Review of The Amazing Spider-Man 2

If you absolutely looOOOve superhero movies yet have never opened a comic book in your life, then stop reading this article. If you’re a young comic book enthusiast but haven’t shown interest in exploring comic storylines from a year preceded by nineteen, then stop reading this article. If you think Mary Jane Watson is Peter Parker’s true love and you’re puzzled by this Gwen Stacy romantic interest introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man reboot, then stop reading this article. If you haven’t spent hours in a comic book shop debating the finer points of Marvel versus DC superheroes, then STOP READING THIS MOVIE REVIEW RIGHT NOW!

Seriously. Go read one of my blog articles on politics (I recommend “Russia…with No Love,” since it looks like civil war in Ukraine will be a reality by this upcoming Monday). Only comic book geeks who already know what is going to happen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 should continue. Those in the know understand what I am talking about…for all others, I guarantee I am going to spoil your movie-watching experience if you proceed.

In fact, even comic-book fans who know what the grand plot twist will be should probably go check out the movie before reading on…

I have been waiting for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie since 2002. I was looking forward to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man with bated breath. Spider-Man was my first beloved superhero, mostly because of the TV cartoons and my favorite pair of Underoos. The Amazing Spider-Man was one of the first comic books to which I decided to regularly subscribe, and once I started working in a comic-book shop (Tenth Planet in Schererville, Indiana…some free publicity for you, Dan Scheffel!), The Amazing Spider-Man #121 and #122 were some of the first back-issues I needed to collect. The Death of Gwen Stacy remains one of the best storylines in comics history…I fully expected Sam Raimi to include this storyline in his movie rendition of Spidey!

Of course, we now know that Mary Jane Watson was Peter Parker’s love interest in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. It’s understandable…after Gwen Stacy’s death in the comics, Mary Jane was his girlfriend for a longer tenure, and she even ended up married to Peter Parker (which is crazy, because Gerry Conway’s logic for killing Gwen Stacy was that he couldn’t see Peter Parker getting married). I was mostly satisfied with Sam Raimi’s treatment of the Spider-Man franchise; after all, Sam Raimi still holds my personal title for greatest geek movie of all time with “Army of Darkness.” (I proudly possess a signed bust of Bruce Campbell down in my basement!) However, I still hold a bit of a grudge against Raimi for mostly dismissing what I consider the most significant storyline of Spider-Man’s history (a grudge that became full-on loathsome disappointment with Spider-Man 3…apologies are necessary for that debacle).

So twelve years later, I finally found comic-geek gratification. The Death of Gwen Stacy storyline has reached the big screen. I was obligated to buy a movie ticket (even though the moths are more prevalent than dollar bills in the wallet). I sat in the front row, knowing full well what would happen…and the anticipated scene was jolting and saddened me all the same. The movie was not great (certainly not as bad as the movie reviews paint it), but the death of Gwen Stacy still has a profound emotional effect for this Spider-Man fan. I’ll admit to shedding a tear or two (trust me, not the first time in a movie theater).

Let me cover the elements of the film that did not work first: the script was the worst thing about this movie. There were too many clichés and convenient devices throughout this plot. Whether it was the convenient threat of a trip out of state to separate a romantic pair, photographic collages on TWO obsessed characters’ bedroom walls, evil corporate personnel who are evil because they are corporate, a take-charge nurse persona who can calm everybody in the heat of an emergency, or secret buttons that activate decades-old massive compartments with ready-to-view video inside for a character, you can tell the writers were looking for simplicity to move the plot instead of establishing thematic depth.

