Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Film Review)

Let's be blunt right out of the starting gate: This one is bad. I mean really bad. It's not the film you would say is worse than Batman & Robin, but you would probably mention it in the same sentence. All those who are worried about this having learnt nothing from the criticisms of Sam Rami's Spider-Man 3 were completely on the ball. Not only that, but it somehow manages to forget half the things it got right in the first Amazing Spider-Man.

Set some time after the original film, Peter Parker is continuing his life as the web swinging superhero protecting New York city. While still haunted by the promise he made to a dying man, the adoration of the public is clearly bolstering his confidence and keeps driving him forwards. However, when an act of mercy turns to obsession, Spider-Man soon finds himself with a foe a thousand times more dangerous than the Lizard. Worse still, he is not alone...

The original Amazing Spider-Man was a solid installment which, while making a few errors, managed to do enough right to warrant its existence. Rather than completely rehashing the original film, its origin story moved in a new direction and tried to focus upon areas the Sam Rami films had never succeeded in. While Andrew Garfield may not have been a better Peter Parker he was definitely a better Spider-Man. 
The story may have been cheesy beyond belief and featured a plot hook no writer had any plans to continue with; yet at the same time it did the rare act of showing the police as (mostly) competent and the director had a great eye for action sequences. The film was extremely flawed but did just about enough right to warrant a look, despite the crane scene, and more or less holds up. 

The sequel drops nearly everything good and makes the flaws infinitely worse.

As the film opens up you'll immediately notice the massive leap in tone from the original. Rather than trying (and mostly failing) to do gritty, street level crime this film has opted to go for super happy fun times Spider-Man. As if it's trying to distance itself as far from the first film as humanly possible, yet it will keep bringing up plot points from the original. It's as if someone at Sony made the demand for the films to be brighter and more kid friendly, but didn't want all that money put into the first one to go to waste. So, half the time the characters are trying to act as if the first film never happened, and the rest of the time they are directly referencing it.

I am being completely sincere with you when I say I have not seen writing this lazy or quite so plot hole ridden since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The villains alone prove this one after the next, with the writes skipping next to all build-up, establishment and real introductions in order to fit them all in. Let's just go through them in turn for a moment.

The Rhino? You've already seen all of his scenes in the trailer. No, really, that's no an exaggeration. Every moment he is on screen as the Rhino you'll have already witnessed just from the promotional materiel. He shows up in the battle suit long after the big fight is over, effectively says "I'm here!" and the film ends. Despite being crammed into every bit of the promotional material, he might as well have been carrying a sign saying "SEE ME IN THE SINISTER SIX MOVIE!"

Electro tries to be written as a sympathetic character, but we barely get to know him prior to his transformation or are given a reason to care. Looking like someone who has walked in from a bad comedy, we're just about told his name and then OH NO, SOMEONE FLIPPED HIS SWITCH FROM GOOD TO EVIL! Oh, and he's a fanboy turned villain. Because the genre has only used that a good four or five times now.

Harry Osborne is easily the most mishandled figure here and where the film completely falls to bits. What made Harry in the prior trilogy and comics work was because he was a longtime friend. A person Peter Parker had been a long acquaintance of, so when he turned on him it was genuinely shocking. The film here actually has to have Peter say "he's my best friend" despite only sharing one scene together prior where they are on good terms. SHOW, DON'T TELL!

Any one of these characters, yes even the Rhino, might have worked if they had just been given focus. Instead the film seems to go out of its way to sideline them for as long as possible, just so it can have three villains ton the posters. That or so Sony can use them for the many sequels they have planned, which does seem to be their big focus here. 

The very core of this film's problems are that they are obviously comparing themselves to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and want to do the same. Rather than spending all those years building up links and connections though, here the creators cut corners to the point of saying characters are well developed rather than showing it. Rather than constructing one success at a time and linking the films together, what we have here is a desperate attempt to catch up by forcing out as many characters as possible. It's the same thing Man of Steel 2 is thought to be doing, reaching Marvel's heights without doing even a third of the work required. This even extends to the trailer which desperately teases a massive crossover to keep audiences interested.

