Movie Review #751
Directed by Marc Webb. Screenplay by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner. (Screen story: Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner and James Vanderbilt. Marvel comic book: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.) Produced by Avi Arad and Matthew Tolmach for Marvel Enterprises, Avi Arad Productions, and Matt Tolmach Productions, presented by Columbia Pictures. Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti, Sally Fields, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott, Marton Csokas, Max Charles, B.J. Novak, Michael Massee, Kari Coleman, Skyler Gisondo, and Charlie DePew. Credited cameos: Greg Connolly, Jessica Abo. Uncredited cameos: Chris Cooper, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Chris Zylka. Premiered in London on April 10, 2014; in Paris on April 11, 2014; in Rome on April 14, 2014; in Berlin on April 15, 2014; in Tokyo and Moscow on April 16, 2014; and in New York City, New York on April 24, 2014. Distributed by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Releasing in wide release on May 2, 2014. Rated PG-13: sequences of sci-fi action/violence. Runs 142 minutes.
I don’t think there’s any Spider-Man movie I’d go so far as to call amazing, but I would go to the opposite extreme for the most recent installment. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” needs a long, hard look what Mr. Webster said about the word “amazing,” which makes for one of the most inaccurate titles since “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter”.
To be clear, the film is not amazing. It’s fun for about fifteen minutes. As you might have already assumed, the movie opens with Spidey swinging around the city of New York, and while the camera isn’t exactly creative (not when the routine comes into four other Spider-Man movies), it’s fun. Spider-Man is introduced as a cheery, likable character who doesn’t want to be an action hero, and when he saves the day, he’s always friendly. Andrew Garfield delivers the character in that sort of fun way throughout the movie, but it only seems to work for that opening, because the plot kind of…you know, it appears, and then it gets all convoluted. I’ll explain later.
All the fun of diving between skyscrapers ends when Gwen calls Peter…er, Spider-Man. The fact that Emna Stone and Andrew Garfield are actually dating seems to make the whole Gwen Stacey/Peter Parker relationship ordeal a bit more believable, but per the screenplay, it’s still ridiculous. Half the movie, if not even more, deals with Peter and his girlfriend. She doesn’t like that he’s always fighting crime, so she breaks up with him. They dabble around “it’s complicated” for quite a while, and eventually, Gwen decides she madly in love with him and needs to be by his side at all costs. I won’t directly spoil how that turns out, but the lesson, boys and girls, is don’t do what Gwen did at the end of the movie, or you’ll end up like Gwen did at the end of the movie.
What gets me is, why does a simple romantic subplot have to occupy so much of the movie? The screenplay feels like it’s in its first or second draft with all the muddled pacing that results. And it gets worse when the actual plot comes in. Director Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man was originally planned as a trilogy (SEE FOOTNOTE), in which “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” provides the bulk of the story. There’s two villains here. Okay, three if you count Paul Giamatti, who appears for five minutes at the end and gets higher billing than Sally Field (who is solid in her supporting role). But two villains get their time to battle Spider-Man, as well as a back story of sorts that leads in. Even when the whole feature clocks in at 142 minutes, these villain stories feels so forced to fit into the running time. These two villains hate Spider-Man so much, and their reasoning seems so superficial, even childish. Jamie Foxx is an embarrassment in the role of Electro, and Dane DeHaan doesn’t exactly impress as Harry Osborn. He looks like a young Leonardo DiCaprio, for those who don’t recognize the name, but even DiCaprio couldn’t make this character likable.
Have I mentioned that there’s even more in the story? Yeah Spider-Man kind of goes on a genealogical quest. His dad’s a criminal or something but he collects pictures of him anywhere he can find them. His father has a briefcase, too, if it matters. To be honest, that briefcase could have been the most stylish briefcase since Brad Pitt’s briefcase in “Fight Club”, but since no one gives a hoot about this briefcase compared to that briefcase, I’m not so sure why so much time is spent with Peter Parker obsessing over his father’s briefcase. There’s nothing special about it. Maybe it’s designer leather, but come on, this is an action movie. You’re supposed to blow up the briefcase. Didn’t Al Capone do that in “The Untouchables”?
You get the point, or maybe you don’t. The point is that I’d rather talk about briefcases than “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. I have better memories of briefcases, and briefcases never tried to give me anything superficial. Briefcases, when converted into 3-D, actually look nice. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was shot on 35mm film, converted into 3-D, and looks like everything in each shot is composed of layers. (This is why 3-D movies should be SHOT in 3-D!) Briefcases displace action and drama evenly. And you can shove a briefcase with everything that can fit, and it still won’t have as much product placement as “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. My point? Briefcases are amazing. Spider-Man was at one point, too, but now he’s rather underwhelming. ✴
– Alexander Diminiano
FOOTNOTE: It’s not a trilogy anymore. After the immediate box office success of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, director Marc Webb was confirmed as director for not only “The Amazing Spider-Man 3” in 2016 but also the previously unannounced “The Amazing Spider-Man 4” in 2018.