The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

★★★

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Director: Marc Webb

Release Date: April 16th, 2014 (UK); May 2nd, 2014 (US)

Genre: Action; Adventure; Fantasy

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx

As Spider-Man majestically manoeuvres around an invisible pathway above New York City, camera in tow as if magnetised to his every flip, swing and twirl, we hear him articulate one witty quip after another. An air of intertwined energy and humour instantly sweeps across the screen, exponentially infectious; we are watching a superhero flick after all. Fun is the order of the day, only it arrives at a cost and in 2014 a structured sense of direction can too be quite pricey. It should come as no surprise then that, as Spidey encounters one enemy after another, proceedings take a slightly messy turn. Almost two hours and 30 minutes pass fairly quickly, but as time ticks and Spidey’s checklist grows you get the sense that ongoing events would benefit from separation into two shorter films.

Buoyed by his latest victory over Dr. Connors, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has become an ever-present on the streets of NYC, fighting off crime with aplomb and tactile guile whilst wearing the red of blue of his arachnid alter-ego. Beneath the surface, Parker has an awful lot on his plate: graduation, a relationship, mysterious parentage and an increasingly widening plethora of bad guys to deal with. Haunted by visions of his girlfriend’s dead father, Parker is at a moral crossroads as to whether he should continue dating Gwen (Emma Stone) and there still exists a shroud of uncertainty surrounding the motives of his father and mother. That’s not even to mention the blue-skinned Electro (Jamie Foxx) running rampant around the city, and he’s not the only one. Phew.

It’s almost a given nowadays that the combination of a gargantuan cinema screen and the latest summer blockbuster will yield exhilarating action and visual spectacle. On current evidence said expectation is justified. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens vibrantly and brims with commotion thereafter. Bolstered by some impressive digital creation and Daniel Mindel’s cinematography, each lively sequence retains an outstanding quality that keeps us engaged regardless of any plot misgivings. Notably, splurges of slow motion webbing are enticing and a transformation sequence towards the conclusion shepherds connotations of the magnificent scene in An American Werewolf in London.

One of the saga’s best branches stems from a trunk of genuine chemistry shared between its leading duo, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. The pair are a couple in that thing we tend to call ‘real life’ every so often and their inherent connection flourishes on screen, even more so than in the first film. Garfield continues to cement himself as a better Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire, who was hardly a damp squib in the role. The Englishman can hardly contain his wit at times, a trait wholly welcome in the superhero genre. Stone’s Gwen Stacy is ushered further into the limelight here and her performance alongside Garfield merits the busier workload. They jointly visit the entire emotional spectrum, a standout stop being an especially dramatic scene towards the end. It’s apparent that director Marc Webb and his cohorts are invested in these two characters and this is a positive sheen that rubs off on us viewers.

Beyond Stone and her beau, performances are generally excellent. Dane DeHaan is particularly impressive as Parker’s best friend and Oscorp inheritor Harry Osborn, his facial expressions often insinuating mischief. He resembles a young Leonardo DiCaprio here more than ever — the voice, the hair, the mannerisms — and certainly has the talent to attain DiCaprio’s enviable portfolio. Jamie Foxx stars as the primary villain Electro, though is unrecognisable post-mutation. The character’s mindset drastically alters from one of blunder to one of forcefulness and Foxx handles the switch solidly despite the villain’s lack of conviction. Another unrecognisable face lost amongst the unnecessarily long list of antagonists is Paul Giamatti, who hams it up to the Nth degree as Aleksei Sytsevich.

Giamatti’s comedic purveyance is hit-and-miss, but by and large splashings of humour strike the correct spots. Comedy has become an essential element in the superhero formula, and getting it right undoubtedly provides a sturdy springboard for any subsequent action. Quality over quantity is key; brisk spells of funny are on the menu here and these bursts resultantly set the desired tone, ensuring wisecracking comedy doesn’t overpower the drama but simultaneously exists as more than simply a relief mechanism. Whether he’s arguing against the “laundry sheriff” or awkwardly atoning for making Gwen late (“I’m sorry to bother you my fair lady”) Andrew Garfield is often the source of amusement. Heck, he even generates a laugh out of the ill Spider-Man gag.

