Requiem For A Spider-Man Reboot

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As we all know, the latest buzz going around the ‘net has been about the leaked emails from Sony Pictures and in particular the future of the Spider-Man film franchise. We learned that Sony and Marvel Entertainment came agonizingly close to having Spidey appearing in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and in other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies. Additionally, the emails it’s clear that the Sony executives were up in arms over where to go forward with the franchise.

TSpidey MCUhe Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed (and for good reason!) last summer in theaters and took a vicious beating from critics and fans over its convoluted script and having too many characters. The emails prove that Sony knows something is wrong with the franchise, and also demonstrate how they badly lack any creative solutions. Let’s look at their idea for an Aunt May film which would reveal her secret life. Really? That is one dumb idea. Why not have a kid-friendly film starring Ms. Lyons the dog? Then there was the notion of making an animated comedy film about Spidey. That would go over as well as that Broadway play. Or how about a movie about an unnamed female superhero? Sorry, but other film studios are coming out with high profile superheroines like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. Seriously, these kinds of ideas make the planned Sinister Six movie to be a brilliant move!

What’s worse is that The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s reception has cast a doubt on continuing the franchise to the point that the planned Venom movie is all but dead and now the likelihood of a Sinister Six film is in doubt. The fragile nature of these films underscore how much the Spider-Man film franchise is in trouble. Announcement after announcement fail to drum up any interest among fans or worse hostility. The only Marvel property that generates more hostility is next year’s Fantastic Four reboot. Smelling blood in the water, many fans are ripping apart the two recent Spider-Man films and a war cry has started for Sony to sell the film rights back to Marvel. That’s regrettable. The reboot had some good parts and shouldn’t be completely disregarded, especially the first film.

From Highlight To Casualty

What the reboot got correct is that the ????????????????????????films moved away from Sam Raimi’s Silver Age-inspired films that were kind of goofy and a bit dated. The new Peter Parker, played excellently by Andrew Garfield, wasn’t a textbook nerd anymore. He was more of a loner, an outsider, and he seemed more modern. Peter was someone who had trouble connecting with the world around him until that famous spider bite changed his life. And the way Spider-Man was presented was just spot-on perfect. He was brash, wise cracking, nimble and at times it seemed like pages from a comic book were literally put on the silver screen without missing anything. Then there was the near-perfect chemistry between Peter and his love Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Some may wonder why Marc Webb, a director known for a romantic comedy – (500) Days of Summer – was picked to direct the rebooted films. Part of that had to be with the success he had with (500) Days of Summer, a genuinely funny and affecting movie that was a chick flick for guys. Webb was able to convey a moving romance between Peter and Gwen and they were the highlights of the rebooted films. However, other parts of the films had severe faults, like cartoony villains and haphazard editing, which is why it’s likely that Webb won’t come back for future Spider-Man films. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Should’ve Been More Amazing

posterWatching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was both a joyful and frustrating viewing experience. There is so much that the film gets right in terms of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) and his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). But sadly, this film is nearly derailed with so many flaws, namely the villains, the sloppy script and haphazard editing.

Andrew GarfieldThe problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is that it juggles too many plot points and the result is that not enough time is spent on any particular narrative. For instance, there is a Gwen Stacy sub-plot about her moving to England to attend Oxford that is buried under the film’s histrionic nature. There is an extraneous sup-plot about Peter’s parents with a payoff that is very underwhelming and could’ve been summed up in one or two scenes. Aunt May (Sally Field) is taking nursing courses while waitressing to make ends meet, but the only payoff to her arc is an all-too-brief scene with her at a hospital during a blackout. Meanwhile as that is happening, the film wastes time with needless scenes featuring two planes about to collide with each other during the blackout. That development didn’t have anything to do with Spider-Man and it comes off as unwarranted screen filler.

The film just doesn’t flow smoothly, a whole bunch of eggs are thrown up in the air and it was up to the poor editor to catch them and try to make sense. A good example is the film’s opening that has an exciting car chase with Spider-Man. He is making his distinctive ?????????????????????????????????wisecracks and doing lithe acrobatics among several police cars and a hijacked armored truck. It’s classic Spider-Man stuff, bouncy, exciting and fun! Then suddenly the film cuts away to this nebbish Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), who is so broadly clumsy and weird that all the excitement generated from the previous scene quickly dissipates. This happens throughout the film. Again the fault lies with the script written by Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the latter two being the now-infamous writing duo responsible for many flawed scripts in other genre works like Star Trek Into Darkness and Transformers. It’s as if they were given a directive to throw in all these plot points to ensure that Sony keeps the film rights to Spider-Man and his world and all else be damned.