The character of Electro was a disappointment to me. Jaime Foxx did fine in the role. It was the horribly clichéd archetype they developed for this long-time villain of Spidey that left me wincing. Electro has a really boring origin in the comics. WAY BACK in Amazing Spider-Man #9, Max Dillon was an electric-repairman that was struck by lightning, developed electric powers, and just decided to become a petty crook and villain. Simple as that. It’s understood that origin would not work well for a big-budget movie, but the nerdy, neurotic hero-worshipper looking for attention has been done to death! Of course, he gains overwhelming super-powers, gets disappointed in his hero, and turns to the dark side of the force. Yawn. Brian Michael Bendis handled Electro better when he wrote this origin story for the MTV Spider-Man cartoon series. What really confused me about this movie’s Electro was his similar design to Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, both in appearance AND powers!…I wonder if DC’s got some beef here (since Alan Moore, the true architect of Watchmen, has no more say in the matter…whoops, slipped back into my comic shop guy persona…back to Spider-Man, please.). The only saving grace for Electro is, of course, the ultra-slick visual and ultra-booming sound effects utilized with electricity-generating super villains. (One more weird thing about Electro: at one point he’s wearing a costume that seems more appropriate for membership in the X-Men….)

I have the same problem with this movie that I had with the first Amazing Spider-Man movie: WAY too much emphasis placed on Richard and Mary Parker. Uncle Ben Parker was the motivating force for Peter Parker’s misery and call to action as Spider-Man; Peter’s parents were mostly an after-thought in the comic-book mythology, included in a chance storyline here and there. In these two movies, Peter’s obsessed with his parents…Aunt May mentions Uncle Ben a few times, but Peter pines for his lost father, or even Gwen Stacy’s father, constantly in this film (this had to be Denis Leary’s easiest paycheck ever!). Someone needed to tell Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, and Jeff Pinkner that they were writing Spider-Man’s Peter Parker, not Batman’s Bruce Wayne.

I have a similar problem with the way The Amazing Spider-Man 2 concluded. The child in the Spidey costume was nice, and the Rhino didn’t piss me off like I’m sure it will for many fans, but boy, Peter sure got over his grief quickly there. I know Raimi already used the ending of the Gwen Stacy saga from the comics in his first movie, but director Mark Webb really dropped the ball here. I’m sure he wanted to allude to the Sinister Six in Amazing 3, but he would have been better served to end this one with Gwen Stacy in Peter’s arms as he wept and wailed…

Okay, enough with the bad…the casting for this reboot series is outstanding. Andrew Garfield has grown on me as a good player for Peter Parker…I still prefer Tobey Maguire’s goofiness for the character, but Garfield’s likable playfulness and camaraderie with each of the supporting characters works well. His bantering tone is perfect for the web-slinger. Emma Stone, with the white-blond bangs, dark mascara, wide-eyes with the long lashes, mini-skirt, and high socks, is a dead-ringer for the 41-year-old comic character of Gwen Stacy (Stacy died in 1973!…a year before I was born…how old does that make all of you feel?). Leonardo DiCaprio-clone, Dane DeHaan plays a much more sinister Harry Osborn than James Franco ever could. DeHaan seems to have similar acting chops to DiCaprio, along with the looks, and I look forward to seeing his villainy in the next film. Sally Field continues to impress as Aunt May, and Chris Cooper remains one of the best actors of this generation.

These fine actors convinced me of a strong rapport between characters designed to be close and friendly, especially between Garfield and Stone, and Garfield and DeHaan. They had some serious work to do, as the script and its hackneyed dialogue did not help their cause. Garfield is especially effective at drawing emotion and genuinely convincing us of his experienced love and pain. He’s also quite humorous. I laughed a few times, not because the joke was especially funny, but because Garfield can make it funny with his silliness and affectionate grin.