This is a far more entertaining watch than The Amazing Spider-Man, but it does adhere to the modern Marvel formula. The studio has been churning out at least two films annually over the past few years with more projects pencilled in until 2028, perhaps an indication that we are getting too much, too soon, too often. As time develops and these films come and go, it is become increasingly difficult to reinvent the superhero wheel and there are faint smatterings of this problem to be found in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The film is on a similar level to Thor: The Dark World in terms of pure enjoyment, but unlike the Norse tale (which channels simplicity for the most part) Spidey part two gorges excessively.

This overabundance is a problem. Far too many things are going on. By the end of the film, there are at least five villains (admittedly, of varying importance) and a few characters so far out on the periphery of proceedings that their presence is called into question. Felicity Jones is criminally underused as Harry’s assistant Felicia and one can only hope that she has a greater role in part three. A random doctor plucked straight from 1960s Soviet Russia shows up at one point and his exaggerated demeanour is one step too far. A hefty percentage of the dialogue also gets caught up in discussions over physics. Modern day blockbusters should carry an intelligent weight, absolutely, but that notion doesn’t extend to rehashing school science lessons.

Reciting implausibilities within the context of a superhero film may not be the wisest of moves, but there is a difference between principal abnormality — that is, our main heroes displaying unimaginable powers — and plain absurdity. An early fight scene that takes place on an aircraft embodies preposterousness, as both a human being and his laptop withstand a free-falling, ripped apart plane. How on earth does the device manage to retain an internet connection?

Though The Amazing Spider-Man 2 becomes entangled in a complicated web of narrative strands, a healthy dose of thrilling action and toxic humour funds endless amounts of enjoyment. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone seal their place among the best couples going in the genre, and as the latter’s Gwen Stacy recites her valedictorian speech (“Make your [life] count for something”) we are appreciatively reminded of those familiar superhero themes: empowerment, belief, and laundry jokes.

Reeling Them Off (June 2013)

Today I am going to talk about a few random bits and pieces — from film news to upcoming releases to recent movies I have watched. I reckon I will do this type of thing more often, rather than relentlessly bore you with four or five separate blog posts. About once or twice a month sounds about right.

“There goes my plans to do a live-action Garfield The Cat movie.”

Sony recently announced that, not only will we be getting The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but we will also be given extra helpings of the franchise by way of a third in 2016 and even a fourth at some point in 2018. Talk about optimism, eh? Well perhaps rightly so, because I think it is safe to say that, just like last year’s Spidey reboot which garnered over $750 million at the box office, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is likely to line many a pocket come next year, vindicating the somewhat premature announcement of a further two instalments.

One of the main problems with telling your audience that there will be another two films after the upcoming one, is that it sort of diminishes the importance of the next Peter Parker saga. Surely a Spider-Man film is not a Spider-Man film without Spider-Man, which would more or less exterminate any suspense during upcoming potential death scenes, as we know Spider-Man cannot die (at least, not yet)? Of course, there are ways around this — Alien: Resurrection being a somewhat distant example — therefore I guess the impending, or lack thereof, death of Spider-Man is not a huge issue going into part two. I have every expectation that the outing will be a solid one, much like the first, and will hopefully continue what is shaping up to be a successful reboot of the previously fledgling franchise.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is scheduled for release on the 18th April, 2014 in the United Kingdom.

Sticking with the subject of upcoming films for a moment, I would like to talk briefly about a few on the horizon. Firstly, the premier trailer for Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street — where Leonardo DiCaprio plays New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort — hit the internet a few days ago and, to be honest, it is not exactly what I had expected beforehand. My vision of the film was that it would be one focused far more on drama, with a more serious tone (who knows, this may well still be the case) however the trailer seems to give off a refreshingly comical ambience. This sits well with me as, being a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio and his previous work with Scorsese, I reckon it will be interesting to see the two delve into a more comedic setting for the first time together. The trailer certainly made me laugh, and we are in the more-than-capable hands of a wonderful director and an exceptional cast, so this one should not disappoint.