Even ignoring some of the problems this causes in the approach to the film, we have much bigger problems with clearly no one knowing what they want to do. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 supposedly underwent some extensive re-writes, and that's visible here to the point where you can practically see the join where scripts were mashed together. 
Towards the end the film needs there to a ticking clock so Electro needs to be taken down before innocent lives are lost thanks to a potential plane crash. Almost at exactly the same time, the film sets up a second ticking clock with the hospital Aunt May is working in as the power goes out putting lives at risk. She spots a portable generator nearby as people are dying, then the film cuts away and never comes back to it again. There's a set up and no resolution, and the film is peppered with these moments. This is to say nothing of the mood whiplash you get as the film jumps from one tone to the next with no sense of constancy.

The while there are good elements in the film which begin to work, none are remotely decent enough to save it. 

While many of the actors are clearly trying their best, nothing they can do can hope to divert to tidal wave of bad writing which strips away any semblance of quality. While Peter and Gwen Stacy's relationship seems to hold up, it is promptly terminated for the sake of fan-service. Some go so far as to embrace the bad writing with Paul Giamatti in particular visibly taking nothing seriously, chewing on every piece of scenery he can find. While the fight scenes might be dynamically staged and well executed, you have already seen all of the best bits in the trailers. To top this off, the CGI is so poor that it looks visibly unfinished at times. For all the crap Green Lantern gets that film honestly looked vastly better than this. Hell, Daredevil has better CGI than this at times!

What you get here is a two hours and twenty-two minutes of cinematic disaster, something which should be given to college students as a guide on how not to do filmmaking. This is easily one of the worst science fiction films of the year so far, crashing and burning almost as soon as the opening credits finish. Normally i'd say go watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier instead, but you know what? Go watch just about any other superhero film from the last decade instead. X-Men 2, Iron Man, Batman Begins, all are vastly superior to this disaster and you'll have far more fun.

If this is the shape of things to come, we could be seeing the beginning of the end for quality superhero cinematic universes.


  1. Wow... I wasn't expecting this to be good because I was a little on the fence with the last movie, the main reason I didn't like it was because Peter was so stupid (in particular how the lizard finds out Peter is Spider-Man), but I do agree it did enough to justify itself, this on the other hand I'm not too sure how to describe, aside from it's just Spider-Man 3 all over again, except worse, the overhappy tone, the narration, the prompt termination of the love story, the terrible CGI, way too many villains, same thing really.

    I was hoping Electro would look better in the finished film then he did in the trailer, too bad he doesn't, how is the goblin in the film at least? Is he in it about as little as he is in the trailers?

    1. You've pretty much nailed it really, it's just a terrible version of Spider-Man 3. Really, i'm actually looking back on that film and beginning to forgive a lot of its flaws given just how infinitely worse they were here.

      Electro unfortunately doesn't look that much better. There are definitely a few better scenes where he seems much more menacing, but the CGI in the faster action scenes makes him often look cartoonish. The Green Goblin meanwhile is, well, he's in this more than the trailers. Unfortunately he's also only in this so they can use him for later films and reenact a certain famous comics scene to try and win over fanboys. Yeah, the film jumps from Spider-Man acting like a borderline Deadpool with jokes, sarcasm and laughter to Gwen Stacy's death.

  2. This movie was amazing. The pace was really good and the villains were freaking awesome. Also Andrew Garfield perfectly fits the role as spiderman and I think he is better than Toby Maguire spiderman

  3. This movie sucked. I actually laughed at the idiocy of most of it and fast forwarded the other bits. Tragic is an understatement. Did 17 year olds write the script? Please say yes.

  4. The project as a whole conveys a drab sense of bureaucratic necessity, a "let's get this over with" wheeziness.