Movie #15: Amazing Spider-Man 2

The-Amazing-Spiderman-2I had really loved the first instalment of this latest reboot of the Spider-man series on the big screen. I thought the combination of director Marc Webb, along with lead actors Andrew Garfield (as Peter Parker/Spider-man) and Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacey) gave an indie-film freshness to the non-superhuman parts of the story. While all three of them are back for the sequel, there is definitely a disappointing lack of freshness and even coherence about this movie. After the hero-making events of the first movie, Spider-man is now New York’s friendly neighbourhood saviour. There is some questioning of whether his kind of vigilantism is good for the city (good thing they don’t realize how many other super-heroes also live in New York/Gotham City!) but fortunately that isn’t the main premise of the movie. Even after agreeing to a last-dying-breath demand from Gwen’s father that he stay away from her for her safety, Peter and Gwen are still hot-and-heavy when the movie begins. A lot of the best scenes of the movie are still between the two young actors (as well as some really moving scenes with Sally Field as Peter’s Aunt May). Sadly, the super-hero side of the story is cartoonishly not-grounded in reality. First there’s an opening chase scene with an over-the-top Paul Giamatti as a Russian thug (there are a stupidly high number of police cars in this chase — so many that they end up in a ridiculous pile at end of the scene. Is that what happens when your chief dies in the first movie?). The other villains include Jamie Foxx (in nerd-face) as Max Dillon, a scientist at OsCorp who gets zapped and bitten by thousands of giant electric eels when he falls into their tank. As a result he not only becomes a bizarre, glowy, veiny being of blue electricity, but the accident apparently amplifies his neediness and insecurity (after all, that’s what beats at the heart of all nerds) and he takes a perceived slight from his idol, Spider-man, as a reason to go on a power-draining rampage. As well, Dane DeHaan (an actor who has perfected the frail, sunken-eyed, bordering-psychosis persona that is perfect for the new Harry Osborn). He too eventually feels betrayed by his former friend, Peter Parker, when he asks his help to acquire Spider-man’s blood to save his own life from a some kind of genetic disorder. Except for a few nice character moments (which seem to belong in a different film) the characters are all such thin caricatures, it’s frustrating to watch. Even Gwen takes to heart that stupid false-feminism of heroes’ girlfriends who think that it’s chauvinistic for a super-hero to want to keep a power-less human woman from following him into the face of danger. (Really, Gwen? You think it’s a good idea to force Spider-man to take you with him to fight a guy who can drain and channel a city-grid’s worth of electricity just because you had a brief chat with the guy on the elevator before he turned super-villain?) In the end, most comic book readers (even those of us who did not read early Spider-man comics) know what’s going to happen. What we didn’t know (or maybe we did) was that once the Hollywood blockbuster machine got its hands on a well-executed reinvention of an old story, it would turn it into a hollow action-flick. (3 out of 5)

15 down, 35 to go. (I know summer is almost over, but this blog will deny the end of the season until I’m done my 50 movies — even if it takes me ’til next summer!)

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