"Nothing is what I thought it was." - Peter Parker
If I could only ever read on DC Comics character, naturally, it would be Batman. Similarly, if I could only read one Marvel character, it would be Spider-Man. That’s probably why whenever they appear in a new film, I approach it with a mixture of curiosity, intrigue and a little suspicion. Suspicion as in “what’re the Hollywood suits going to do to mess it up THIS time?” On the whole though, recent super hero movies have been off the chart in terms of excellence. For the most part.
When it came to Captain America: Winter Soldier; that hit all the right buttons in when Marvel can go next with their finely crafted movie universe. Now I’ve seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – although it’s a good film, I have some issues with it particularly when it comes to the plot and the characters. Let’s say I’m 50% happy with what I saw.
I’m aware that American audiences won’t be able to see this for another couple of weeks, so where there is spoilerage, that’s in the Spoiler Zone. Fair enough?
So, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, kicks off in truly great form with Spider-Man literally diving out of the sky towards the streets of Manhattan and swinging on his web from building to building in pursuit of a truckload of stolen radioactive material. The action is fluid, and will certainly elicit audience gasps when seen in 3D. He’s a wisecracking clown exactly as he is in the comic books, and the whole sequence truly is the source material come to life.
While Spider-Man is off saving the city, his alter ego Peter Parker is late for his high school graduation. Again, a direct lift from the comic, where if memory serves, he was fighting the Molten Man. Yep – I go back THAT far. That happened in the sixties.
The day saved, Peter Parker attends the graduation, just in time but unkempt.
And here’s where I have my first niggling problem with the film, and actually The Amazing Spider-Man that preceded it. Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spider-Man nails it. That IS Spider-Man exactly as he’s been seen in the comics for the past 52 years. However, his Parker seems to be a streetwise, smart mouth punk with attitude. He’s not the easily bullied loner of the comics, he’s a skateboarding boy genius who looks like a male model. Toby Maguire was the perfect Parker with his often cracking voice and his twitchy nervousness.
His girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) looks the part, but again – there’s something that I was expecting that’s missing. When the issue 121 moment happens – her relationship with Parker has been on and off so many times, that moment has lost its impact.
Those of us who have read the comics (or remember the previous trilogy) know Harry Osborn at this stage in the saga as a loveable party guy. The second he makes an appearance in this film, I took an instant dislike to him. There’s something about actor Dane DeHaan that I just don’t like. I didn’t like him in Chronicle, and I didn’t like him in this. He plays Osborn as a spoiled rich Emo kid in a business suit. The fact that his character’s arc has also been changed, really didn’t help. But more of that in the spoiler zone.
The much teased fate of Parker’s parents also seemed hurried. And I need to say, Sally Field is STILL too damn hot to play frail old Aunt May whose age in the comics seems to be around a hundred and forty and is always on teetering on the edge of death. Where's J.Jonah Jameson? Why haven't we seen HIM yet?
I was looking forward to Electro – he was one of my favourite Spider-Man villains when I was a child. The story of Max Dillon, a selfish, self centered power company pole man who is struck by lightning but due to a one in a million freak accident, survives and is able to absorb and manipulate electricity was always one of my favourites – plus his comic book costume was one of the 2 coolest EVER (the other one was Mysterio). I realise that often, costumes that look great on a comic page would look ludicrous in real life and a green body suit with yellow lightning bolts and that mask just wouldn’t work – hell, it’s the reason the Green Goblin wore a battle suit in Spider-Man (2002) can you imagine Willem Dafoe prancing around in green tights, a purple leotard, floppy hat and pixie boots and a little satchel? (Okay, please stop imagining that now)
So, I get the change in look – and Jamie Foxx did look disturbing with his skin turned an electric blue, but changing his origin to be once again the fault of Oscorp is getting to be ridiculous. Genetically enhanced spiders, genetically enhanced electric eels? (Kinda makes you shudder for Doctor Octopus, doesn’t it?) Oscorp is becoming the manifestation of every single thing that happens in a Spider-Man film, from the spider that bit Parker in the first place, to the creation of the Lizard, Electro, Goblin and some villains to be unveiled in future films. In a plot point that seems, well, pointless, Dillon/Electro starts off idolising Spider-Man but ends up feeling rejected and despising him in an element of the story that seems to borrow heavily from Jim Carrey’s Edward Nigma/Riddler in Batman Forever. But that’s a personal gripe.
