‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ – Review

I put off seeing “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” for several days knowing in my gut that something was wrong with the franchise, and I’m sad to report that I spent most of the movie totally frustrated and often enraged by what I was seeing on the screen. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is one of the most inconsistent movies I’ve ever seen where the pendulum swings rapidly between scenes of pure exhilaration and then back to scenes that appear amateur and incoherent. Let me get this out of the way first, I absolutely love comic book movies. I’ve been reading comics for over 30 years and nothing makes me happier than when a filmmaker cracks the code on a particular character and gives us a great movie-going experience. Today we enjoy an embarrassment of riches with movies like “The Dark Knight” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” constantly reminding us that the superhero genre has just as much cinematic potential as the western, gangster or horror movie. I want the genre to continue to thrive for decades to come erasing all memory that once upon a time, not so long ago, fans of comics basically had to enjoy these stories under a cloud of secrecy to avoid societal ridicule. I think most of my anger with the latest vehicle starring your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man stems from the fact that the movie gets a few scenes so right that they gave me chills. Watching Spidey’s costume ripple in the wind as he whips around Manhattan is the best kind of spectacle that even my beloved comics can’t match. The chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is incredibly seductive even when they are forced to speak cringe-inducing lines of dialogue that I still can’t believe survived the endless series of rewrites every big studio project is subjected to. The rest of the movie is basically unwatchable. It reminded me of when I used to play saxophone as a kid where I would attempt to play a Charlie Parker tune only to get 90% of the notes completely wrong. Everything from the script to the music drove me insane. Paul Giamatti is one of the best actors working today yet under the direction Marc Webb, his performance as the Rhino is one that makes the worst superhero film ever made, “Batman & Robin”, feel like “Citizen Kane”. The movie is already long yet the film constantly includes ridiculous scenes that nobody would miss. Why does the movie open with Peter Parker’s parents in a silly fight in an airplane with a random unnamed villain? At the finale, do we really need cutaways to air traffic control dealing with planes flying into LaGuardia while Spider-Man and Electro duke it out? These scenes deal with characters where we have no emotional investment and they add nothing to the movie. Structurally this movie was clearly rewritten, re-shot, and re-edited up to the very last minute and until I know otherwise the blame has to fall on the shoulders of the director Marc Webb. I have no idea what kind of uphill battles he faced in the making of this movie but that is part of the game on these mega-budget projects. Of all the filmmakers making big budget superhero movies these days, he is clearly the one least equipped to handle the strain. He doesn’t even belong in the same conversation of guys like Edgar Wright, Joss Whedon, James Gunn, Christopher Nolan, Bryan Singer, and the Russo Brothers. Sadly this is one of those movies where it feels as if the writers, the director and studio are all trying to have their say on the direction of the movie. The trailer for the film suggests sub plots that were clearly dropped at the last minute as Sony scrambled to find ways to insert teasers for upcoming Sinister Six Storylines. If one clear voice had been able to prevail, we might have had a consistent storytelling voice unveiling the best Spider-Man flick we’ve seen yet but now we’ll never know. Such a shame. Sony has set up several more films set in the Spider-Man universe to come our way over the next few years featuring an array of Spider-Man’s most famous villains. If this movie is any indication of what we can expect, the character of Spider-Man is going to become an object of ridicule while Sony’s handling of the character will become a cautionary tale about how to destroy a franchise.

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