By Yuki Pan (15S06D)
Photos from cinemablend.com
For a movie with the word ‘amazing’ in its title, featuring a sizzling villain who calls himself “Electro”, The Amazing Spiderman 2(TASM2) doesn’t live up to its name.
It’s no fault of the cast or the crew. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield continue the fun, steadfast dynamic that the Amazing Spiderman (ASM) had, much to the pleasure of those who follow this Spiderman reiteration for their romance. The likes of Dane Dehaan of Kill Your Darlings fame and Jamie Fox from Django Unchained play the villains’ roles, and bring a somewhat poignant dimension to their given roles, as do the minor characters including Aunt May and Richard Parker. Over-the-top, dramatic explosions and special effects supervised by Jerome Chen of Sony Picture Imageworks are done beautifully and spectacularly, every bit the superhero action flick we go to the cinema to watch.
Eh. While the work done onscreen is masterful and lovely to look at, the final product doesn’t particularly leave the viewer with much of an impression, other than the knowledge that there’s bound to be yet another film. The overwhelming amount of subplots and side stories interwoven with the main makes the two hours and forty one minutes feel far too long, filled with far too many bad guys for one lone man to fight all at once, let alone for us to watch. Marc Webb repeatedly tries to give an emotional backstory to any character who speaks for more than 2 minutes, but the number of characters who fall into this criteria makes the resulting drama feel more like an emotional burden than anything else.
The Amazing Spiderman starts off with Richard Parker, Peter Parker/Spiderman’s never present father, recording a video that vaguely explains his departure,before racing off to deliver young Peter to Aunt May and Uncle Ben’s house and disappearing from Peter’s life forever. Cut to modern day Peter Parker, as he swinging across the metropolitan skyline of New York City in hot pursuit of a stolen truck full of plutonium from OsCorp Industries. Acrobatics, chaos, and snide comments from our favourite spandex clad superhero are juxtaposed with navy gowns, rows of students, and a high school valedictory speech about hope and symbols of hope from his partner, Gwen Stacy.
The ceremony over, criminals apprehended, Peter finds himself torn between being together with his soul mate and staying away from her for her safety’s sake. Frustrated by his indecision, Gwen makes the decision for him and the two separate. Brooding but obviously still very much in love, Spiderman takes to moping amidst the steel and glass capped rooftops of NYC, watching for crime as well as watching out for Gwen.
Simultaneously, ASM2 sets itself up for the rest of the franchise through the introduction of Harry Osborn, Peter Parker’s best friend from school and heir to the vast Osborn empire following his father’s demise. More importantly, we meet Max, a long-suffering electrician working for OsCorp (foreshadowing, again) who nurses an unhealthy obsession with Spiderman. A horrible accident leads to his transformation into ‘Electro’, a monstrous looking person with the ability to manipulate electricity at will. What follows as he wanders, delirious and barely in control of his powers, into bright and busy Times Square has us on the edge of our seats as Electro and Spiderman come to a confrontation before thousands of spectating New Yorkers.
All this happens in the first 60 minutes. From this point onward, TASM2 feels as if they’re trying to play candy shop, attempting to shove in subtle references and allusions to favourite comic villains, while simultaneously giving emotional depth to every character. You have your big super powered villains, smaller minions, the campy, almost cheesy Evil Scientist… honestly, it feels like every screenwriter (4, according to IMDB) wrote a different script and the director decided the best solution was to put all of them on screen.
Like most movies set against the vibrant backdrop of New York City, TASM2 tries its best to give the viewer as much sense of place as possible. Scenes are cut in 5-10 minute long sections, showing us the movie from various points of views. Generally speaking, this is fairly standard. However, the problem with TASM2 is that it can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be romantic, funny (quirky?) or earnest. Comic is good; it’s one of the reasons why Spiderman remains such a beloved character, and sure enough, there are moments when we can’t help but smile. Yet, that delicate balance between silly and serious is never reached, diminishing any emotional takeaways as a result. The final moral message reads like a forgettable afterthought; something already gone as we leave the cinema.
With the exception of a few, characterisation slips away like sand through fingers, though whether this is the result of bad writing or bad editing is debatable. Max the Electrician, or Electro, goes from lonely, insecure (and possibly mentally disturbed) office worker to an utterly vengeful and overpowered movie villain in a way that feels too unnecessarily drastic, cheap and even a little ableist. It’s a downright shame, because TASM2 missed a really good chance to make itself more than just a cartoonish super hero movie, but also an exploration on many, many other social problems and issues happening in NYC.
Similarly, Harry Osborn’s spiral into desperation-driven evil is marked more by the intensity of his eye bags than actual writing. Peter Parker remains essentially the same man that The Amazing Spiderman left him as: a goofy, young vigilante who’s not entirely sure of what he wants for the future or what the future wants for him. The writers’ treatment of Gwen Stacy, a very well-received and beloved character (plus, the only central-ish female) does her little justice, particularly as the film approaches its finale.
The climax cum finale is technically beautiful – well-shot and CGI well done. But like a lot of TASM2, it’s not done in a way that particularly adds to the plot. The plot twist may make those who haven’t read the comic book series cry, but it felt more like an obligatory decision made by the director and the writers to set up the next installment in the franchise than an actual storytelling one. So much of TASM2 is executed in the same vein: looking to lay the carpet for the inevitable The Amazing Spiderman 3, rather than to establish itself as a tenacious storyline. The final product is mostly forgettable and utterly underwhelming, not unlike the conclusion that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy came to back in 2007.
The Amazing Spiderman 2 won’t be winning any Oscars anytime soon, but in the end, it’s a fair movie to spend a few hours on; whether to marvel at the flashy CGI, or see Stone/Garfield’s onset chemistry, or even, what the heck, play ‘Where’s Stan Lee?’
Final verdict: 3/5 stars