The film continues the story from the Amazing Spider-Man, and if you liked that movie, or are just a fan of Spider-Man movies in general then trust me, you’ll have a whale of a time. The movie delivers more than its fair share of thrills, spills, twists, turns and intrigue. If you get the chance to see the film in 3D, then certainly do so – it’s worth putting down an extra couple of bucks just for the web swinging scenes.
It is, very much like Winter Soldier, a set up film for events due to unfold in future instalments, as can be evidenced by what we see in the special projects section of Oscorp, and I’m guessing, ultimately that this chapter will fit in well within the unfolding saga. I’m hoping that the issue 121 moment isn’t wasted as a throwaway like some of the characters in this film are. There’s a surfeit of characters than don’t really need to be here. At least one villain serves absolutely no purpose in the film, despite the trailer leading us to expect more, so I’m guessing that fans who are more conversant with the source material will have as many issues with this as I do. In the final analysis, Winter Soldier is head and shoulders above this in execution.
I’ve watched the original Sam Raimi trilogy and even including the weaker third film, overall, those films flawed though they are in parts (example: Kirsten Dunst seems to play more of a deep and sensitive Gwen Stacy based character than carefree and shallow Mary Jane Watson) they are more satisfying than what we’ve seen from director Marc Webb (which is the coolest name possible for a Spider-man director)
Now, the sting. There IS a sting, but the sting itself has a sting. It’s actually a scene from the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past. Yep – they’re actually using the sting to advertise a film from a rival studio (this is Columbia, X-Men is Fox) in a WTF moment that actually left a sour taste in my mouth. Weak sauce, Columbia. Weak sauce indeed. Any sting evident that’s relevant to the movie we’ve just seen is in the onscreen graphics beneath the titles.
Look at those blueprints, people.
Okay – so what’s really bad? Let us adjourn to the Spoiler Zone.
You know how this works, right? If you haven’t see the film, or you don’t mind spoilers – look away right now, because after this warning, I assume no responsibility.
YOU HAVE JUST ENTERED THE SPOILER Z0NE!
Much as I hated Harry Osborn, I hated what they did to his character even more. We’re told that Norman Osborn never became the Green Goblin, but that his twisted son Harry did. Worse, that instead of dementedly trying to avenge the death of his father by becoming the second Green Goblin, he injects himself with the same irradiated spider venom that gave Parker his spider powers except the venom affects Harry differently. His hair turns green, his teeth become discoloured, he, in effect becomes a real green goblin who steals a battle suit? Yes something similar happened to Norman once in the comics but damn – this film is called AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, they should therefore follow the story arc in the comic it takes its title from, no? That was Ultimate Spider-Man.
You’ve seen the film, you may not have read the comic – you want to know what that issue 121 moment was – right.
Gwen Stacy had her first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man # 31 – December 1965 issue. She and Parker had been in a relationship since 1967 (it’s hard to tell which specific issue they clicked. Let’s say issue #44 – when she was introduced to his social group.
Issue 121 (June 1973) was a real shocker. Battling the Goblin who had kidnapped Gwen Stacy and was holding her hostage atop the George Washington bridge, Spider-Man himself inadvertently killed her. The Goblin flung her from the tower, but Spider-Man shot out his web, it caught her ankles but the sudden deceleration snapped her neck. The tragedy is compounded that he doesn’t even know he actually was the cause of her death, that’s been a secret known only to the readers ever since. It’s also one of the most powerful comic books I have ever read – to this day. It changed the tone of Spider-Man as a character for years. In this film, the Goblin arrives, ridiculously, and Spider-Man chases him to a clock tower and Gwen takes her plunge, Spidey shoots the web but the elasticity of the web like a bungi cord doesn’t stop her in time and her head hits the floor full force. Spidey knocks the Goblin out and that’s IT???? Five minutes later in the film, he’s fighting against the Rhino. No mourning of any real depth. The film would have been better served by closing on a sombre note after Gwen’s funeral.
Why was the Rhino even there? Really! A throwaway fight right at the very end that we don’t even see the conclusion of? Given his couple of minutes of screen time, why is that mook even on the poster?
I loved seeing Dr Octopus’s tentacles and the Vulture’s wings in Oscorp’s special projects section – but of course that means that Otto Octavius and Adrian Toombs now have THEIR origins changed, and it all becomes the fault of Oscorp. Might as well say bomb their corporate HQ to the ground and NY’s crime problems would be over.
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