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

Ten Films To Look For In 2014

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Even though next year promises to be a mega-tsunami in terms of mind-blowing cinematic genre releases, this year won’t be a slouch. Superheroes, sequels and some original productions all look promising. These are are some of the most anticipated releases for 2014. Of course, some of them may wind up being major disappointments, while other films that weren’t even listed may turn out to be some of this year’s best. We’ll see…

10. Robocop

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Yes, many genre fans are ripping this remake of the 1987 classic a new one. They point out the production problems and hate the monochromatic look of the redesigned Robocop suit. But in the end, at least from the trailers, it looks pretty badass. A lot will depend on if director José Padilha can deliver the action and somehow repeat the dark humor from the original and maybe add some humanity. (Release Date: Feb. 12)

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans reprises his role as Marvel’s capamman out of time, Steve Rogers/Captain America. This sequel takes a decidedly different slant than its World War II-based predecessor. Now set in modern times, the film takes on more of a spy thriller vibe as Steve struggles to adjust to the new world and is embroiled in a plot that involves the spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. and his old partner, the deadly Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). (Release Date April 4)

8. The Hobbit: There And Back Again

Unless Peter Jackson plans on directing The Silmarillion, this is his final Middle Earth installment. Even for those that aren’t fans of Jackson’s interpretations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, this final film in The Hobbit trilogy is an event to celebrate. Now once and for all, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his dwarf comrades have their final confrontations with the evil orcs and the dragon Smaug. (Release Date: Dec. 17).

7. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

First of all, the trailer for the newest Spider-Man flick looks amazing (pardon the pun) with all the spectacular (ahem) action scenes involving our favorite Wall-Crawler (Andrew Garfield) fighting Electro (Jamie Foxx). However, can this movie avoid the curse of other superhero sequels that have too many supervillains? Along with Electro, there’s a mechanized version of the Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and the most intriguing villain of the bunch: a rebooted Green Goblin (either Chris Cooper or Dane DeHaan). (Release Date: May 2)

6. Interstellar

interSteven Spielberg was supposed to direct this movie about scientists and explorers sent on a mission to study a newly discovered wormhole. However, he let it slip through his hands and now acclaimed director Christopher Nolan has taken over. The teaser trailer released last month perfectly captured that feeling of humanity desiring a new challenge and to push past our limitations of space travel. Given Nolan’s track record for thought-provoking and titillating fare, Interstellar should be one of the year’s best films. (Release Date: Nov. 7)

5. Guardians Of The Galaxy  

This superhero/space opera mash up from Marvel Studios is one of the most anticipated upcoming releases. From the casting (Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord) to the fact that the studio and director James Gunn had the gumption to include Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a talking tree, in this film, Guardians Of The Galaxy has to be seen. It can be the next big sci-fi hit or the new Howard The Duck. Hopefully it won’t suffer the fate of other misunderstood films that failed recently in the box office like John Carter and Pacific Rim. (Release Date: Aug. 1)

4. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

The 2011 reboot/prequel Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was an unexpected surprise hit with audiences and critics. Prior to its release, few predicted that it would reinvigorate the Planet Of The Apes franchise. This sequel takes place eight years after the 2011 film after a plague has decimated humanity and given genetically enhanced apes a chance to take over the world. Humanity’s remnants led by Gary Oldman head into a fateful confrontation with their competitors, who are led by the now-embittered chimp leader Caesar (Andy Serkis). (Release Date: July 11)

3. Godzilla

Our favorite kaiju finally gets the top treatment godzillathat he deserves from Hollywood! Forget that bastardization that came out in ’98 with that wimpy reptile and that geeky Ferris Bueller dude! After all these years, director Gareth Edwards and the producers have promised this take will be the Godzilla film that we’ve been waiting for; where the behemoth is an indestructible force of nature and is treated as one. Toss in Bryan Cranston, one of the best actors around, scenes of chaos and destruction, and this has the potential to be a bonafide classic. (Release Date: May 16)