The Wolf on Wall Street is set for release on the 17th January, 2014 in the United Kingdom.

“It’s good to be The Rock.”

Time for a dip into the rumour market and it turns out that the most electrifying man in sports all of entertainment, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (or just The Rock to all the cool people, like me) is being touted as one of the stars of the upcoming Terminator 5 film. The Rock, as he shall be known from here on out in this post, has had an excellent past few years in the film industry, and these have been capped off by a simply outstanding first half of 2013. In fact, the semi-retired professional wrestler, who’s four films this year have already grossed over $1 billion combined, has had a movie in the US box office top ten for the past seventeen weeks in a row — stretching all the way back to late February — and this run does not look like stopping any time soon with Fast & Furious 6 still going strong. The Rock has become something of a franchise resurrect-er recently, having taken stagnant franchises such as Fast & Furious, G. I. Joe and Journey to the… and giving them the shot in the arm required to reinstate themselves again. Being a massive professional wrestling fan myself, I have loved The Rock for over a decade and hope to see his acting career continue to thrive.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in Hercules: The Thracian Wars, which is due for release on the 25th July, 2014 in the United Kingdom.

Just a quick note before I continue. Even though I have never watched The Sopranos (I know, I know) it is always extremely sad to hear about the passing of an actor, let alone one of such significance to the world of television. One day, i do hope to watch The Sopranos in order to truly appreciate James Gandolfini, but until then I do not think it is really my place to talk about the man as an actor — although I am sure I do not need to anyway, having read about his greatness on my Twitter feed. All I will say is may he rest in peace.

The other day I re-entered the realm of Netflix, something that was long overdue. I decided to watch a film titled The ABCs of Death, based on what I had heard about it. To begin with, The ABCs of Death is not a film — it is a collection of 26 short stories, each of which convey a depiction of death based a word associated with a letter of the alphabet. The ‘film’ is directed by 26 different directors from all over the world, and thus there is no real narrative to it and the audience already knows the eventual outcome of every short-story — death. There were a few entertaining letters, such as Q and T, and a number of the clips made me laugh due to their sheer ridiculousness — I am thinking H in particular — but on the whole the clips just did not make much sense and some of them were a bit too over-the-top in terms of violence and, well, other stuff. It is one of those things where you kind of have to watch it due to the intrigue, but afterwards — if you are like me — you will probably be regretting wasting over two hours on it.

“Chairs are for wimps.”

I finally got around to watching a few films I had wanted to see for while — The Breakfast Club, A Few Good Men and Broadcast News — and I loved all three of them, particularly The Breakfast Club. John Hughes has a way with making films which ensures they remain relevant so many years on: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes, Trains & Automobiles are two classics which more than hold up in 2013, and The Breakfast Club is no different. For a courtroom drama, a type of film which can sometimes venture dangerously close to the boring mark, A Few Good Men kept me grasped throughout, with the tension slowly bubbling as the film progressed, and it boasts a number of excellent performances from the likes of Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. I watched the television show The Newsroom, starring Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer, last summer and in anticipation for this summer’s upcoming season two, I decided to watch Broadcast News, a film about three colleagues and their relationship with each other and their job. It struck me how similar the two are, even though they are created on different platforms, as both contain vibrant, witty scripts and bubbly, likeable characters (Holly Hunter and Emily Mortimer’s characters are incredibly similar).

Oh, and I also got around to seeing Die Hard. I now get the hype surrounding Alan Rickman in this film, although I do not quite get the hype surrounding the film itself. Maybe I should have watched it ten years ago, before being lambasted with similar “Cowboys and Indians” (“in The Towering Inferno,” as Mark Kermode likes to put it) type films over the last decade.

Anyway, I think that will do it for today. If you have any comments just write them below and I look forward to doing some more of these in the future!