The special effects worked well for me. I’ve already read a few reviews that criticize the hard-to-get-right web-slinging sequences. I recall Roger Ebert having the same problem with Sam Raimi’s rendering of the web-swinging (and Raimi’s got quite a bit of experience innovating camera techniques). Of course, the web-swinging is going to have rotating cameras, blurred motion, and corridors of skyscrapers. I’m not sure how else they could film these web-slinging scenes to satisfy critics. I suspect if you want more “realism,” it would probably become quite boring visually…go watch some trapeze artists at the circus to figure out how swinging isn’t quite as speedy or glamorous as flying…or we can go back to the 70’s era cartoon with the side view of Spidey methodically reaching forward with webs with the repetitive background of buildings moving left-to-right…

Ultimately, my swing-vote (pun intended) for a positive review of this movie goes to the scene of Gwen Stacy’s death. The comic-book death from issue #121 was controversial, causing fans to wonder if Stacy died because of Spider-Man’s web snapping her neck or if the Goblin had killed her prior to her being tossed off a bridge. The scene in the movie, with its slow-motion tension, did the comic-book justice. The side-view of Stacy’s impact before the ground and Spidey’s confusion of his failure to save her were well-crafted. The scene was impactful enough to satisfy my long wait for the film, and my emotional reaction confirms empathy for a character that endures great tragedy, yet maintains his stoically heroic demeanor. I am one satisfied Spider-Man fan.

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8 comments

  1. There are too many things I want to bring up in this post. It seems we have yet another common interest. Firstly, I haven’t seen the movie. Partially because I can’t see another actor playing Spider-Man besides Tobey McGwire. Oh, and while I’m on the topic of actors, how about Ben Aflac playing batman in “Superman vs. Batman”. My level of dissipointment can not be expressed in words. I agree with you, on the poor choice of villian as well. From a economic standpoint most people who don’t know much about Spider-Man have no clue who Electro is (might as well have been The Vulture, an equally terrible villian). You’d think they would put a villian in these movies that even laymen would at least recognize. And with all of the awesome villians in the Spider-man universe (Spider-Man has the coolest and most recognizable villians out of any comic series in my opinion) picks are plenty. I would have loved to see Venom done correctly this time, or the cool special effects they could have had with Mystero. I would have went opening day at the IMAX if Kraven the hunter was an antagonist (I know most laymen have no idea who that is but he’s beyond awesome)! I’m also not a fan of how Spider-Man now has is web cartridges instead of his natural ability to shoot webs. I know this is true to the comic and the 90s cartoon, (tied with the x-men cartoon from the 90s for best cartoon) but it just makes more sense that he could produce the webs naturally. But, I suppose I can’t complain about staying true to the comic. I know I’ve been focusing on the negative but I will see this movie, and I’ll probably enjoy many aspects of it. I have mixed feelings about X-men days of future past as well. I looks cool but x-men has disappointed me before. I love the fact that Bishop makes an appearance, but where is Cable! They need to let me write some of the plot lines for these movies!

    1. Good to hear from a fellow comic-book enthusiast! I’d love to see Venom (and Carnage) portrayed better…most of the reason I loathe Spider-Man 3 was the handling of Venom…there’s NO NEED to have Sandman included in a film about the alien costume and the symbiotic relationship…and Topher Grace as Eddie Brock might be the worst casting choice of all time…not to mention WHY introduce Gwen Stacy in the third film…see, you got me started.

      I have been waiting for Mysterio…I just assumed with the advancement of movie special effects that Mysterio would be a no-brainer…I’ll hold my breath for the next Spider-Man movie, since it looks like the Sinister Six will be featured (maybe the Chameleon will be another inclusion).

      Absolutely yes! about Kraven the Hunter. Kraven’s Last Hunt would work well as a movie all by itself…and it’s probably the best-written storyline in the whole Spidey mythos!

      I’m looking forward to Days of Future Past, but I was disappointed to hear Bryan Singer returned to direct X-Men. I don’t respect the first X-Men movie, and Brett Ratner, to me anyway, proved that Singer was stifling the series’ potential …Matthew Vaughn did excellent work on First Class; I’m not sure why his services were not retained for Days of Future Past…having said all that, I look forward to seeing it, hoping this movie will do justice to a treasured storyline (and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cable is introduced at the end, probably as a teaser for the next X-Men film.)

