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

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Spidey’s Back!

Spidey!In a move that really wasn’t all that surprising to us, Marvel Comics announced that Peter Parker will once again be Spider-Man this spring. The New York Daily News broke the story earlier today in a feature that included an interview with Spider-Man writer Dan Slott.

For anyone who doesn’t follow the latest happenings in the Marvel Comics universe, Peter Parker’s consciousness was removed from his body by his long-time foe Doctor Octopus in a mind swap. Doctor Octopus was dying and did the switch in order to survive. This all culminated in late 2012 with the final issue of the long-running title The Amazing Spider-Man, which was number 700. The title was replaced by The Superior Spider-Man, which featured Doctor Octopus masquerading as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his darker, meaner take of the superhero divided fans. Many decried the fact that their beloved nerd, Parker, was dumped in order to give new blood to the Spider-Man comic books. But a vocal number of readers came to like the new Spider-Man who wasn’t so noble or honorable. This divide will probably continue for the rest of the character’s history.

Still, fans who disliked the new ASm2Spider-Man are breathing a sigh of relief at the news, which isn’t truly surprising. Think about it, a big-budget movie is coming out in a few short months (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and it wouldn’t do to have a disconnect between the comic book and movie versions of Spider-Man. The idea of explaining to non-fans that the Peter Parker in the comic books isn’t really him, but the one in the movies is the real deal, can leave anyone confused. This is Marvel’s most famous and beloved superhero, after all. In the long run, that character change couldn’t be permanent. It’s all part of branding and marketing efforts to increase buzz and comic book sales. It worked in the past with so many other superheroes –Superman, Batman and Captain America have had similar storylines where they were replaced. But these marketing gimmicks, while they do work, create negativity and cynicism about the company, since the average reader knew that despite Marvel’s insistence in 2012 that Peter Parker was dying off, that things would go back to the status quo.

This doesn’t mean that The Superior Spider-Man was a flawed effort, it did have its merits and presented a fresh take on Marvel’s flagship superhero. But it is a bit of a relief that the happy-go-lucky Peter Parker is back in a new launch of The Amazing Spider-Man. If only it didn’t have to be relaunched as an issue number 1, but that’s the marketing department for you.

Lewis T. Grove

End Of An Era For Spider-Man

spidey 700Marvel Comics has just released the 700th and final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man in a story called “Dying Wish: Suicide Run”. It’s publication can be seen as the nail in the coffin for the old Marvel universe as the comic book company re-launches itself with its Marvel NOW! comic books aimed at bringing in new readers. Their core titles have been canceled and relaunched with new number ones and new titles altogether. In Spider-Man’s case, an all-new comic book is set to debut in two weeks called The Superior Spider-Man.

Why such an unusual title? Well MAJOR SPOILER WARNING it turns out that this is a different Spider-Man. He’s actually Otto Octavius, yes, Doctor Octopus himself is now Spider-Man.

We have to go back to around issue 600 of The Amazing Spider-Man, in that issue it was revealed that Doctor Octopus was dying, in fact, his body is a shriveled, helpless husk kept alive in a mechanical cocoon. With his dying breath, Octavius has been obsessed with finally defeating his arch foe Spider-Man and making one big impact on the world. In issue 698, it was revealed that Doctor Octopus knew about Spider-Man’s true identity of Peter Parker (never mind that he learned this shortly before dying and forgetting it during the Clone Saga fiasco), then it was revealed that he had transferred his mind into Spider-Man’s body, while Peter’s mind was implanted into Octavius’ dying form.

In The Amazing Spider-Man # 700 Peter, in Doctor Octopus’ decaying body, desperately tries to undo the switch before time runs out. Written by Dan Slott and drawn by Humberto Ramos, this issue is a bonafide tour de force that touches on all aspects of Spider-Man’s life. uncle benThe highlights were when Peter has a couple of near death experiences and glimpses the afterlife populated by his deceased loved ones like Gwen Stacy and his Uncle Ben. These sequences and Peter’s failing struggles are very heartfelt and exemplify why Spidey has been so popular. It nearly undoes the bad taste that the infamous “One More Day” storyline has left with many fans.

The ending to this issue and story will be as controversial and radical as that of “One More Day” for one obvious reason.

DO NOT READ BELOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED

 

 

 

LAST WARNING

 

 

Peter Parker dies.