2.Transcendence

First-time director Wally Pfister, who worked as a cinematographer for Christopher Nolan’s films presents this cautionary film that capitalizes on our fears of A.I.s.  Johnny Depp stars as a scientist trying to create a true A.I. but is mortally wounded by an anti-tech group. Before dying, his consciousness is uploaded into a computer and the world’s first A.I. is born. There is a chilling aspect in the trailer released for Transcendence as the A.I. begins to take over the world. Think of it as an updated version of Colossus: The Forbin Project but with the A.I. being able to control matter itself. In a film calendar flooded with sequels and reboots this original work stands out. (Release Date: April 8)

1. X-Men: Days Of Future Past

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Finally, a big-screen adaptation of one of the greatest comic book stories ever done. In a post-apocalyptic future, mutants face extinction at the hands of out-of-control Sentinel robots. In desperation, one mutant time travels to the past to prevent the mutant holocaust. Director Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men film franchise in this followup to X-Men: First Class. The key cast members from that film (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence), plus those from Singer’s era of X-Men films (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman) return in an all-star lineup. Bryan Singer and company are promising a major epic, and from what has been seen, it looks like Singer will deliver a high-quality superhero film that could be one of the best ones yet. (Release Date: May 23)

Bear in mind that the release dates are subject to change, even to the point of a film or two being pushed back a year. Other highly anticipated films include Big Hero 6 (Disney Studios presents its first animated film based on Marvel Comics superheroes),  edgeEdge Of Tomorrow (Tom Cruise stars as an inexperienced soldier who repeatedly dies fighting aliens and is continuously resurrected into his past with more combat knowledge each time), The Giver (A teenager in a future perfect society finds out that to achieve perfection his world gave up on humanity), Home (Dreamworks Animation effort about a girl who befriends a misfit alien that is part of an Earth invasion force), How To Train Your Dragon 2 (One of Dreamworks Animation’s best films about a boy and his pet dragon gets the sequel treatment), The Hunger Games: Mockinjay, Part 1 (the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy is getting the Harry Potter and Twilight treatment and is being cut into two parts), I, Frankenstein (delayed from last year, it stars Aaron Eckhart as the title character in modern times fighting for humanity), Jupiter Ascending (The Wachowskis attempt another comeback with this sci-fi action piece starring Mila Kunis), and Welcome To Yesterday (a found-footage film about young adults discovering time travel and its disastrous consequences).

José Soto

Looking Ahead To Next Summer’s Films

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Even though summer doesn’t officially end for another couple of weeks, the summer movie season is basically over. Gone now are the blockbuster genre releases. It’s been a mixed bag frankly for this summer. Many of this year’s summer movies were entertaining but were riddled with plot holes or had pacing issues. So without the glow of a recent movie release, we fans can only look forward to next summer’s planned schedule. These are the movies to get excited about as we count down the months.

spideyThe Amazing Spider-Man 2 After successfully rebooting the Spider-Man movie franchise, Marc Webb returns to direct the latest Spider-Man movie, which features Jamie Foxx as Electro, Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn and Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone also reprise their roles as Spider-Man and Gwen Stacey. May 2

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was one of the best reboots that reinvented the Planet Of The Apes franchise with a captivating yarn about an ape with enhanced intelligence. Andy Serkis, who stole the last film with his mo-cap performance of Ceasar the super-intelligent ape, returns as apes and humanity battle for dominion of the planet. July 18

Edge Of Tomorrow This was originally called All You Need Is Kill but some marketing genius probably thought the new title was catchier. Anyway, Tom Cruise stars as an alien-fighting soldier in the future who is forced into a time loop where he is killed over and over again. June 6

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Godzilla Director Gareth Edwards hopes to banish those dreary memories from the last American take on the giant Kaiju. The director promises that the iconic monster will be presented as a true destructive force of nature; plus there will be epic monster battles! May 16

The Good Dinosaur Even though the film’s director was recently removed, Pixar’s latest offering sounds terrific. Some of the studio’s recent releases weren’t too impressive but this one may be one of their better efforts. May 30
UPDATE: We just learned that The Good Dinosaur has been delayed until Nov. 2015. Bummer.

