Expectations can be a killer.That should be the tagline for this film as well as this review. THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2 tackles all kinds of expectations and the horrible consequences of what happens when they fail to be fulfilled. The movie also made me question whether we should hold comic book movies to the same criteria – or expectations – which we hold other films. By their very nature comics and their characters are hyper-real, excessive and bigger than life. Isn’t that what we want from them? Isn’t that what we love about them? To what degree should the story be plausible or the characters be believable, and where in the story do we want to believe versus being, well, amazed? That is a very fine line indeed and one which I suspect the four credited screenwriters struggled with mightily. While I enjoyed and liked the film far more than I expected to (low expectations folks), the inconsistencies and outrageously excessive length kept it from being what I believe it could have been with tidier writing and a more ruthless editing hand.
I will not dwell on the fact that I have no idea why we needed to reboot the Spiderman franchise a mere 10 years after the Tobey Maguire versions which still feel fairly fresh to me, but never mind that. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry as they should as they are also a couple in real life. I would like to add here as well that Emma Stone is so damn cute and perfect that I have a wicked girl crush on her as do most of the women (and men) I know. It’s enough to just watch her eyes shine when she smiles. She is truly magnetic. Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn evokes an alluring and provocative early David Bowie androgynous vibe which conveys both teen angst and impending malevolence. Director Marc Webb brings us up to date on the incredible things that computers can do for our viewing enjoyment and maybe that’s the whole point here. We all know the story – no revelations here unless you thrill to every new genetically altered Oscorp accident induced super villain. We had a lizard guy first and now we have Jamie Foxx as ‘Electro’ who is, well, an electric guy. Kind of eel-like as well. Comic books work for us in part because they are an easily digested serving of modern day Jungian archetypes. The warrior, maiden, trickster, father and more are all blown up in 21st century CGI and mind boggling 3D. Now that I mention it I should reveal that I saw the film in IMAX 3D and I wholeheartedly support that viewing environment. If there was ever a film to make great use of it – it is this. The 3D effects of Spiderman swinging by a web though New York City’s canyons of skyscrapers are both thrilling and nauseating – just as they should be. And to its credit the Spiderman stories present more than the simple black and white of good versus evil; there are ethical dilemmas and decisions to be made, alliances to be formed and betrayed, love blooms and is lost. I felt that there was a marked inconsistency in the screenplay where the dialogue between dyads, Peter and Gwen, Peter and Harry and Peter and his aunt, was surprisingly genuine, unexpected and at moments honestly moving. The rest of the script however falls right into typical and prescriptive cliches. Why do evil villains upon morphing into their monster modus operandi instantly have the power to come up with pithy double entendres? Why does the evil doctor have to be German? Does the nerd really have to have ‘high-water’ pants, ridiculously outdated glasses and horrible hair? Why do the antiheroes have to have such bad teeth? I mean really – can’t we be treated to just a tad more sophistication? It is when the movie relies upon this kind of rote carelessness that you see the potential and opportunity which was lost, and that’s a shame. If Webb is trying to make a film accessible to kids he has failed there – they will never understand the sexual innuendos, the underage cognac drinking or the corporate espionage and back stabbing, but thank GOD miraculous black underwear appears on Electro at a key moment of materialization or all hell would break lose. And know that most kids younger than teenagers will be scared shitless.
Once again I come back to expectations. Was I disappointed? No, I actually had quite a good time. I was never bored, I was thrilled, and I was even a little moved. I wish we the audience had been given a bit more credit for our ability to see nuance, to not want everything served up on an overt digital platter. It’s OK to make your audience think once in a while. Additionally, at 2 hours 22 minutes long a good 20 minutes could have been trimmed and it would have made a far better film. While it has become de riguer to throw in a thread suggesting the next film right before the credits roll, we really don’t need it. THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2 bites off a bit too much and that compromises it as a whole. It can be hard to know when to say ‘when’ especially in a blockbuster franchise like this, but a grown up has to unplug the video game at some point and I wish only that it had been done a bit sooner.
Director – Marc Webb
Starring – Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field
142 Minutes, Rated PG-13
Movie Review The Amazing Spiderman 2