The Raging Spider-Fan 2
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Nothing in recent cinematic memory has incensed me more than 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, a film that not only turned my favourite character of all time into a self-centred, jumped-up little prick and gave us a weak rehashing of a great origin story but also had the gall to not even properly tell a story, period. I have talked the ears off of anyone who would listen about how it’s a complete failure of a film and how Marc Webb is a gormless guffbag, but eventually even I got sick of hearing myself talk about it. So why can’t I just ignore it? I don’t know. I’m a glutton for punishment. Despite having had my fingers burned, I was compelled to see how bad the sequel would be. It’s messed up, I know.
“Nothing is what I thought it was.”
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is still trying to find a balance between his personal life and his spandexed hero one. Things are ramping up as he’s graduating high school and college beckons. Parker is also struggling with his promise to Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) about staying away from Gwen (Emma Stone). Things get kicked up several notches when nobody electrical engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) has a terrible industrial accident and becomes a purely electrical malevolent being known as “Electro”. To make things more complicated, Peter’s old BFF Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns from his travels abroad, literally after Spider-Man’s blood. OK, here’s where it’s tough. As with the first film, the actors are all great, but either given fuck all to do or insanely miscast. Garfield is still OK as Parker, although I swear to Christ he’s playing the guy as autistic. Emma Stone is also fine as Gwen and the banter between the two is still one of the film’s only charms. Jamie Foxx does good work, but is let down by the shoddy script. Sally Field is again the film’s MVP as Aunt May and Dane DeHaan is a fantastic Harry, although the less said about his “transformation”, the better.
Here’s the thing. This rebooted series has no backbone whatsoever. It has no goddamn dignity. It’d bend over and spread its arsecheeks whilst singing a medley of the current top 40 if it thought it could make an extra ticket sale. I may have hated the ridiculous Dark Knight lite aesthetic of the first film, but fuck me if they haven’t slammed the tonal lever in the opposite direction and given us a goofy-as-fuck Spidey with primary colours and dumb-as-hell happenings. This may as well be another reboot. Sequels are often overreactions to criticisms of the preceding films- we know this to be true, but this is beyond the pail. Why can’t we have a happy medium? Why does it always have to be absolutes? Sam Raimi’s films are strangely timeless because they took place in a weird ’60s/modern day hybrid world. TASM 2 is doing all it can to pander to today’s youth and will be dated by the time it hits DVD shelves.
For a while, I thought I may have to choke down some hefty helpings of humble pie when it started trying to make sense of the tangled mess of story the first film left on. It was almost like it was taking my personal niggles and checking them off one by one. Stupid suit? Replaced with a much better one. That shit about Peter going back on his promise to Captain Stacy? Carries over and is being dealt with. The mystery of Parker’s parents that was dropped unceremoniously halfway through the first film? Also carries over. Peter used Bing to search the Net? He now uses Google like a normal person. It was uncanny. However, I realised that just because they were addressing these things, it didn’t mean they knew where to go from there. There is still no understanding of who the Spider-Man character is and why he and some of his iconic villains have stuck around for so long.
This whole situation reminds me of where Warner Bros. were in 1995 when Batman Forever came out. After the huge success of Batman in ’89, Tim Burton was given free rein for the sequel, Batman Returns. The film ended up being too damn weird and dark for its own good and caused many a furrowed brow, basically boiling down to not being marketable enough for the suits. Joel Schumacher was brought in for Forever and turned the colour saturation and the camp factor up to 11 and changed it from a dark, moody piece to a screaming neon toy advert. Same basic thing here. Sony were reportedly unhappy with the final version of TASM and so it makes sense they would want to change writers and flip the tone. They’ve got a whole contrived universe to build after all.
I’m reminded of Batman Forever in another way when it comes to Electro. If you remember, Batman Forever featured Jim Carrey’s Edward Nygma, a deranged superfan of Bruce Wayne’s who decides to become his mortal enemy in the form of The Riddler after an imagined slight. Guess what Max Dillon’s story is. At the base of it, I could see it working. Max is an invisible nobody- a loser so kicked down and pushed around, he’s taken aback when somebody remembers his name. He’s a sympathetic character. Thing is, this is waay too broad and they squander any dramatic potential. He sports a greasy combover and is bespectacled. He’s turned his home into a Spidey shrine. He has imaginary discussions with Spider-Man. He’s a Hollywood nerd from a frathouse comedy. It’s honestly like he’s stepped straight out of an ’80s cartoon. Fuck me. It was embarrassing to watch. We’ve had over a decade of proper superhero films now. We’ve had The Avengers. We’ve moved past this shit now.
As with the first film, the main problem is the script. Having booted James Vanderbilt, Sony made the questionable decision of hiring the dumblefuck Transformers scribes to write this one. The tone flits from one thing to another, killing any resonance the scenes on screen could have had completely dead. Yeah, there’ll be stupids laughing and crying, but for the rest of us thinkrights, it’s a confusing affair. Don’t understand where I’m coming from? You try telling a joke immediately after a mass kitten burial and see how well you get on. Try giving directions to a stranger after slapping your bum and blowing raspberries at them and see how long they stick around. A lot of emphasis has gone into making Spider-Man “funny”, but dear Lord is it painful. Humour is part of the Spider-Man character, sure. However, I must have missed the run of issues where he trots out rapid-fire unfunny quips until your knuckles are white and your teeth are cracked and bloody. It was fucking agonising. Apart from the “humour”, the film struggles with basic storytelling. Characters have no arcs, basic motivations are fucked and it’s all just a noisy light show of a spectacle inbetween. Baffling changes are made. Stuff from the comics that I figured would have been too cheesy or ridiculous for the big screen are replaced by even wackier things.
I honestly tried to like this film. I’m the forgiving sort. It took the Fast and Furious series five films to start actually being good. The sticking point for me is that (to my mind at least) they’re completely fucking up my favourite superhero. They’re mucking up opportunities left, right and centre. What’s worse is that they’ve got no plans to give the franchise back to Marvel. They’re too busy setting release dates for future films and writing spin-offs. What pisses me off is that I could have written both this review and the basic plot on a napkin just after the first trailer was released and barely had to change anything. It’s that lazy. Also, despite having talented people like Johnny Marr and Pharrell contributing, Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack sucks a fat one. Just listen to the main theme and tell me it doesn’t sound like the farted out music for the bonus features on a Superman DVD.
“I once told you that secrets have a cost. The truth does too.”
So yeah, I didn’t care for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Fucked up fact of the matter is, it doesn’t care for anyone. It didn’t want to tell a good Spider-Man story or bring an iconic villain to life. All it is interested in is wringing out as much cash as it can from suckers before the superhero bubble bursts. Whilst there has been more effort this time round, it’s still a fucking car crash of a film. It’s a whole different kind of awful. It’s just scraping a two star rating because I know, deep down, it isn’t the worst thing ever. It’s at the very least competent in some areas, but boy did I struggle with the whole “personal bias” thing.