all his money on secret laboratories and swanky jets!


A cardinal rule of super-hero movies should be: don't put too many villains in each film. Well, ASM2 might have been able to pull it off, except for all the time they wasted on irrelevant trifles (see Deep Thought The Second). But as it is, neither one quite works.

Electro comes off the best. Jamie Foxx is fine...but the apparent constraints of the make-up/special effects(/bad writing?) leave him unable to say more than one sentence at a time after his transformation...and as a result his shift from loser nerd to city-destroying villain is nowhere as convincing as it needs to be. And after his evolution, any attempt at characterization goes out the window...all he ever says is just one cliche after another. More time needed to spent on him, rather than a pointless near-collision of airliners.

(Also, did we have to make him into Dr. Manhattan? Flying I'll give you. But turning incorporeal? (Except, of course, when Spidey needed to punch him--then he mysteriously stayed solid) Seeing him evolve from skeleton to nervous system to muscle into nearly-naked-blue-special-effect-guy? Sheesh)

As for the Green Goblin? Well, again, the transformation is jarring. There's really zero distance between Harry the spoiled but still basically decent rich kid into Harry the murdering bastard. Yes, I know, terminal illness (but "retroviral hyperplasia" took decades to kill his father--why is it so urgent for Harry?) can change you...but it's not really on screen. Again, take away time for Richard Parker flashback shenanigans and spend the time building up Harry. (In fairness, there are definitely some deleted scenes--there's a bunch of stuff from the trailers that's NOT in the film--that might have addressed this. But then, why weren't they in the film?)

As to the Goblin himself? Well, he has all of 4 minutes of screen-time. And he's not terribly effectual. If it's not for innocent bystanders, Spider-Man wipes him out in under a minute. Sadly, kind of a waste of the Goblin.


I'm not opposed to killing Gwen. But something about this felt so pro forma...we killed of Gwen because she was supposed to die, like she did in the comic.

After completely ripping off a scene from Say Anything (Woman: I've got a scholarship in England Man: I'll follow you there--you are my path), Gwen shows up to save the day with knowledge she really shouldn't have, and a villain who turned up 30 seconds ago kills her.

I should note that the screenplay was largely the work of Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who in my opinion are the worst screenwriters in the history of the world. And they were largely responsible for Star Trek: Into Darkness, where they brought back Khan and killed someone off because that's what they did in the first second Star Trek movie. It's a paint-by-numbers approach to art, with events happening because they're supposed to rather than being emotionally/artistically justified. ANd Gwen's death, while touching because of the Stone/Garfield chemistry, never felt earned.

Plus, now we're denied the possibility of a "Spider-Man in England" movie.


**When a Spider-Man movie features more mentions/ghost appearances of Captain Stacy than Uncle Ben, you really have to worry if  they understand the series...Seriously, here's the difference between the comics and these movies in a nutshell: In the comic, Captain Stacy's last words are "Be good to her." In the 1st movie? "Stay away from her." And hence, the broody broody nature of the second movie.

**I still can't decide whether the 1:21 clock Easter egg is clever or "call attention to ourselves" hackery...

**Look, when Spidey is trying to keep those plutonium canisters from falling out of the truck, shouldn't we have had a young man who is rescuing a blind guy get struck in the face by one?!? But no, you had to go and give up Daredevil. Idiots.

**Three separate time--THREE--someone at Oscorp gets the flashing red AUTHORIZATION REVOKED on their computer screen. Three times. Because they couldn't think of anything else, I suppose...

**After out AUTHORIZATION REVOKED incidents, Oscorp goes after Richard Parker, they send a hitman to freaking crash his plane. They're in Harry's office in 12 seconds. But after chasing Gwen around the building, there's absolutely no follow-up. Even though the know who she is and where she lives, nothing. I guess they just let the pretty blondes go.

**Of course the mental institution has a psycopathic doctor who tortures patients while playing classical music. And of course "Dr. Kafka" (really??) has the hackiest German accent you can imagine. Not at all a cliche, not at all terrible writing...

**Alas, poor Rhino. Why even bother?


pseckler13 said...

I thought the same thing about that Daredevil moment. I was like "Oh man they are going to do it! They are totally going to! This is totally perfect..!

They are.. oh. nevermind.

Anonymous said...

I still maintain this series is horrible from start to finish. Any good things - like Peter and Gwen - are inevitably crushed by stupid decisions and horrible writing (and I agree with you Orci and Kurtzman are garbage). Honestly, if I was on the production team and saw how great the chemistry was between Garfield and Stone, I'd say, "Screw the comics, Gwen lives!!!!!" At least for now.