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Monday, May 5, 2014

The Amazing Spider-man 2

Well, "Amazing" may be pushing it slightly...

Plot synopsis: Following the events of the first film, Peter Parker is caught between his blossoming relationship for Gwen Stacy and his promise to her dead father that he would keep her away from his dangerous life as the web-slinging vigilante known as Spider-Man - a promise that becomes increasingly difficult to keep as he is confronted with new villainous forces and an old face from the past.  

Review: I may have enjoyed Sony's premature reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise more than most, but The Amazing Spider-Man was still hurt by being a re-telling of the Web-Slinger's origin story that came out less than a decade after Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man movie. It was done slightly better, sure, but it still felt like a pointless retread. With the origin out of the way then, director Mark Webb should by all rights have followed Raimi's footsteps with a Spider-man movie that really lets him do a new story his own way. Sadly, while Spider-Man 2 was a tremendous improvement on its predecessor and remains one of the very best superhero films to date, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 only improves slightly on its similarly flawed predecessor.

It is, very simply, a hot mess of a film. It spends both far too much and far too little time on its largely underdeveloped villains (the Rhino has featured heavily in the promotion of the film but his role is merely a cameo, thankfully) as both Electro and the latest incarnation of the Green Goblin follow the first film's Lizard at being basically engaging characters turned into rather naff and badly written super villains. Jamie Fox and Dane DeHaan do their best with their respective characters but both are under-served by the material. Spider-Man is known for having one of the best Rogue's Galleries in comics but you wouldn't know it from Webb's films.

The other major failure with the film is that at nearly two and a half hours long, it struggles under its own weight with some major pacing problems in its middle sections. While something like Captain America: The Winter Soldier made great use of its epic running time, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 would have been much improved by being edited down to a more respectable two hours. It's simple enough, as they failed to properly develop his motivations anway, they could have simply have had Electro show up as a supporting villain for Spidey to deal with while working his way towards his real threat, the Green Goblin. The tendency to over-explain every villain's origins and personally connect them to the hero is the very thing that sunk Spider-man 3 and it comes dangerously close to doing the same here.

Fortunately, unlike the utterly misjudged Spider-man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has plenty of good stuff to balance its few failures. And when I say good, I mean really, really good. It has impressive special effects and some pretty spectacular set pieces that quickly make you forget that Webb actually comes from a background in quiet relationship dramedies, not fantastical action blockbusters. Though, mind you, that's only for the action scenes. When it comes to the film's quippy, screwball comedy; its teenage angst and, most especially, its beautifully measured relationship drama, Webb's masterful indie-dramedy touch brings the Amazing Spider-Man 2 to emotional levels that most superhero films could only dream.

And that, right there, is why The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is largely able to overcome what could otherwise have been some fairly crippling flaws. With all its daft villains, wonky storytelling and major pacing problems, Spidey's latest big screen adventure has a huge, beating heart at the centre of it - a heart so big that the film's many weaknesses simply seem insignificant in comparison. Whether we're dealing with Peter Parker's troubling past; his current relationship with Gwen Stacey or his being an inspiringly selfless do-gooder - every last one of the film's emotional beats ring true. Honestly, who cares about intellectual flaws when a film is this funny, this uplifting, this moving and this sincere.

I hate to keep bringing this up, but once again Marvel out Supermans The Man of Steel. If you missed the sly comedy, romance and sheer emotional warmth of Richard Donner's first Superman film in the Man of Steel, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the film for you. The film's first half hour, in particular, felt like it came straight from the early Metropolis sections in Superman: The Movie and, for me, there is no greater praise.  

The film's greatest ace in the hole, though, are its two leads. Even if Webb seriously ups his game with the action scenes and new screenwriters, Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci and Jeff Pinker, up the ante in the humour department, it is the electrifying screen chemistry of real-life couple, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone that really makes The Amazing Spider-Man such an utter joy to watch. Individually, they're brilliant as Garfield solidifies himself as the Ultimate Peter Parker (pun somewhat intended, comics fans) and Stone's Gwen Stacy effortlessly steals the hearts of even the most ardent M.J fans but in their scenes together are pure magic. Forget the web-slinging and supervillains, I would love to watch these two in an old fashioned screw ball romantic comedy - though, this film comes amazingly close to being exactly that at times anyway.  

So, yes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a very flawed film and has little of the perfectly honed precision of the Marvel Studios movies but anyone looking for tons of heart with their superheroics really should give it a shot. If nothing else, it is undoubtedly the most romantic superhero film since Superman 2.


Now, I usually stay as far away from spoilers in my reviews as I possibly can but I have to make an exception here. If you haven't seen the film yet, please do not read on.


OK, so, as most fans of the Spider-Man comics were probably expecting, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 does feature the death of Gwen Stacy and I am in two minds about it. On the one hand, it was handled absolutely perfectly as it was incredibly heartbreaking but also didn't feel like it was simply using the female character to move the male character forward. Gwen was a wonderfully realised character and her death reflected that. Whatever problems I may have had with the rest of the film, the final half hour or so minutes were flat out incredible thanks to the way the death itself was handled and its aftermath,

My problem, however, has to do with what comes next. Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy was such a vitally important part of what's great about these films that I can't imagine her absence not having a detrimental effect for The Amazing Spidey sequels. Besides, I don't know how the hell they're going to replace that one in a million chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. I know that the death of Gwen is a major part of the Spidey story in the comics and it did provide an incredibly emotional half hour here but I'm not so sure about where it will leave the series going forward. Still, for now, consider that one major thumbs-up!  

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