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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Film Review: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014)

Red Star - One and a Half
The Amazing Spider-Man 2

If THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 did one thing right it's the colour scheme. But that's about it.

One can easily discern the fact that its screenplay was written by four writers, and even though I hadn't expected two of those writers to be the ones who wrote the abominable STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013), it honestly doesn't surprise me.

The film is overly long, punctuated by scenes pertaining to much irrelevance, in the greater scheme of things. Andrew Garfield is still terribly miscast, as is Jaime Foxx, and most of the film's characters are cookie cutter and two-dimensional; they each maintain one note, one philosophy, and we can predict their every move.

There are far too many stories to be found here. One of them focuses on the fact that Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) breaks up with Peter Parker (Garfield) because she doesn't accept the fact that he'll always choose to be Spider-Man whenever he needs to be, and also because she'd been accepted into Oxford University, which is in England.

There's another story that contains an emotionally unstable, introverted, Spider-Man obsessed, electrical engineering genius named Max Dillon (Foxx) who falls into a vat of electric eels, and as a result is turned into a super-powered man who embodies and can control a tremendous amount of electricity. He is later self-dubbed Electro. Dillon was always ignored by others, feeling practically invisible, and when he's ignored by Spider-Man, Electro is born.

Then there's Parker's old friend Harry Osbourn (Dane DeHaan), son of the infamous Norman Osborn. Harry hadn't existed in the previous film and he comes into this film almost half way through. The film, then immediately tells the audience that these two guys were once best friends, that they have an extensive back-story, blah, blah, blah. There is no camaraderie here. Nothing clicks and nothing feels authentic or organic. Underwritten is an understatement, and it's also forced onto us. It's unpleasant.

Writing out the Harry character would have been a wise decision because his deal here is that he's dying from whatever had killed his father and now he wants Spider-Man's blood, seeing that those radioactive spiders had worked on a human being without killing the subject. Spider-Man says "no" to Harry and instantly makes an enemy out of him.

So, let me get this straight: Spider-Man ignores Max, so Max hates Spider-Man. Spider-Man says "no" to Harry, so Harry hates Spider-Man. Is this really how super villains are created these days? By being shunned by the hero? I would have much preferred the source material's approach: Electro was a bank robber and a professional thief. Spider-Man busted him once, and so they became enemies. Simple, no? And straight to the point! But I digress...

Then there's Donald Menken (Colm Feore), one of Oscorp Industry's top dogs who kicks Harry out of his CEO position and blah, blah, blah...

And then there's Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti), a common criminal who at the start of the film hijacks a truck full of... stuff and whom is soon-after captured by Spider-Man. He is incarcerated and forgotten about until the final 3 minutes of the film. I'm not making this up. He takes up a good 15 minutes of the film and is entirely inconsequential.

Why he's in this film, also I do not know. Some say that he's here just so that he can become a big part of the third film. Well, here's a question for you: why not start the third film with a cold opening featuring Sytsevich? Take his opening in this film, remove it, and place it in the third film... (insert a sound of exhaustion here).

You see what's going on here? Overpaid Hollywood screenwriters believe that by cramming as much crap as possible into 140 minutes they're making a masterpiece, when in fact a proper story structure, character development, cause and consequence, and all of that other hullabaloo is what is required in order to compile a coherent and good screenplay. Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man films had benefited by each only maintaining one villain. The villain of each film has a fully rendered character arc, is fully developed, and Doctor Octopus (SPIDER-MAN 2's villain) is, also entirely empathetic. Peter Parker was likeable in those those two films, as well. It's important for an audience to like its protagonist.

You may think that I've been going on for too long with this piece, droning on about "all that's wrong" with this film, etc. when in fact I've been pulling the WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) concept of making this piece long and exhaustive so as to exemplify the problem with being excessive (except that Scorsese did it right). THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is mostly filler, and yet whatever it tries to fill up is either inconsequential, uninteresting, or just plain "made up". Like Harry and Peter's shared childhood. This is a film, guys, not a stage play! It's show, don't tell! If you want to fill us in on their relationship don't just have them spout expository dialogue for five minutes telling us that "they go way back, man". It's cheap, it's annoying, and it's insulting.

While this is a better film than than its predecessor, by quite a bunch, it's still a lousy film. It's colourful and it looks good, but it's also devoid of good storytelling and characters that we can care about, there's far too much going on all at once, and it's far too long. I will watch the third film when it comes out and I will do so without any expectations. Hopefully it'll be, at least, slightly better than this film and might receive a 50% approval rate from me. Maybe, we'll see.

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