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Will this Marvel film be their version of Star Wars or next year’s Pacific Rim? The clip we had on our Facebook page that was taken down was very intriguing and the brief glimpses of Rocket Raccoon captured our attention. Aug 1

How To Train Your Dragon 2 Dreamworks has proven lately that they are an animation studio to be taken seriously. The original film about a Viking boy and his pet dragon was a surprising, rousing success and the recent teaser of the sequel looks just as enthralling. June 20

Jupiter Ascending The Wachowskis, famous for The Matrix films, are looking for a big comeback. This film, which stars Mila Kunis as a futuristic cleaning lady who has a great destiny, may or may not be that coveted comeback vehicle. Too soon to tell. July 25

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Having decimated the Transformers film franchise, Michael Bay is now aiming his sights on the ’80s’ other big toy phenomenon. Only he isn’t directing the film, however it stars Megan Fox as April O’Neil.  Aug 8

Transformers: Age Of Extinction The fourth film in the reviled, yet popular franchise already sounds better than the others since it doesn’t feature Shia LaBeouf, but it’s still directed by Michael Bay. Let’s hope the shaky-cam is under control. June 27

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men film franchise with an epic tale involving time travel that bridges many of the franchise’s most popular characters like Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Prof. Xavier (Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy) and Magneto (Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender). May 23

 

Comic-Con 2013 Highlights

Another Comic-Con at San Diego has come and gone, leaving many fans whetting their appetites over upcoming film releases, TV show premieres, comic books, etc. While the convention is supposed to be about comic books and related matter, the biggest news had to do with pending films and TV shows.

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Godzilla

Stealing the thunder in the early days of the convention was the immersive Godzilla Experience exhibit that gave convention goers a chance to see what the aftermath of a Godzilla rampage is like. Also, fans got a look at the new design of the famous Kaiju for next year’s Godzilla. Film director Gareth Edwards promises to deliver a true Godzilla movie unlike the abomination that came out in 1998. Reports are that the footage shown at Comic-Con allegedly captured the mood of the early Godzilla films.

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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

This anticipated sequel to Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, 2011’s successful reboot of the Apes franchise, looks mighty interesting. A special teaser was put together for Comic-Con that showed an older and angrier Caesar (mo-capped again by Andy Serkis) in his ape camp meeting with human resistance fighters. Many were excited by the tease, which presented even more realistically rendered CG apes.

The Walking Dead

The people behind the very successful TV show The Walking Dead seem to have outdone themselves. At least, that is what it looks like with the riveting trailer for the show’s fourth season. We find Rick Grimes and his group of survivors dealing with the nitty gritty of life in a post-apocalyptic world. As usual with The Walking Dead, characters apparently die as shown in the trailer and the tension and thrills seem to be in overdrive.

Gravity

Many curious fans got a gripping look at thrilling and captivating clips from Alonso Cuarón’s Gravity movie. Featuring endangered astronauts played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the movie looks incredible. Thanks to the clips, which showcase the director’s masterful long takes, anticipation has greatly grown for Gravity. This film was delayed from last year, but based on the clips, the wait may have been worth the delay.

Almost Human

J.J. Abrams’ Lost and Fringe may no longer be on the air, but his new TV offerings may make up for that. The most promising "Almost Human" Season 1TV show seems to be Almost Human, which had its pilot screened at Comic-Con. It stars Karl Urban as a cop whose partner is an artificial being in the near future. While the premise sounds formulaic, the pilot was very well received by those who viewed it.

Marvel & DC Movies

The biggest news and reactions were generated by the Marvel and DC movie announcements and previews. Arguably, the most intense and joyous reaction was from the announcement that the next Superman movie will team him up with DC’s other iconic superhero, Batman.

mutantsNot to be outdone, Marvel previewed footage, props and concept art from an impressive lineup of films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy. Along with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, two other Marvel films generated a lot of buzz. One was the sequel to The Avengers with the announcement that the evil android Ultron will be the villain. The other film is the eagerly awaited X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Aside from shown footage and anti-mutant posters plastered all over the place, the spectacle of the entire cast appearing to promote next year’s film was noteworthy.

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Many comic book fans lament about the way that Comic-Con lost its focus on being about comic books. But at least, the films generating the most talk out of the convention are based on comic book properties. This illustrates how the characters in those comics have evolved past their traditional trappings into something larger.