Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This Movie Didn't Deserve This Much Discussion

Saturday, after having cared for our coworker's cat and other pets, and having concluded not buying that Castlevania game ourselves was a wise decision, we went to the movies. The drive-in down the road was having their opening weekend of the season, and it was a superhero double feature. We both really just wanted to see the second movie, and I'll get to it tomorrow, but since I had to sit through Amazing Spider-Man 2, you have to sit through my review.

OK, you don't have to. There's a whole big Internet out there you could explore instead. Or even a world outside, if you're feeling bold.

The quick, no-spoilers review: Too long, but with too many dull spots and even with about 130 minutes, they included so many different plot lines that none of them really got fleshed out. The sequences where Andrew Garfield is Spider-Man are nice, though. There are some decent funny parts, but the music is noticeably bad.

Longer Review: This will probably include SPOILERS, assuming that you a) haven't seen the movie yet, and b) you actually care.

I don't normally discuss music in these movie reviews, because it's rarely something I notice. If I don't have captions on, I have to concentrate on the dialogue to make sure I don't miss anything. That being said, the music in this film was pretty lackluster. There was what closed captions might describe as a "triumphal score" at the very end that seemed fitting, but they also used one at the very beginning, and at the start of the credits, and neither of those worked. They felt better suited for a Superman flick, where he's soaring majestically, rather than Spider-Man swinging through NYC, being sort of goofy. I kind of liked that thrumming bass line or whatever they gave Electro, except he wasn't really presented as a guy who was a serious threat until the end fight. Up to then, he was a sad, lonely guy, who was tired of being ignored, but honestly could have been a good guy if Spidey had been a little more convincing.

The scene where we see Max' apartment covered with Spidey stuff reminded me of Batman Forever. You know, how Nigma's work space was covered with pictures of Bruce Wayne? As a general rule, films should not remind me of Joel Schumacher Batman films. It's a bad sign.

Not sure how I feel about Peter not being much of a science guy. Gwen being smart is cool, but it's almost an Inspector Gadget situation, where Peter has the powers, but the smart girl and the dog have to do all the real legwork, because Peter's a total dope. Not sure who the dog is in this situation.

The comedy of him trying to fix his web-shooter was one of the better moments in the film. The movie actually does comedy fairly well, and they make decent use of the spider-powers. The bit at the beginning where Pete's struggling to grab all the radioactive canisters and using all his limbs was a good touch. Him sleeping up in the corner of the skylight after he fixed his web-shooter was another. It emphasizes the oddness of some of his powers, which is good. It's not just punching and jumping a lot, it's weird stuff like sticking to walls, that can also be really cool.

I get that Sony is trying to cram as many characters as they can into these things so Marvel can't use any of them in their films. Not that I expect Marvel Studios was clamoring to use the Rhino, but heck, they've got Drax appearing in a movie this summer, better safe than sorry, I guess. Problem being, it's too much. There's no time for anything to develop. You have the intro of Max Dillon, then he becomes Electro, is misunderstood, then angry, then abused, then trying to take over the city. Harry Osborn's introduced, learns he's dying, tries to assume control of his company, decides he hates Spider-Man, goes nuts. There's the evil businessman trying to force Harry out. There's whatever they were possibly building with Felicia Hardy. Is she just loyal to the Osborns, or to Harry because he gave her more authority? Does she have ulterior motives? We don't know. I have very little certainty why she's doing anything she does, though a fair amount of that is because they named her "Felicia Hardy", and so you kind of have to suspect something's up there.

There's all the stuff about Peter's parents, the occasional stuff with Aunt May, and of course, all the Gwen/Peter stuff. None of the stuff I mentioned in the sentence above interested me. I know a lot of people cited Garfield and Emma Stone's chemistry as a strong point of this movie, but I was bored to tears. In theory it ought to have been good, but in practice, nope. Maybe because I knew how it would end, maybe because I've never cared about Gwen Stacy, though I thought Stone gave a good performance. I don't blame her for how the writers set things up. I thought Gwen should have stuck to her guns about breaking up with him and gotten the hell out. Quit waiting to see if Peter's going to get his act together and just go. And don't sort of roll your eyes in bemused exasperation when he confirms he's been following you!