Ultimately, Peter was unsuccessful in switching back to his true body, and the effort made him consider doing the unthinkable such as attempting to willingly kill a person. However, his efforts weren’t in vain. While Doctor Octopus took Spider-Man’s body, his mind absorbed Peter’s memories and behavior. In the end, after Peter dies in Doctor Octopus’ body, Octavius finds himself learning about responsibility, empathizing with Peter and promises to take up Spider-Man’s heroic cause. The story has an epilogue in the comic book The Avenging Spider-Man # 15.1 where Octavius slightly alters the Spider-Man costume and leads to next month’s new title of The Superior Spider-Man.

death of peter

It’s always sad to see Spider-Man die (usually in What If? stories and most recently the Ultimate Comics version) because he always seemed so vulnerable compared to other superheroes. But this time it felt sadder than normal since this is the true Spider-Man that dies not an alternate version. It does feel like the end of an era, the comic book had its highs and lows but The Amazing Spider-Man was one of Marvel’s most consistently good titles. At the same time, this story celebrates all that is good and noble about Spider-Man and does set up a very intriguing direction for the character. Being that these are comic books, of course, this development will be undone in some way and Peter will be resurrected. If they could revive Steve Rogers and Barry Allen they can bring back the true Spider-Man. new spidey 2In the meantime, this new take of Spidey (is it even proper to refer to him as that? The new Spider-Man seems much less happy-go-lucky than the original.), offers a new way of looking at Spider-Man and brings up new questions. How will he fit in with Peter’s life? Can he really become a hero? Can he leave behind his former villainous life? Will anyone catch on to what is going on? Is Peter Parker truly gone? Careful readers will spot an escape hatch or two. One certainy is that Doctor Octopus has elevated himself to become Spider-Man’s greatest foe. He accomplished what others failed to do by killing him but now he has to pay the price by assuming Spider-Man’s heroic role.

The rest of the oversize comic book features two back up stories and artwork including a complete gallery of every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Hopefully by the time the next anniversary arrives, TPTB at Marvel will decide to resume The Amazing Spider-Man and with the original numbering. As to how readers will react to the new title and hero is open to question. While these new changes are a good jumping on point for new readers, “Dying Wish: Suicide Run” also serves as a bittersweet goodbye for older fans who may not want to follow the adventures of the new Spider-Man. At the same time, for cynical readers who have read countless stories about dying superheroes (only to see them resurrected), this can be more of the same even though it was well done in “Dying Wish: Suicide Run”. The fact that the new title will be called The Superior Spider-Man belies its transient nature of this new Spider-Man until the proper hero makes his eventual return.

Until then, long live Spider-Man.

José Soto

Spider-Man’s Greatest Moments, Part III

As Marvel celebrates the 50th anniversary or birthday of their greatest superhero Spider-Man, here are some more elements that has best defined everyone’s favorite web-slinging hero. These aspects and many others are the reason why Spider-Man continues to captivate many fans.

A Doubtful Everyman What makes Spider-Man such an endearing hero is the fact that he isn’t the most powerful superhero. He isn’t even the smartest. He gets by with his pluck and determination and sometimes by knowing when to retreat and come back to fight another day.

While he is quite a powerhouse when he puts his mind to it, often he fights more powerful foes or the villains just happen to gain the upper hand. This usually led to bouts of severe doubt. This happened very early in his career in The Amazing Spider-Man # 3, which was the first appearance of his arch nemesis Doctor Octopus. Early in the issue, Spidey easily captured some robbers and he mused to himself that his crimefighting career was too easy. Little did he know that a few pages later he would get a major thumping when he first fought Doctor Octopus. He was so humiliated by his defeat that he considered hanging up his costume until a high school lecture by the Human Torch about not giving up, inspired his alter ego Peter Parker to get back into the fight and eventually defeat Doctor Octopus.

There was another moment when he had to prepare to fight Doctor Octopus in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man # 78. Most of that issue dealt with Spidey coming to grips that he might not survive the oncoming battle with Doc Ock and was mentally preparing for the ordeal. It was notable because in that issue, Peter took time to say goodbye in his own way to his loved ones. Of course, readers knew that he would come out the winner but he didn’t and his fears and doubts made him very relatable to readers.

Often Peter winds up berating himself over his choices and the consequences from them. He blames himself for his Uncle Ben’s death, for causing his Aunt May so much stress over his disappearances, and so on. The sad thing is that many times Spidey is correct in blaming himself. One of the more boneheaded things to happen to him is that he failed to graduate college (The Amazing Spider-Man # 185) because he didn’t have the required credits and didn’t notice this due to his superhero activities.

When it comes to his anguish nothing could top the aftermath of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy’s death in The Amazing Spider-Man # 121. In that infamous issue, the Green Goblin kidnapped Gwen to lure Spider-Man to the George Washington Bridge. At one point, the Green Goblin tossed her off the bridge and Spidey snagged her with his webbing. As he pulled her back up, he was congratulating himself on having saved his girlfriend. But what he didn’t realize was that his action actually snapped her neck and killed her. The issues that followed illustrated his rage and grief and to this day, he’s has been shown to be still haunted by her death as would any one of us.

