Saturday, May 3, 2014

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” – Why do they hate Spider-Man?

While you’re reading the rest of this review, I want you to keep in mind that I like Spider-Man. I watched some of the cartoons as a kid and I loved the first two Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire films. So, don’t think what I’m about to say is me ripping a movie just for the fun of it – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a bad movie. Really bad. So bad, it makes Spider-Man 3 look like an Oscar contender and Spider-Man 3 was so bad Sony thought it would be a better idea to reboot the franchise than continue the story. I take no joy from saying that, but someone needs to say it.

When the first The Amazing Spider-Man came out, I went into the movie very skeptical and was proven right. It was a very generic action flick that, while entertaining, was subpar in almost every aspect to Raimi’s first Spider-Man. Going into the sequel, my expectations were low, but I had hope that director Marc Webb and the writers would at least take the opportunity to make the sequel a more competent piece of storytelling and movie-making than its predecessor. They even brought on Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, two good writers who brought us the recent Star Trek movies, Fringe, and Alias (of course, they’re also responsible for garbage like Eagle Eye and Cowboys & Aliens, so…giant grain of salt). It sure seemed like we were in for something better.

(Here come some SPOILERS. Look away if you intend to waste your money on this film.)

When we left the last film, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) had defeated Lizard, but was still searching for the man responsible for killing his Uncle Ben. The sequel picks up with Spider-Man chasing down some thieves who stole a truck carrying plutonium. Paul Giamatti is driving the stolen truck, playing a Russian thug with Frankenstein stitches tattooed across his forehead and my first thought was, “oh, fuck.” This whole scene literally has nothing to do with the rest of the movie and Giamatti doesn’t appear again until the last scene of the movie as a metal rhino (the movie ends the way The Incredibles ends – the hero is about to clash with the new villain and then, cut to credits). During the chase, Peter is on the phone with his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who is admonishing him for possibly being late to their high school graduation. If you’re keeping score, that’s one pointless scene and one nagging girlfriend. This movie has not started off well. On the plus side, the scene does showcase the only redeeming quality of this film – a better use of 3-D than almost every movie before it. I’m not saying it’s worth the surcharge, but at least it’s used to some good effect. And that initial story about hunting down Ben’s killer is left out of this entire film.

The rest of the film is a lot like that opening scene – a lot of special effects and emphasis on 3-D visuals, scenes that don’t have any real point, and contrived relationship strife. Let’s tackle that last one first. Gwen knows that Peter is Spider-Man, so why is she getting all over his case about fighting crime? After that, we get the joy of experiencing them fighting with each other because Peter is hallucinating Gwen’s dead father telling him to stay away from Gwen in order to keep her safe. Gwen keeps telling him she doesn’t care, but they end up breaking up, getting back together, and breaking up, followed by some stalking of Gwen by Peter. Is it really too much to ask for this crap to simply not be in the movie? It was bad enough in Spider-Man 3, but now it’s gone on for three solid movies. There’s nothing like true love, right?

In the mean time, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is an electrician for Oscorp who is treated like crap by his boss and ignored by everyone else. During that pointless opening scene, he is rescued by Spider-Man and develops the biggest man crush you’ve ever seen. Later, while attempting to fix an electrical problem, he is electrocuted and falls into a tank filled with genetically modified eels while still holding the sparking electrical cable. Even later still, we see the charred remains of Dillon on a gurney, only to then see the new blue Max emerge from the remains. Uh…suuuure. Blue Max stumbles his way to Times Square where he is quickly surrounded by the police after sucking power out of an underground conduit. Spider-Man quickly arrives (ditching Gwen in the middle another relationship conversation) and tries to talk to Max to avoid a conflict. A sniper takes a shot at Max and, for reasons that make no kind of sense at all, Max blames Spider-Man and dubs himself Electro. Uh…suuuure.

In yet another mean time, Harry Osborn returns to town just in time to see his dad, Norman, die. His dad tells him that the disease that is killing him is genetic and hands Harry a flash drive with “everything I did to keep myself alive.” This is the very tenuous tie-in to the first film as the Lizard was doing research into ways to keep Norman alive. Since Oscorp supposedly destroyed all of their bio-genetic experiments after Max’s accident, Harry decides that he needs Spider-Man’s blood to save himself. Uh…I think you get it by now.

The whole movie goes like this, jumping from one character arc to another without any kind of over arching plot to tie everything together. They even jump to spending time with Peter as he tries to figure out why his parents left him as a boy (something we also get to see at the beginning of the film), but this doesn’t tie into anything else either. It’s like the writers were just throwing shit at the wall to see what stuck and the wall fell over and killed everyone.

Scatter shot screenplay aside, the new characters introduced were barely developed at all, seeming to rely more on past movies and comic book knowledge than to write something that makes sense. For example, when Peter finds out that Harry is in town, he goes to see Harry and they act as if they’ve been best friends forever, except, they hadn’t seen each other for ten years since they were both eleven. I don’t care how close they were, nobody reunites like they do after not seeing each other since they were eleven. Unexplained things like this happened throughout the movie and made for some annoying distractions. The other thing that was a huge distraction was the terrible, bombastic music that overpowered many of the scenes. As surprising as it was to see that Kurtzman and Orci were responsible for this joke of a screenplay, it was even more surprising to learn that Hans Zimmer was involved with the music.

Like I said, I am a big fan of Spider-Man and these past three films appear to be an active campaign by Sony to murder Spider-Man in cinema. This latest film didn’t even have the decency to include a teaser during or after the credits (though, to be fair, the final scene could be considered the teaser), substituting a skull face for a smiley face at the end of this horrible experience. What’s even scarier is they have already greenlit two more sequels. TWO!

Rating: Ask for all of your money back. If you don’t think what I’ve said is enough, know that there’s one more surprise in store that is the equivalent of being punched in the face for no reason.

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