Roughly two years ago, when I was still writing for my own blog, I gave a very negative review to The Amazing Spider-Man, and eventually named it the 5th worst movie of 2012, a move that probably would have resulted in more anger had anyone been reading anything I wrote back then…come to think of it, is anyone reading it now? Anyway, I was not overly hyped for the second one, mostly because the trailers made it look like the first one, which as I said I didn’t like. Still, lowered expectations can be good as it means I’m easier to please. And I do want to like it; I like Spider-Man as a character and I’ve enjoyed Spider-Man movies in the past. So how I feel about this one?
Well it is, in many ways, superior to the first one. The action sequences are well shot and reasonably inventive, the CGI is greatly improved, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield have great chemistry and the costume is the best Spider-Man costume in film, period. And I hate it. I really, really, really hate it. It might be one of the most frustrating viewing experiences I’ve had in a very long time. Because it’s not a movie, it is a series of disconnected scenes that represent not so much a coherent story as a 2 hour presentation about what Sony’s 10 year plan for the Spider-Man film franchise is. And what makes it even more frustrating is that a good movie is desperately trying to happen.
The plot, as I mentioned above, is not so much a coherent story as a series of barely connected scenes. The movie opens with Peter (Garfield) and his girlfriend Gwen (Stone) breaking up due to the ghost of Gwen Stacy’s father who asked Peter, in his dying moments, to stay away from Gwen (Peter refused, because in these movies he’s an asshole). Peter reacts by diving more into his role as Spider-Man and researching the mystery of what happened to his parents. As all of this is happening, Peter’s best friend from childhood, Harry Osborne, arrives to take over Oscorp after the death of his father by a genetic disease he’s inherited and a nerdy Oscorp employee is bitten by electric eels and gains the power of electricity.
If it sounds like I don’t have the firmest grasp on the story, it’s because I don’t. The connectivity between scenes and the flow of the story is basically non-existent. It’s all just a bunch of stuff that happens. It reads less like a coherent story and more like a checklist. Entire scenes feel like they’re just moving down the list of stuff that needs to happen without any meat on the bones. The scene where Harry meets his father is most guilty of this: establish backstory, establish Daddy issues, establish genetic disease, foreshadow, next scene. This leaves the movie feeling slight and uninteresting and keeps me from getting invested.
Which is a shame because there are elements I like. Electro’s new backstory and motivation are both really interesting (if shamelessly pulled from the Riddler in Batman Forever) but they abandon it at the halfway point after a ton of buildup and toss him into a henchman role. The action scenes are well put together and the webswinging has never looked better, but without any reason to care they quickly become tedious. Garfield and Stone do have some real chemistry, but not because of the script which treats them like the second and third act of a romcom and steadfastly refuses to move the story on. The acting is mostly pretty good, but the story and script are lifeless and schizophrenic, and thus the actors have nothing to hang their performances on.
There are attempts to inject some emotional heft into the movie, they just fall completely flat. The film’s final scene attempts a Spider-Man 2 style ‘Normal person hero’ moment that fails because of the staging and logic. There’s a moment toward the end that is supposed to be a big epic gut punch (which I won’t spoil but most of you Spider-Man fans will probably be able to guess right off the bat, or just normal people who can spot really clumsy foreshadowing) but the surrounding circumstances render it moot. Most notably how contrived it is, how clumsily it’s foreshadowed and most of all, that Peter’s primary reaction to it is lifted straight from f**king Twilight!
And then there’s the design, oh god the design. I’m tempted not to bitch about Electro’s redesign, because his costume in the comics is so goddamn stupid, but that doesn’t excuse that they’re design is alternately boring or stupid. The Green Goblin looks like Sting’s character from David Lynch’s Dune spent some time smoking meth, but he threw a pumpkin bomb so I won’t complain. The redesign on the Rhino however is so ugly that I was almost glad that it’s barely a cameo.
That might be the clinching argument against this film, that all of these issues seem to stem from one major problem: that the people behind the scenes are more interested in building for the sequels than in making this one good. Green Goblin is awkwardly shoved into the third act to give us an excuse to build the Sinister Six. The Rhino isn’t in the movie at all, you’ve already seen all his scenes in the trailers and his presence is so haphazardly shoved in that it feels flat out insulting. A tertiary character exists for no other reason than to try and foreshadow another character who might show up in a sequel. Hell, a cynical person might suggest that the only reason the big emotional moment happened at all is to give Peter enough of a reason to brood to slip on that black suit in part 3, to set things up for Sony’s already announced Venom movie.
I have seen worse movies than this one this year already and I’ve no doubt I’ll see worse as the year goes on. But I don’t know if I’ll see another one that so perfectly embodies everything wrong with the modern blockbuster. Regular sequels and spin offs announced before the first one is even out, blatant sequel teasing instead of character building, more interested in setting the ground work for a yearly cash grab than in making a good movie now, counting on the fan base who will see anything branded “Spider-Man” to keep it afloat regardless. This film is every worry I had after The Avengers was a big hit made flesh. And I am begging you to not fall in line, not reward this behavior, to not go see this. Spider-Man deserves better than this, the good actors in this movie deserve better than this. And we all deserve much better than this limping disaster of a movie.
Elessar is a 24 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he could tell the filmmakers were idiots when they cast Paul Giamatti and reduced him to a cameo.
– good action scenes
– solid CGI
– good music
– Paul Giamatti is in it
– awful script
– disjointed story
– ugly design
– Paul Giamatti isn’t in it enough