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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Release Date: 5-2-2014)

        George Santayana once said that, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," a brilliant and important quote which I guarantee has never been heard by any of the higher-ups at Sony Pictures. Directly following a pair of massive critical and commercial successes, 2007's Spider-Man 3 was immediately derided by fan-boys and film snobs alike, their complaints largely focused on two specific areas: emo (funk?) Spider-Man, and TOO MANY VILLAINS. Cluttered and semi-incoherent, you'd be forgiven for thinking the big-wigs in charge of Spidey would have learned their lesson. You'd also be wrong.

        The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a rag-tag cluster of plot points and ideas that onlykindasortanotreally congeals into a proper narrative. As always, we've got wise-cracking good-ol'-boy Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) clumsily compartmentalizing his normal and superhuman lives, and a lovely girl (Emma Stone's Gwen Stacey, in this instance) patiently waiting for him to figure it out. In addition to normal street-level crime, the web-slinger must also fend off an über nerd (Jamie Foxx) who flips from super-fan to vicious assailant in under three minutes' time (I swear I'm not kidding), and old friend Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan), who needs Spider-Man's magical blood to cure a terminal disease (again, not joking). Toss in some friction at home with Aunt May (Sally Field), and Peter's ongoing quest to discover what happened to his late father, and you've got a smoothy with more flavors that a normal human tongue can really handle (but maybe a super tongue...).

        I've always been in love with director Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man films (and still think the third receives more flack than it really deserves), but even those who weren't previously infatuated with the trials and tribulations of the wall-crawler should now hold the original films in higher esteem. It's not the casts' fault: they all perform gamely, Garfield and Stone in particular, Foxx and Paul Giamatti providing enough ham to clog arteries. Director Mark Webb and his action-focused second team are also absolved: the set-pieces are indeed dazzling, and the film itself moves along at a steady enough clip to distract the audience from just how illogical the on-goings really are. It's the dastardly screenwriting duo of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci who deserve the brunt of the blame.

        Veterans of recent big-budget disappointments The IslandTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Cowboys & Aliens, and Star Trek Into Darkness, Kurtzman and Orci are honorary members of Hollywood's untra-exclusive 'How Do We Keep Getting Work?' club (Ryan Phillippe and M. Night Shyamalan are also card-carrying members). Where their work on the Transformers films represents a career-low in terms of sophomoric humor and tastelessness, Amazing 2 betters it (worses it?) where structure and logic are concerned. The screenplay attempts to juggle about seven different story lines all at once, resulting in that rarest of things; an over-long two-and-a-half hour film where no one gets enough screen time. Worse yet, character motivations are almost impossible to come by, Electro's decent into evil and megalomania (not to mention his initial transformation) lacking any proper explanation, Peter Parker's messy embodiment, some undercooked amalgamation of wise-ass/mope/heart-throb/nerd/skater-punk/science wiz, preventing any real emotional investment.

        The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a complete and utter mess, plain and simple, and yet I just can't bring myself to hate it. Plot holes abound, eyes can't help but roll ("You don't know? I'm Electro!" is an actual line, and Foxx's baddy is frequently introduced with his very own dubstep theme song), but the whole thing is just so damn big and bright. Much like its Amazing predecessor, this Spider-Man is a triumph of the eyes over higher cognitive function, another sublime 3-D production that has you swinging between sky-scrappers in exhilarating fashion. Even the chemistry between Garfield and Stone works best visually; their lines are just as awful as those uttered all movie long, but the way the two sizzle together on-screen is pretty tough to ignore. I enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in spite of myself, but it does serve to widen the quality gap between the originals and the reboot. The former trilogy had heart, humor, tragedy, slap-stick, and (most importantly) characters whom we all cared about. This new series is like that attractive person you work with who never has anything interesting to say; fundamentally unlovable, but enjoyable from a distance.

Grade: B-

1 comment:

  1. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a complete and utter mess, plain and simple..."

    Truer words have never been spoken, er... written.

    "...and yet I just can't bring myself to hate it."

    I had no problem doing just that.