SPOILERS FOR THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 AWAIT THOSE WHO READ ON
When THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was first announced, I was one of the bigger sympathizers, and most open-minded among the blogosphere, thanks mostly to the impeccable casting and interesting choice of Marc Webb as the director.
I loved THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, though it wasn’t as fresh and exhilarating a movie as it could’ve been, merely because it existed in a post-Raimi trilogy world. We didn’t need another origin movie…even if this one may have been better, or at least found the greatest Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy they could’ve possibly found.
But from the moment THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 started being put together, with a spoiler filled ad campaign pronouncing a cavalcade of villains, a SINISTER SIX movie/franchise, it was like Sony and Marc Webb hadn’t learned from the past, and I became bored/disinterested/unenthused with the movie the more we found out, and the closer we came to the release date.
SPIDER-MAN 3 was trash, a mess, one of the worst big budget comic book movies in a sea full of them. It ruined almost all of the goodwill that Raimi had made before, with two of the very best comic book movies the genre had to offer, before Marvel Studios came and rewrote the handbook.
So, it appeared they were going to repeat the same mistakes, throwing Electro, Harry Osborn, Norman Osborn, Dr. Kafka, Felicia Hardy, Rhino, Alistair Smythe and a billion other references/characters.
We love our Easter Eggs…but the impact they have become muted, or lost, when the whole movie feels like one.
Yet, somehow, someway THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN wasn’t a bad movie. The action was thrilling, lush, vibrant, as comic-booky as it gets, with the best web-slinging and wise cracks that Spidey has committed to celluloid. The “New York as a character” shtick that has become weaved into Spidey’s DNA as much as the radioactive spider that created it all, didn’t feel as tacky and forced as the first film, and was still moving and effective.
I hated Paul Giamatti’s Rhino, a mind-numbingly over-the-top caricature…but the more I think about it, that was exactly the point, and he was undeniably an effective bookend, even if the Rhino armor made me want me to drink all of the poison this world has to offer.
There was too much going on. They rushed the Green Goblin story like CRAZY, and if they hadn’t found a brilliant Dane DeHaan who nailed Harry Osborn, and made us almost feel for such a prick, it would’ve been a complete disaster. Even so, he went from not dying to dying in a 0 to 60, kinda normal teenager to villainous freak the SECOND the disease manifests (the timeline of the disease made no sense, but whatever).
Jamie Foxx’s Electro was interesting. I liked that Max Dillon was nuts before he even got powers (instead of being made insane by his powers like every other villain), and his weird infatuation with Spider-Man. I dug how bizarre it all was. It’s a shame he mostly looked like ridiculous CGI (and bright blue)…though I loved when he was pure electrical energy (why would he ever revert back/be vulnerable?). But once he got his power, he was one-dimensional.
The Richard/May Parker conspiracy stuff is BS/lame/like every “mysterious past” story you’ve ever seen, complete with the subway lair. I almost thought Peter had stumbled upon the Ninja Turtles base. The whole thing was unnecessary. Peter’s parents being embroiled in Oscorp, the catch-all, meteor rocks of this universe, just wreaks of over-complication (like this entire movie), and all it really accomplishes is kicks Ben Parker’s sacrifice to the side.
The film would’ve been a disaster, merely a CGI-riddled spectacle, if not for the film’s heart being in the right place, and for Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy.
Marc Webb gets relationships, and if THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 was just PETER & GWEN (or GWEN & PETER), it might’ve been one of my favorite movies ever. They’re perfect together, the chemistry is so crackling that not only am I surprised they’re both not orgasming continuously on set, that I wonder how many people in the audience are getting off on it. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone…make me so wet, hot and jazzed about humanity.
Yet you knew it has a tragic end (I loved Denis Leary’s Captain Stacy literally haunting Peter throughout), whether you had it spoiled for you or not. There was no avoiding it. If you read the comics or not, it seemed pretty obvious from the start. Gwen Stacy has to die (or does she? That’s opening a whole other can of worms; but I sometimes wonder if Webb and Sony didn’t take advantage of this reboot fully; why not have Aunt May die in Part 1, and MJ the sacrificial character? Try something new. Of course, that’s also sacrilege).