?????????????????????????????????That leads to one underlying fault with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and it has to do with cramming multiple villains into one film. In reality, only one villain has the spotlight and that is Electro a.k.a. Max Dillon. Yet the film shoehorns in Harry Osborn/Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and the Rhino (Paul Giamatti) in what are essentially cameo roles, especially with the Rhino. It does bring to mind Spider-Man 3 but at least there, Venom had more screen time than the other two villains in this film. The trouble is that Electro is one of the weakest villains seen in a superhero film and Harry’s story arc is more interesting than Electro’s. Jamie Foxx’s character is so over the top in his nerdiness that he seems more at home in the Joel Schumacher Batman movies from the ’90s. It’s like Foxx was trying to emote Jim Carrey’s Riddler performance from Batman Forever, but Dillon is so cartoony and unbelievable and not in synch with the rest of the characters. Then when he turns into Electro, his motivation is very vague. First he’s confused about what’s happened to him, then he’s dismayed that his idol Spider-Man is treating him like a criminal. After that for some reason he wants to take away the electricity from New York because he’s generally angry. Something like that.

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Dane DeHaan has a much better turn as Harry Osborn, but he can’t compare to James Franco’s version, who was more sympathetic and emotionally riddled. In Sam Raimi’s films, the friendship between Peter and Harry felt more natural and the earlier films had an advantage in that Harry’s descent into villainy was allowed to happen at a natural pace over more than one film. It didn’t feel forced as it happened in this latest Spider-Man film. The way Harry’s story was truncated was a major irritant.

The same goes for Peter and Harry’s friendship this time out. Suddenly Harry pops up and Peter is best buds with him, then in their next scene together Harry is already acting unhinged. It just felt rushed and tacked ?????????????????????????????????on. However, the new version of the Green Goblin had quite a presence for what little screen time he had and is leagues better than the Power Ranger version shown in Spider-Man. He is a much more interesting character than the one-note Electro, and the fight between him and Spider-Man brought much needed suspense and thrills since the fight felt more personal. The conclusion of the fight was a real gut punch and just illustrates what The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets right.

The best thing about the movie is first and foremost Andrew Garfield’s performance. This actor perfectly captures the essence of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. This is the quintessential version of the beloved superhero. Garfield perfectly emulates Spider-Man’s witty nature and Peter Parker’s angst without going overboard. His Peter is infectiously relatable and grounded and many of his scenes provide much needed humor. It’s a shame that he is saddled in this film and that Garfield may hang up his mask after the next film. He is in the same league as Robert Downey, Jr. and Christopher Reeve who portrayed the definitive versions of their superhero characters. Garfield has perfected who Spider-Man is down to how he moves and acts.

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The chemistry Garfield has with Emma Stone is purely magical. Stone has a beautiful presence and lights up the screen whenever she appears. Her scenes with Garfield showcase director Marc Webb’s skill in bringing out intensely emotional and nuanced performances from the actors. Garfield and Stone make a terrific couple and emote an amiable nature that is so endearing.

Putting aside the romance which is probably Webb’s forte, the action in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is unquestionably thrilling. Many scenes look like splash pages from comic books particularly when the film goes into slow motion. The use of the film technique is justified here since we get to relish many eye-popping effect shots and see how Spider-Man moves. For the most part, the effects and stunt work are exemplary, but at some times the use of CGI makes the movie look like a video game and stick out from the natural feel of the rest of the film.

In addition to the effects, Hans Zimmer and the Magnificent Six composed the best score yet for these Spider-Man films. For once, the music perfectly matches and embellish Spider-Man and the tone of the film.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is definitely a mixed bag, which is disappointing. It’s not a terrible film but the stakes with these superhero films have been raised so high with the likes of The Dark Knight, The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier that this film falls short of those masterpieces. The bottom line is that despite its faults, it’s a generally enjoyable but messy summer film.

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By the way don’t bother sticking around for a post-credits scene. The only thing shown is clip from X-Men: Days Of Future Past that clearly doesn’t belong in this film and give the effect of watching the end credits of a TV show that shoves in scenes from another unrelated TV show. It’s a very crudely done marketing ploy and is systematic of the recent excessive marketing for many of these films.

José Soto

Forget Summer 2011, Bring on Next Summer’s Films!

Well the summer 2011 movie season is drawing to a close. Yes, August isn’t even here yet, but almost all of the big guns from the studios have been fired. There are just a handful of anticipated, genre flicks that haven’t been released yet. They include Rise of the Planet of the ApesConan the Barbarian, Fright Night, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Final Destination 5. With this year’s Comic-Con, all the buzz is still about next year’s, and more specifically, next summer’s film releases. Here’s a list of what to look forward to:

May 2012

May 4–The Avengers–What better way to kick off the summer movie season (and Free Comic Book Day) than with a Marvel superhero film? Continuing a years’-long tradition, Marvel Studios is releasing its most anticipated film that teams up its A-list superheroes; Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. Plus, it’s directed by fan favorite Joss Whedon so expect it to make some moolah.