      1. Boy, tell us what you really think about Ratner. I have no particular allegiance to Brett Ratner, but I’ve never understood why so many fans tore him up for X-Men 3…It was competent, and a damn better representation of the X-Men comic universe than the original X-Men movie was. I’ll concede that X-Men 2 may have been slightly better, but not by a whole lot…and Bryan Singer’s Superman was a dud (though, not as bad as the Man of Steel…). I’d like to know why there’s allegiance to Bryan Singer?…I like The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil as much as the next critic, but Singer’s comic movies are not that impressive. Am I wrong, Hollywood Slinky? (Also, I am unfamiliar with the Secret Service comic…any good?)

    2. To be honest, I don’t know much about Secret Service either. Apparently, it is about a James Bond type who recruits and trains a teenage super spy. It was in the works to be made into a film down the road, but several similar scripts started circling Hollywood, so Vaughn left Xmen to make sure SS was the first one made.

      I find Singer to be a perfect Producer for XMen. He gets it, and he does a fine job overseeing things and making sure they’re up to speed. His directing is, in my opinion, a little static. The action sequences he directed in all of the XMen movies, in Superman and even in the trailers for this new XMen, all LOOK pretty, but there’s no feeling. They just seem dead, and somehow, boring, even as the universe explodes around the camera. I was HORRIBLY disappointed by Vaughn’s departure.

      That said, Brett Ratner is a hack. He is known in critic circles as Brett Crapner (this is true). I would concede, his directing of the action sequences in X3 is superior to Singer’s, but I have to disagree with you on that film being any good. I really thought it was terrible, and short sighted.

      1. Fair enough. You’re right about the cinematography and directing of both directors. I don’t see a need to defend X3 any further…I enjoyed it, but I’ve noticed its shortcomings after multiple viewings. My preference remains First Class in the X-Men mythos…here’s hoping Days of Future Past isn’t disappointing (I’m not encouraged by Wolverine’s bone claw story point or the early portrayal of Quicksilver, but it’s hard to tell from previews)

        Also, Lights, Camera, Cleveland, on WOOP 99.9 FM in Cleveland, Tennessee deserves a shout-out from the Maniacal CC Professor. Excellent pop culture review on the radio!

  2. I could go on about this for days. First I will start by saying that Spiderman 3 was awful. It felt extremely rushed and incorporated to many villains. I was also left puzzled/enraged by the inclusion of Sandman in a story line with the alien Symbiote. In the movie theater I almost said out loud “is that freaking Sandman, oh my God why?” I think that the problem is that many of these characters, like venom, have so much background associated with them through the comic literature that jumbling multiple villains together in one movie, that aren’t meant to be together, is almost always disastrous. A whole movie could easily be dedicated to whole Venom saga alone. Mix in the Hobgoblin and Sandman and you have a movie with a very rushed feel to it.

    Days of future past is one of my all time favorite comic storylines ever. So I hope that it does not disappoint. Also, X-men First class was my favorite X-men movie. It would be great if Cable had a cameo in the end. Speaking of cameos in superhero movies I grinned like a small child on christmas when Thanos was shown at the end of the Avengers.

    1. If you thought Spider-Man 3 was crammed with too much villian, then you might have the same reaction to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I didn’t have as much of a problem with the latter as the former, but I’d admit that the Spider-Man movie franchise seems to have a minimum quota for how many villians have to be included with each release…and the number might be growing.

      I’m an enormous Jim Starlin fan, so I was quite pleased to see Thanos, also…although I cannot see an entire Thanos Quest/Infinity Gauntlet saga happening on screen, I am excited to see what will happen with the Avengers sequel and The Guardians of the Galaxy movie (is it too much to hope for Adam Warlock to be included? I never thought Rocket Raccoon would gain so much prominence, so why not, right?)

      We will see about Days of Future Past…I might just write a review when that one is released. Hope it’s a positive one.

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