Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Thoughts on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 

       This movie. Hoo boy...

       SPOILERS shall follow...

       This isn't going to be a proper review because, honestly, I don't really care enough to put in the extra effort. But walking out of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I was left with such a profound sense of... I don't even know what the right word would be - bafflement, maybe? - that I had to share my thoughts. Chief amongst them: this has got to be the single most schizophrenic movie ever released on more than 4,000 screens.

       It's not even that the movie is especially bad. I mean, it is bad, but that badness is tampered with enough charming moments that it could usually be overlooked, had the film been competent on even the most basic level. What is the most basic level a film should be competent at, you ask? Well, at the end of the day, when the pixels disseminate into the ether and the loudspeakers cease their rumbling and the last of the credits has rolled, the viewer should be able to succintly state what the colorful confection that just unreeled before their eyes was all about. This is what we call a theme, and every movie - even the worst movies - are generally made with one such component in mind. The theme is what's lying beneath every shot, what every composition and edit and line of dialogue should be in service of, and often the very best movies are the ones that tie their themes together so intrinsically with the characters and the story that they become virtually inseparable.

       As I stated above, even the worst movies have a general theme tying everything together. You will likely never hear me say a kind word about Michael Bay's Transformers series (well, maybe aside from the first), but I can at least tell you what they're about. Here, I'll demonstrate: the first one is about getting your first car, the second is about going to college and the third is about your first job in the big city. Now, because they're Michael Bayhem movies, these themes aren't particularly well-articulated (and, more often than not, completely abandoned by the time the last reel unfolds). But the themes are telegraphed enough that I can tell you what the films are about, or at least what they were intended to be about. 

      For the life of me, I can not tell you what in the holy fuck The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is about. 

      It's not even really that hard to muck up, as the core theme of the Spider-Man mythos was laid down sixty years ago by the immortal pen of Stan Lee: "With great power, comes great responsibility." That beautiful little phrase perfectly encapsulates everything within the Spider-Man story - the story of a nerdy little kid who's bitten by a radioactive spider and then sets out to take responsibility for his actions after accidently causing the death of his beloved uncle. It's so simple, so brilliant in its depiction that it makes the story of Spider-Man instantly universal.

       In ASM2, Peter Parker learns that with great power comes pretty much at no time ever having to take on really any sense of responsibility whatsoever. Let's take a look at that ending: after Spidey's constant protestations, his girlfriend Gwen Stacy gets involved in the final battle with Electro/the Green Goblin, the result of which sees her dying, with Peter unable to save her. A classic story-line of the Spider-Man mythos, as once again poor Peter does the right thing and gets nothing but punished for it in return; the overall theme of that particular storyline being the high price Peter pays for being Spider-Man (once again harking back to the idea of great power/great responsibility). But here, the film goes out of its way to take the responsibility out of Peter's hands - going so far as to have Gwen state over and over again (as the characters are wont to do in this expostion-heavy film) that it's her choice to stay, despite Peter's vehement protestations. With this turn of events, the film is telling us two completely different things: 1. Peter being Spider-Man is what utlimately leads to Gwen's death, and 2. But not really, because he's the "hero" and we're supposed to "like" him and thus he can't be seen as being in any way responsible for his girlfriend's death. Constantly throughout the film, the character of Peter Parker is divorced from any and all responsibility, the core theme of what that character is supposed to be all about.

      And that's not even taking into account the other baffling (that word comes up a lot in relation to this movie) choices made, such as the inclusion of Jamie Foxx - here playing Tobias Fumke - who does his best to unseat Ahnult's Mr. Freeze as the absolute worst supervillain performance in a mainstream film, but here he actually one-ups the Governator, primarily due to how useless the character is. I mean, honestly: you can take Electro out of the film completely, and nothing changes. It's even more maddening due to the fact that the film could have just settled on Harry Osborn/the Green Goblin as the main villain, a conflict that would've been bolstered by the personal relationship between Peter and Harry.

       Electro does a dubstep rendition of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," pointless lines of exposition are delivered over TV newscasts ("His suit must be made of rubber, so clearly that's why Electro had no effect on him," a bystander in the film for literally five seconds helpfully informs us), the fact that high school students are somehow able to hold down steady jobs at mega-corporations... there is literally no end to the unfocused madness on display in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

       It's especially frustrating, as there are also a lot of good things going on in the film. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are wonderful in all of their scenes, despite being hamstrung by a script that had to ride the short-bus as a child. Some of the action scenes are easily the best yet seen in any Spider-Man film. The scene where Spidey saves the nerdy kid from the bullies? PERFECT. The scene where Spidey hoses down Electro whilst wearing a fireman's hat? FANTASTIC! But these are just mere moments - an oasis in the unforgiving, completely inhospitable and of questionable sanity desert that is The Amazing Spider-Man 2.


  1. That review my friend, is why you need to be in the film industry. Like... now. I enjoyed this read.


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