At any rate, the film jumped from one thing to another so often, it was hard for anything to resonate. And the film goes through long stretches where nothing interesting happens at all. It's kind of astounding. Sure, it can't all be Spidey fighting bad guys and making quips, but it's possible to have interesting conversations, or amusing banter. Seemed to be beyond this film's abilities, though.

I really think the arc with harry Osborn could have been good if it had been played out over 2 films. Introduce him in one, show the gradual deterioration in his health and relationship with Peter. Play up the forces working against him within Oscorp, and his own desperation to live driving his erratic actions, and by the end of the second film, he goes full costumed bad guy, but with a possible sympathetic core because of his circumstances. As it was, everything was rushed. Also can't help noticing that in the second film in the series, Harry Osborn makes a deal with another super-villain to attack Spider-Man. Doc Ock in the Raimiverse, Electro here.

I didn't see the need for two planes on a collision course during the big Electro fight. He's already shut down all power in the city, and plans to place everyone at his mercy. What more do you need? If you must hammer home the stakes, they briefly showed May working as a nurse in a hospital struggling to help patients with all the life support systems off. Follow that, maybe some young kid with a heart condition going into cardiac arrest, and May's helping the doc's keep the kid alive while Peter and Gwen try to get the power going. If you needed something like that, which I'm not convinced they did.

OK, so the Gwen thing. Possibly big spoiler for the end, if you care. Ready? I'll wait a few more seconds if you'd like. OK, here we go: Gwen dies. I know, stunning. They beat Electro, Harry shows up on a glider, pissed and crazy, figures out Peter is Spider-Man, grabs Gwen, Spidey purses, fight inside a clock tower, Gwen falls, Peter tries to catch her with a web-line and. . . well, that's the question. Did the sudden stop kill her? Did they go with the neck snap, or did her head hit the ground? It wasn't entirely clear, but it seems like they were going for "Peter killed her". Which would fit with him seeing her father everywhere throughout the film (after Captain Stacy told him to stay away from her for that precise reason at the end of the first movie), and Peter's own fears which prompted the break-up (Gwen having no time for Peter's weepy, "It's not safe for you to be around me" stuff).

Except she pretty obviously would have died from the fall if he hadn't caught her. They were several stories up, she was going to hit a solid floor, and then large, jagged pieces of metal were going to crash down on top of her. Unless the plan was to reveal Gwen Stacy once received a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner, as Sony tries to lay claim to She-Hulk, she wasn't living through it either way. Why dump that on Peter? He wasn't angsting and moping enough?

I know, that's how it went in the comics. Sometimes. 'Cause sometimes writers decide it's a bad idea for Spider-Man to directly cause the death of a loved one, and argue the shock of the fall already killed her. I tend to agree with those writers. Spidey's got enough guilt from people dying he couldn't save, don't add to it by giving him people he killed while actively trying to save them.

But why kill her at all? Yes, the comics did it, but the comics also had Captain Stacy ask Peter to look after Gwen, not stay the hell away from her. Throughout the movie, Peter's been struggling with the fact that he loves Gwen, but can't decide whether that means they should be together, and risk her dying, or apart, and be sad. Gwen's been trying to do her own thing, pursue her career, hang out with other friends, and see if maybe Peter can come to a decision. Gwen seems to love Peter, but has no use for this "Gotta protect you" stuff, and would just as soon not be with him as accept it. Ultimately, Gwen rejects Peter's attempts to sideline her again, forces Peter to accept she isn't going to play that game, helps stop Electro. Yeah, Peter and Gwen are together! Adventure in England awaits! Then she gets grabbed by Harry, and dies. If you're going to play it as Gwen took the risk, and this is the price, then just let her fall and don't have it be Peter's rescue attempt that kills her. Or, you know, let Peter save Gwen, since she had just used her science knowledge twice to help Peter stop Electro.

So neither amazing, spectacular, nor sensational, and I have to continue to wait for a really awesome Spider-Man movie.

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