How To Fix The Spider-Man Movies

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been out in theaters for a month already. It’s made close to $500 million worldwide to date, so it’s a hit film. Yet, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has raked in far less money than the previous Spider-Man movie. Despite all the advertising and marketing, the movie has been largely forgotten in this crowded summer movie season. That’s unbelievable for a Spider-Man movie, usually they’re big hits. Something went wrong with the film, and the fans noticed and word of mouth probably has had a hand in keeping the box office numbers down. It’s sad to say but the franchise, despite being rebooted two years ago, seems tired and talk about sequels and spin-off films get yawns from everyone.

The film had its good points, but on the whole, it was a mess and killed any good will towards the franchise. What can be done? Spider-Man is one of the most popular superheroes around, rivaling Batman himself. The character is still viable, but the filmmakers have gotten away from what made Spidey work. If they want to win back the fans and more importantly for the execs, the big box office numbers, the following things have to be done.

Story First

What sunk The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was its sloppy script. The film was loaded with too many time-filler subplots that don’t go anywhere and needless characters. It reminded me of that equally dumb Spider-Man 3 with all the extra characters who didn’t add anything to the story (looking at you Gwen Stacy) and moronic plot twists (so Sandman accidently killed Uncle Ben).

?????????????????????????????????Does anyone care about Peter Parker’s parents? A few lines of dialogue and one or two scenes could’ve wrapped up that plot thread. Then there was the way they tried to convince us that Peter and Harry Osborn were best buddies even though Harry was never mentioned in the previous film. It was just one of too many plot lines in the crowded movie.

What was worst was that the movie felt like an ad for upcoming spinoffs and sequels and that harmed the narrative flow and pacing of this film. It was like director Marc Webb set up a revolving door on the movie set just to introduce new villains, which leads to the next point.

Improve The Villains

The  film execs clearly didn’t learn the lesson with Spider-Man 3. That film was weighed down with three villains ?????????????????????????????????who didn’t get adequate screen time to develop them. The same thing happened here, but worse. Electro was largely a one-dimensional joke, and reminded me of the Riddler from Batman Forever, only Jim Carrey did a better job of portraying a nutjob than Jamie Foxx. His portrayal of Electro before his accident was so over the top and he didn’t gel with the other people around him. I get they were trying to make him a goofy outcast, but it was too much.

spidey and doc ockSeriously, the last great villain in these films was Doctor Octopus and that was ten years ago. I’m not sure why they can’t come up with a worthy villain for Spider-Man, but jamming in a bunch of them to please toymakers isn’t working. It’s a damn shame because Harry Osborn/Green Goblin was pretty decent in this film thanks to Dane DeHaan’s performance, but his time was limited. If they would’ve dumped Electro, Harry would’ve had the needed screen time for his story. Instead, we get a rushed intro of the Green Goblin popping out in the end and briefly fighting Spider-Man. He’s supposed to be his greatest enemy, why relegate him to an extended cameo? The Green Goblin should be the top villain in these films. In this crowded film, he wasn’t the only character to get shafted.

Get Spider-Man’s Supporting Cast More Involved

???????????????????????????????Aunt May was largely wasted in the new Spider-Man movie and that’s an atrocity. The filmmakers went out and hired Sally Field, an Oscar winner, to portray Peter’s aunt and she just gets lost in this film. The few precious moments she has only point out how she was criminally underused. In the comic books, she was involved in major plot lines. Often, Spider-Man was out risking his neck to save her or worrying about her. This was better shown in the last film where Peter brought home organic eggs in the end after saving the city, it was a quiet moment that illustrated his love and responsibility and it worked.

jjj2But Aunt May isn’t the only neglected member of his supporting cast. Flash Thompson, Peter’s nemesis and Spider-Man’s biggest fan was absent this time around and where the hell is J. Jonah Jameson who brings a different kind of headache to Spider-Man? Our web-swinging hero needs a foil and Jameson filled that role perfectly in Sam Raimi’s films. It seems like the producers and Marc Webb couldn’t figure out who should play the newspaper publisher after J.K. Simmon’s act and gave up. Why not just bring him back? It worked for the James Bond flicks when Judi Dench played M with two different actors portraying the famous spy. Any Spidey film should have Jameson hounding him in the public eye. Continue reading

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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