Alright folks, so the summer blockbuster season has officially begun. It is May. For the next 4 weeks we will be inundated with some of the strongest contenders for box office gold. With June having a semi weak following in comparison just to gear up for the 4th of July and mid july stakes. August is the dump slot where all films studios aren’t sure about go to die or surprise people. Yes, that means even Guardians of the Galaxy, despite it’s budget is in that space. As we’ve discussed before this year has pretty much sucked overall. It’s had highlights (thank you Cap) but mostly been a bloody mess.
Now, I made no bones about it with the review of the first Amazing Spiderman (I really need a way to link to prior reviews…hmm) – I didn’t like it. There’s too much there that rubbed me wrong and took away from the film for me to really embrace it. It wasn’t even the too soon factor. Now, we have Amazing Spiderman 2; which from the trailers made it appear to fall prey to sequel syndrome with three apparent villains. Did it work? Keep reading. Were they too ambitious? Keep reading. Did I go in with low expectations? Not so much, they were low, but other things this year have been so much lower. Where did it finally land?
Well for one Mark Webb, the director who has music videos to his credit prior and (500) Days of Summer returns for this one. Consistency helps, but a lot of my complaints with the last movie came down to directorial decisions that were pretty bad. I think he learned. There are still some really bad decisions here. The pacing of the movie, which runs a full two and a half hours, is terrible. I was able to get up for a bio break during the midway part and feel confident I missed nothing important. I was right. He understands highs and lows in the plot and how to utilize them well enough, but there are just too many and the director should be able to have some control there and Webb did not. I am beating up here, but he does redeem himself. some of the blame in this area of pacing and storytelling comes down to the writers.
If I wasn’t counting repeats, the total count is seven. You may commence worrying now. When you do account for repeats, it still only drops it for four. Two of which I will blame nearly entirely for any flaws in execution of the story and those are Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. These two until recently are inseparable. They are the ones who gave us Transformers 2, Star Trek into Star Wars..er Darkness, Cowboys and Aliens, and so many other disasters of storytelling. They make GREAT producers, but as writers they leave a little to be desired. The movie also has Jeff Pinkner who worked with K/O on Fringe, Lost and Alias; and finally James Vanderbilt, who gave us the underrated Basic and Losers movies.
With this many writers, its no wonder the overall plot is a hot mess of trying too much and being too ambitious. Granted, it succeeds at a good portion of it, but not in every area. It does try to stuff three classic spiderman bad guys, their origins, their character development into a single film. While doing that it also tries to give a bit of the heroes journey narrative for your friendly neighborhood web head both in and out of costume. God, I want to get into spoilers here, but my promise is none. There is also a plot involving Peter’s parents again which I suppose if I followed the comics would make more sense, so Ill leave it as is. There really is a lot going on here, and it falls to the actors and director to try to make you care.
They succeed. This is where Webb shines. He has built a fantastic cast to work with and each of them really get a moment in the sun. Enough so that I was really able to see the world from their point of view. Jamie Foxx as Electro does a good job on what would otherwise be a fairly stereotypical caricature. Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) channels mid 90’s Leonardo diCaprio and Cillian Murphy here to give his performance. He does make you feel for him and are able to follow his arc as Harry Osborn. Paul Giamatti is not used nearly enough in his role, but there are of course movies to come. Emma stone (zombieland) is an amazing woman who gives you a modern day Gwen Stacy. She is strong, she is independent, and she will not let someone else make decisions for her. I admire her, she’s someone people could look up to. We need her in more roles, more comic book and sci fi roles if possible. Actioners too. She is a really talented actress who brings a lot of fire into the role of a character who in the original run of the comics was little more than fridge bait and a victim. FOr this, I say thank you Ms. Stone. You were needed and you did a great job of being more than what she was drawn as.
The brunt of the praise, that Webb earned as well, comes down to Andrew Garfield. Our Peter Parker. Our Spiderman. He is everything that he needs to be and covers the range of emotions that he needs to. You can feel his despair, his confusion, his fear, his pain, and even his joy. He runs the gambit of the emotional rollercoaster through the film and you are with him the entire time. You really don’t question him (much) as he hits each beat. what he also delivers and delivers well is something we’ve been lacking in our superheroes of late. We have been in a rut of post modernism in our heroes. This one wants to bring us hope, to bring smiles and that my friends is a nice change of pace and breath of fresh air. Is he moody? sure. Emo at times, yes, but with reason. Ultimately though he’s a comic book hero without too much deconstruction and we needed it. You may not know you needed it, but you did. Hope, light, and goodness are what we need more of in our heroes. So thank you. Thank you for doing it right here. Now do it again until people get off the dark and brooding kick.
The movie also boasts a fantastically executed soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Pharrel. I know right? It works. It isn’t memorable in the way that Star Wars or Superman is, but it is a strong soundtrack that elevates the film. You have moments of not being able to tell if you are dealing with effects or soundtrack at time and I consider this a good thing. Other musical choices in the film are just as relevant and just as well done.
It isn’t perfect though. Not by a long shot. As I said before the pacing is pretty bad. It runs about 30 minutes too long. Some of the visual effects are clearly animated and not blended well. Plot points are eye rollingly contrived at times with unnecessary threats and tension that only serves to distract. Editing errors are rampant; with confusing cuts and unusual beats with no explanation. Those moments serve to confuse rather than add. The visuals are a bit intense at times with motion and enough to be noticed, but not as bad as some have indicated.
I feel good in recommending this one.
It’s a landmark improvement over the previous entries into the Spiderman franchises. There’s room for improvement in the next. It was solid, it was entertaining and just a good movie. I didn’t come out of it as excited as I did in Cap, but I won’t hold it against the movie as it does deliver all it tries to. Some parts better than others.
Spiderman is certainly an all ages film. I don’t think any beats get too dark for younger audiences, but I do think the story when it begins to drag will leave some kids *really* antsy.
3D? Isn’t necessary to enjoy it, but if you can afford the extra and don’t have anything that makes 3D bad on you. Try it. It does add to the film, which is the first time I’ve said that this year. Yay.
Final note: This movie is bright in the story sense, the character sense. Please Hollywood, when this one wins the box office this weekend pay attention. This is what we need in our heroes and for the love of the art form get back to this!!