May 11–Dark Shadows–Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp (again!) in this remake of the popular 1960s soap opera about the vampire Barnabas Collins which predates True Blood, Twilight and all the other hot vampire shows and films.

May 18–Battleship–The Internet’s been percolating with a newly released teaser trailer. At first people were scratching their heads over the idea that Universal Studios canceled Ron Howard’s production of The Dark Tower saga in lieu of this reportedly $200 million sci-fi film directed by Peter Berg (who’s last film Hancock didn’t exactly thrill audiences). But the sight of U.S. Navy ships getting ready to square off against Transformer-like alien ships won over many doubters.

May 25–Men In Black III–Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld reteam for the third outing of Earth-based illegal alien hunting agents. Little is known about the film, only that it involves time travel which is impossible according to some scientists in Hong Kong.

June 2012

June 1–Snow White and the Huntsman–Starring Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, this reimaging of the classic fairy tale is supposedly more action packed and darker. Already people are clamoring for it or dismissing this as another Twilight clone. Given Stewart’s popularity with Twihards it may do well at the box office.

June 8–Prometheus–Perhaps the most anticipated sci-fi film of 2012 as Ridley Scott returns to the director’s chair to helm this prequel (?) to the Alien franchise. Little has been revealed about this film that might be about the alien space jockey whose skeleton was seen in the first Alien film. This veil of secrecy hasn’t been seen in a film for a while and its whipping up interest among fans burned out by the awful Aliens vs. Predators films.

June 8–Madagascar 3–Dreamworks Animation’s big offering for the summer brings us the further adventures of Alex the lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo as they try yet again to find their way back to New York’s Central Park Zoo. Reportedly the gang winds up in Europe and a traveling circus; the kids already can’t wait!

June 15–Jack the Giant Killer–Bryan Singer directs this fantasy epic about a young farmhand who battles against a race of giants. Described as an adult take of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale this film features Ewan MacGregor and Stanley Tucci.

June 22-Brave–Pixar’s latest film has many firsts for the acclaimed animation studio; its first fairy tale, its first film directed by a woman and the first one to feature a girl protagonist. Its appeal to young girls who favor Disney films and Pixar’s brand for putting out animated masterpieces  should make a killing at the box office.  

June 22-Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter–Based on the popular novel of the same name it’s directed by  Timur Bekmambetov (his last film was the action-packed Wanted). It’s an interesting alternative for moviegoers who may not be into the month’s fairy tale releases.

June 29–G.I. Joe 2–The first film wasn’t exactly beloved even by those who swear by the Transformers films. But it made enough money to warrant a sequel. The question is how will it hold up to the heavy hitters released around the same time? It has got to have a killer trailer or word of mouth to get some momentum.

July 2012

July 3–The Amazing Spider-Man–Sony’s reboot of the Spider-Man film series has many Spider-fans torn over the need for a re-imaging so recently after Sam Raimi’s flicks. Yet again maybe the studio wants to get rid of the ill will the last film generated. Still no matter what critics say about Andrew Garfield looking like an emo, he does resemble Peter Parker and the mechanical web shooters will be used!

July 13–Ice Age: Continental Drift–The prehistoric mammals (featuring a wooly mammoth, a saber-tooth cat and a ground sloth) from the kid-friendly movie series return in this story that has them trapped on an iceberg and off on a seagoing adventure.

July 13–TedFamily Guy’s Seth MacFarlane makes his live-action directorial debut about a man (Mark Wahlberg) and his childhood teddy bear that comes to life. Sounds like a combo of Harvey and the recent TV show Wilfred. If Mike Judge could make the live-action transition then so could MacFarlane.

July 20–The Dark Knight Rises–OK hands down this is the BIG ONE for moviegoers. Whether or not you are a Batman fan you can’t deny the phenomenon of the last Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film. Touted as his last film and with Catwoman and Bane as the villains it might be the year’s biggest hit. In fact it’s expected to be so successful that it seems as if the rest of the summer season is drawing to a close afterwards.

August 2012

August 3–Total Recall–Colin Farrell and Bryan Cranston star in the remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi movie that was based on a Philip K. Dick short story. Farrell stated recently that the film, like the original, will differ from the author’s tale.

August 17–ParaNorman–A stop-motion animated film that takes place in a town besieged by zombies. The citizens then call upon the services of a boy who is a sort of zombie whisperer to take care of the problem.

Of course, these release dates are subject to change and will most likely do so. Already, the new Star Trek film that was scheduled for the summer has been pushed back, so it won’t be surprising to learn that one of the above films has been removed from the schedule or another will join the list. No matter what, it’s good to know that there are plenty of films to choose from for next summer.

José Soto