I had the best of all possibilities when viewing this film. I went with a couple of other movie fans who were good company, also wanting to get the best out of this new film. As such, we went to a late showing at an I-Max theater in 3D. Hardly anyone else in the theater, we were able to select seating of our choice. Right, so let’s get started.
Here’s an overview of this movie, then I’ll dive into some detail. The detail section shouldn’t be read if you haven’t seen the movie, it contains a few spoilers.
The actors are all bringing their A game in this movie. I have to especially mention, without a doubt Andrew Garfield is outstanding as Peter Parker and his comic book alter-ego, Spider-Man. They also got it right with Jamie Fox. He easily could have pushed this role too far and we might have had another Jim Carey / Batman moment. Fortunately that wasn’t the case here. Emma Stone is a solid actress in this role, achieving the intelligent, heroic, persevering and beautiful girl friend of Peter Parker. She gets us to want to see more of her as she aids Spider-Man, all the while struggling with the roller-coaster, on-off-on relationship turmoil because of Peter’s promise to her father in the 1st movie, to keep his distance despite their love for each other. The relationship is explored more in this film and the banter and emotion come through to the end of the film.
Visual imagery and costumes were creative and technical execution was impressive. By that I mean the colors, action and the sound were all done at an A level. No doubt this movie executes the 3D imagery without over doing it. The music score was impactful and built the emotion and suspense in the movie. The theme behind Electro worked the moments for the audience portraying the confusion as well as the anger Max Dillon / Electro was supposed to be feeling. My impression of the writing and acting for Electro were at the top of the villain list in all of the Spider-Man movies up to this point. William Dafoe as the Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man movie was perhaps the best so far but Jamie Fox did a great job in this role.
Everything appears as though it’s one of the better comic book / action movies to date, right? Well here’s where the movie for me gets a B grade. The writing, film editing and continuity really cut the legs out from under all of the good acting. The writer(s) and director had a large agenda. They created a longer film to incorporate as much as they thought were required for all of their ideas to be included. Even though it was longer than the other films, I didn’t think it ran too long, rather I found there were plot lines and character development sacrificed to mash everything together. Don’t misunderstand, it was an entertaining film, just there was so much crowding of characters, crime, drama, comedy, action and summation that it overly condensed / cut some great character and plot development.
Speaking of the ending of the movie, it reminded me of the old black and white movies shown on Saturday afternoons which ended as cliff hangers in order to get the audience to come back for the next serialized segment. This is as far as I go before I warn you, someone who hasn’t seen the movie might wish to stop reading and wait until they see it for themselves.
[Spoilers past this point] Now that I’ve briefly explained what I find are the aspects of the film which hampered it, I’ll go into more detail. Your comments are welcome at the end of this post. I’m quite sure there will be differing opinions.
Lets, start with the obvious; comparing the Sam Raimi / Toby Maguire trilogy to these two of Marc Webb / Andrew Garfield. Perhaps the most obvious is there have only been 2 so far but there are shared elements of the first three. Besides the origin story which differs between each, we’re left with how did Peter become part of the Aunt May & Uncle Ben home? In the Raimi version, we don’t really know, in the Webb version, this second film explores his parent disconnection further. Consider this as plot-line 1 in this movie because it’s still part of the origination story left over from the 1st Amazing Spider-Man film.
We also have to see the connection between the city of New York and Spider-Man where we know he’s been doing good all over the city. That’s sort of sub text for plot line 2. There are action elements and relationship continuity to explore between the high school graduates, Gwen & Peter. We are looking at where they’ve been and what to do going forward with their relationship. This is an elemental and strong plot line for the movie and if it’s going to appeal to more than just the comic book fan. We need to see how this unfolds, this is plot line 3.
Now we get to see the future main villain (Max Dillon), as we’re introduced to him via Oscorp, as well as Norman & Harry Osborn in quick succession. We actually were introduced to a 3rd villain in the beginning sequences but we won’t know how significant he is until the end of the film. So, perhaps in not the actual chronological order, we get plot lines 4 (Dillon – Electro). Oscorp (multiple villain incubation labs), plot line 5, Harry Osborn, then Norman for main plot line 6.
Clearly the images the director wanted to engage the audience, apart from the necessary confrontation(s), were many and this is where this second movie can be compared loosely to the 3rd Raimi / Maquire installment. Too many objects / plots and backgrounds to explain all at once. It’s as though you take the strongest villain out of the Spider-Man universe and use him for one concluding story arc, the death of Gwen Stacy. To use the one word surprised question from the movie, “Really?”
Gwen Stacy developed in this movie to the point where we see her value much beyond a love interest and later emotional demise. She was Lois Lane, Susan Storm and just about the equivalent of Robin for Batman, combined. Speaking of which, the brief action sequence and unsatisfying character development of Harry Osborn / Goblin would be like relegating the Joker to 15 minutes in the Batman films. The Green Goblin needs a better treatment because in the comics he’s a principle nemesis of Spider-Man. Electro was never as capable of coming back and wreaking havoc on Spider-Man like the Goblin. The Green Goblin, et. al. is the equivalent of the DC Comics Joker.
This is where I really have some issues with this movie. They do a good job of getting us to understand and empathize with Max Dillon / Electro, they completely cut the sequence of events as shown in the trailer of how Harry Osborn concludes Peter Parker and Spider-Man are one in the same, leaving it to an ah-ha moment and then a rushed difficult segment where the Goblin and Spider-Man are fighting each other. It developed so suddenly and only appeared to be a way of showing how Gwen gets killed. Don’t get me wrong, the moments before and the brief time we have with Peter grieving over Gwen while he held her in his arms, displays the depth of emotions required for this scene, but they need not and should not have done this in this movie. It felt rushed just so they can get us into the next girl and group of villains in Amazing Spider-Man 3.
The next few minutes of the movie is a time compression of about 5 months where Spider-Man is off the grid. New York is wondering where he’s gone and then suddenly we’re pulled through the grief cycle with a few well placed words by Aunt May, a play back of the video of Gwen giving the valedictorian closing high school speech, which Peter missed because of being delayed in the beginning of the film, fighting bad guys. Now suddenly, the third villain emerges in the form of an armored Rhino, again supplied by the lovely folks (courtesy Harry Osborn) of Oscorp. Spider-Man hears the clarion call and joins in the fight between the man he captured so humorously in the beginning of the film now in Rhino battle armor with machine guns & cannons. The film ends with him just as we see in the trailer, where he’s about to make his first contact with Russian mobster in Rhino armor swinging a man-hole cover on the end of his webbing.
Can we say, ‘cliff hanger’, that’s not a cliff hanger? That’s it. The tally so far is, Electro, maybe dead, Gwen Stacy definitely dead, Harry Osborn running the show from some type of mental-case isolation room and half of Times Square demolished. The intro once more of several pieces of techno-bad-guy stuff in the Osborn armory and a fade to black with a name assigned to the shadow assistant in Oscorp, Mr. Fiers. Mind you, there are a whole array of possible future Spider-Man universe characters sprinkled briefly throughout the movie.
That seems like a fair amount of criticism but overall the film is entertaining and the imagery is superb. These type of films would not look as good if they were made 20 years ago. CGI has opened the door to allow some credible super hero action. Sound tech is also better than before. I believe this film is worth going to see if this is your kind of picture. Sadly, the big budget, action, fast cut-away, short attention span films dominate the landscape and most of the movie ticket buying audience wants it that way.
Here’s a review comparing the Raimi version, Spider-Man 2 vs. Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man 2.
I think it’s well worth the read. Several of the opinions expressed differ from mine.