This knowledge, somehow, didn’t subtract or lessen the impact from the story. In many ways, it made it harder, more impactful, more tragic. You KNOW Peter is going to endanger Gwen (but in reality, she endangers herself, thankfully), and she’s going to die, though you don’t really know how, or when. And I think Webb and company treated the whole thing tastefully, perfectly. I loved that Peter was going to follow Gwen to London, and the idea of Spidey traveling around London searching for Jack the Ripper, sounded like the greatest movie ever. But…it wasn’t meant to be…making it all the more heartbreaking.
There has never been a better “love interest” in a superhero movie than Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. She doesn’t even deserve that term, she transcended it. She wasn’t a damsel in distress, a flat character there to be saved or smooched, like Kirsten Dunst’s MJ or Jane Foster or Pepper Potts (until a brief “Rescue” stint) or practically ALL of the women in superhero movies. Gwen wasn’t a stereotype. She stood on her own two feet, and was just the best.
Subtracting Gwen Stacy from the proceedings doesn’t exactly make me excited for the sequels, since she and Peter were most of what make the franchise worth watching, or rebooting.
For that reason, and the fact that the villains were arguably the worst parts of this film (outside of the Parker Mythos), the film left me with a sense of foreboding.
Sony’s plan, to utilize Spider-Man’s incredible rogues gallery, and give them the focus, was a unique, and certainly an inspired take. Or could be. But judging from what we’ve seen here…where every villain is a rushed cliche, will we want to see a movie starring a bunch of them? A villainous, evil Avengers-like POV could be awesome, but I’m not very optimistic based on the evidence we’ve gathered so far.
What will THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 3 and 4 look like, and will I care? I already feel exhausted, thanks to a quick reboot, and the promise of a new Spidey-centric movie every year. But the third one won’t have what works/worked so beautifully about these first two movies: Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, and the relationship between Peter and Gwen. It was beautiful, and throwing Mary Jane or Felicia into the mix to replace Gwen could prove disastrous.
Of course…I actually think it could be the biggest opportunity in the movies to come. As I said, Marc Webb thrives with the human element, with Peter Parker, and showing him grieve, and wrestle with the terrifying prospect of potentially moving on from Gwen, or even allowing himself happiness, could be fascinating. It’s how we as the viewers will also feel, when Mary Jane comes on screen for the first time (cutting Shailene Woodley from the film was a rare show of restraint in the sequel, and THANK GOD they chose to do that; it would’ve been distracting, or worse, tasteless), we’re going to be just as apprehensive as Peter is, or just as mad/betrayed if he finds her attractive/bewitching. Chemistry is going to be a huge determining factor of whether or not it can succeed. Gwen was Peter’s soulmate, or at least that’s how we feel. How does one move on from that? It’s a complex and difficult question to answer for any movie, let alone a superhero movie where Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, Venom, Doc Ock, Carnage, Shocker, the Enforcers, Chameleon, etc. are probably bumming around New York.
Unfortunately, it’ll likely be lost/hindered in that tangle of Sinister Six-ness, as Sony tries to introduce EVERY villain imaginable in one movie, so they can get Sinister Six off the ground. Because there’s no reason for Sony to muck with the formula.
Despite mixed reviews, 5 movies in 12 years, the audiences certainly aren’t showing the same fatigue that I am. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2’s sterling opening weekend box office (and incredible overseas haul to this point), will indicate to Sony and other studios, that this kind of overstuffed sequel is what the audiences want and crave. I’m not without blame. I knew what I was getting into…and paid $19.50 to see the film in 3-D IMAX on a Friday night. So maybe it is what the average (dumb) moviegoer wants and deserves, but there’s potential for more, and that’s why THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 will be eternally frustrating.
It’s up in the air on whether it was Sony’s new formula, a harbinger of what’s to come, which means we should start the clock for when the enchilada collapses in on itself, and another reboot is necessary, because you know Spider-Man isn’t going anywhere.