Supporting Cast Unlike many superheroes Spider-Man has been blessed with an excellent supporting cast. Starting with his Aunt May, always on the verge of death until recent writers realized that plot point was used once too often. She first came off as an overbearing mother type, but over time, May Parker learned to let go of Peter and became supportive of him. May had an intriguing development where she learned of her nephew’s secret identity following a brutal battle he had with Morlun (The Amazing Spider-Man # 35, Volume II). However, her knowledge of Peter’s secret identity was undone by the infamous “One More Day” storyline that rebooted the Spider-Man universe.

The most glaring casualty of the reboot was the dissolution of Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson. Aside from Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane is Peter’s greatest love and ever since her first full introduction (The Amazing Spider-Man # 42) she rocked his world and won over many readers with her flash and verve. Mary Jane was there to pick up the pieces after Gwen died. Her most shocking revelation came at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man # 257 when she admitted to Peter that she always knew he was Spider-Man. This knowledge was a barrier to their on-again-off again relationship, but they eventually married. Naturally, his Spider-Man activities conflicted with his domestic life to the point that she left him at one point (The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2001), though they later reconciled. Foolishly, TPTB at Marvel Comics decreed that Spider-Man couldn’t be married because they felt the marriage plot line was stale. Hence the “One More Day” story where Spider-Man made a deal with Mephisto to save his Aunt May at the cost of his marriage. But even though they aren’t married in the new timeline, it was shown in recent issues that they still have feelings for each other, so it may not be over. Continue reading

Spider-Man’s Greatest Moments, Part I

Marvel is celebrating the 50th birthday of their flagship superhero Spider-Man. He’s come a long way since appearing on the last issue of a failing science fiction comic book, but the minute he was introduced in Amazing Fantasy # 15, he became a sensation. Helping to usher in the so-called Marvel Age of Comics, Spider-Man was and is still Marvel’s most popular and iconic superhero. Over the years, our favorite Wall-Crawler has seen his highs and lows when it came to his storylines. There are too many to go through here, so let’s just highlight some aspects of them.

Insurmountable Odds

A hallmark of Spider-Man stories are those where he faces incredibly tough situations or foes. What makes them so special is that Spidey isn’t the most powerful superhero, he can’t shoot beams out of his hands, he can’t even fly. This makes him more relatable to us and is one of the reasons why he is so popular. He’s had to go up against villains that clearly outranked him in power and how he perseveres against them gave us some of the most exciting and hand-wringing stories. Who can forget that two-issue battle against the Juggernaut (The Amazing Spider-Man # 229-230)? Spidey fought this desperate battle against someone who could take on the Hulk. The Wall-Crawler tried everything but couldn’t make a dent against Juggernaut. Still, he wouldn’t give up, and somehow he stopped the Juggernaut by luring him into a bed of wet cement. Then there was his battle with the former Galactus herald Firelord (The Amazing Spider-Man # 269-270), where he shocked the late-arriving Avengers with his sheer will power as he managed to knock out Firelord.

But the best story that showed how determined Spider-Man can be was in the classic comic book The Amazing Spider-Man # 33. In the previous issue, he fought against Doctor Octopus at an underwater base and was left partially buried under tons of rubble and debris with water flooding. Meanwhile, inches away lay a canister containing a cure for his Aunt May’s latest ailment. He spent most of the issue struggling to free himself but failing. He berated himself, resigned to failure. But he couldn’t accept defeat not with his aunt’s life on the line. Spider-Man motivated himself and carefully maneuvered his body to free himself just in time. It was the most dramatic moment seen in a Spider-Man story and copied by others.

Marvelous Team-Ups

Ever since the very first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, our favorite Web-Head was shown to be an integral part of the Marvel Universe. In the first issue, Spider-Man tried to join the Fantastic Four and ever since, he has butted heads and teamed up with Marvel’s rich roster of superheroes. Some were interesting in that he had unusual pair ups (Howard the Duck, Frankenstein’s Monster, the John Belushi-era Saturday Night Live cast and even Superman in the classic cross-company story Superman Vs. The Amazing Spider-Man) or Spidey was way out of his element (Spider-Man Vs. Wolverine one-shot and Marvel Team-Up # 41-46 where Spidey time travels from the past and into the future).

The most natural friendship he’s had has been with Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. The two heroes tended to behave like college roommates and ranked on each other. Some of their best meetings included the Christmas-themed Marvel Team-Up # 1, Spider-Man/Human Torch #1-5,and most recently with FF # 17. The latter was a hilarious tribute to mismatched buddy comedies like The Odd Couple and Two And A Half Men, where Parker and Storm briefly live together with the expected disastrous results.

But Spidey’s best team-up stories were in J.M. DeMatteis’ run in Marvel Team-Up #111,112, 114-125, 126-133. In those comics, DeMatteis showcased his writing chops with fun, thoughtful, amusing and sometimes poignant yarns that were able to touch a reader’s  soul (Marvel Team-Up #119, 120, 127). The best part is that these issues can be found relatively cheap in comic bins. Continue reading