Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hey Andrew Garfield, Here's What's Wrong With Spiderman 2!

Walloping webslingers!

I'm a big Spiderman fan. I've watched the original trilogy, and the Spectacular Spiderman TV show twice. I've read hundreds of old Spiderman comics, (I have about six or seven omnibuses).
What I've always loved about Spiderman is that A. He's not a sidekick, and he doesn't have one either, B. He's got a great, consistent power set that can mostly be explained by science, C. He's got one of the best rogues galleries, and D. He's relatable and funny, even when he's fighting.

 I felt like The Amazing Spiderman was a great adaptation. I didn't mind seeing the origin again, mostly because it was too cheesy and over the top for me in the original. Even the elements that I'd seen in other movies were fresh, new, and different feeling just because the character of Peter Parker was so much better. In the original, I never bought that he was a dorky, nebbish, or awkward. Tobey Maguire doesn't look like a nerd, at least to me. In the reboot, the awkwardness was there. Peter was always kind of a loner, and it made sense to transition him into that crowd, mostly because the negative connotations with geeks has gone away. But loners will always be outcasts, and in a way, the ultimate underdogs.

I was really looking forward to the sequel. And I was disappointed. Let me examine that.

First of all, I haven't eaten anything since the huge late breakfast I had at around eleven this morning. So if this sounds even the slightest bit cranky, you can blame that. I'll try to suppress the urge to rage. Oh, and... spoiler alert.

Amazing Spiderman 2 is a train wreck. It's a well built machine that tragically crashes, leaving all who boarded either dead or stranded. The elements at play here, the screenwriter's only friends: plot, characters, and tone, can help explain why this movie didn't work.

~ T H E   P L O T ~

I like complex plots. I don't mind multiple subplots either. It didn't bother me that Peter was attempting to figure out his father's past while his girlfriend was graduating and going off to college and the Rhino was building a suit and Harry Osborn and Peter got back together because Harry's father was dying and Harry needed Spiderman's blood because HE was dying and did I even mention Electro yet!? But yeah, none of that really bothered me. I could keep track of everything.
 What I think went wrong was the handling of these multiple stories.

I know material was cut from the film, just like it was from the last film. When is the studio going to cut it out, (excuse the pun)? When will they learn not to butcher every Amazing Spiderman film to death? But that aside, the sequences were arranged in some really odd ways. If you're going to cut out material, how about you cut that completely random opening with Peter's father? During the entire scene I was wondering if The November Man had been released several months early. I think it would've worked better as a flashback, or maybe it should've been cut and Spiderman action could've opened the film instead. The first scene sets the tone for the film. The tone of the film was not spy action thriller. It was supposed to be a fun Spidey adventure with dramatic elements.

So clearly, I have an issue with the beginning. But I also have an issue with the ending. I didn't really like the Incredibles-style Rhino battle. I got immediately what it was doing. It was trying to end on an exciting, anticipatory note, with Spidey swinging into action again. The problem is, in order to do that, it had to montage past Gwen's death. If you're going to have Gwen die in this one, which I guess was inevitable but there was a better way to do that, at least respect and hold that moment until the end. Give us a little hope, maybe. Like Peter looking over to his costume, then at the trashcan, and then getting up and leaving, unable to decide just yet. But having a full blown action scene didn't work, because it made it seem like Peter had gotten over it really fast. Remember, we didn't live through those months where he was getting over it because you skipped all of them! The only part about the death that worked was seeing that web try to snag her. I thought it was beautiful and well paced, and I felt some real tension there even though I knew that it was coming.

The other subplots were handled pretty well, save two, but I'll get to THAT in the characters section.

~ T H E   C H A R A C T E R S ~

Peter Parker. He's just as good as the last movie, and he has some great obstacles to overcome and new types of relationships to showcase, like the friendship he has with Harry. No problems there.

Gwen's also as great as before, with character growth revolving around her decision to leave Peter to go to college, and a few funny lines.

Harry's great. Norman's great.

Aunt May's okay, I'm surprised there was time for her to be in the movie, but there was and it's actually kind of fun to see her and Peter's relationship after Ben died, since the last movie had to skip some of that to get to Spidey action.

But enough about what works, back to what's wrong.

So. Electro. Spiderman has a great rogue's gallery, as I mentioned above. His movie franchises have great, tragic villains. I liked Lizard from the last movie. Yeah, we got that stupid Gollum moment again, (what is up with that?!), but he wasn't that forgettable, really, and I like how they handled his nose and gradual transformation. Here we get Electro. This should've been awesome, but I think they tried to inject too much character here. What I mean is that they tried TOO hard to make him sympathetic, almost to the point where it was like watching a cartoon. The one moment that worked was when he snapped at the Oscorp employee, and then we see that it was just in his head. A lot of screen time was devoted to Max Dillon and Electro, but honestly when I try to remember Electro's scenes all I can remember is Max opening a fridge and seeing a cake, Max internally snapping at the Oscorp guy, Max getting shocked, Electro in Times Square, and Itsy Bitsy Spider, (which by the way, I didn't recognize at all when I first heard it in the movie). So basically, the stuff I remember is the IMPORTANT stuff. The stuff that should've been kept in and everything else cut out. If you must have Electro, Rhino, and Green Goblin in your movie, please make way for them. Which brings me to my second character gripe.

Green Goblin. I didn't like that Green Goblin was in the movie at all. I think having subplots about Harry and then maybe a tease at the very end would've untangled a lot of the subplot problems. Furthermore, I think Gwen should've been done in by Electro, not Green Goblin. Who cares if the fans get on your back about it, Gwen's death didn't need the complexity of having to introduce Green Goblin to the final battle. Keep it simple.

And finally, Rhino. I mentioned before that I didn't like the ending. It wasn't just because Rhino was ruining the aftermath of Gwen's death,  it was also because... the mech suit didn't look that great. Mech suits need to be properly balanced looking. I understand that maybe they were going for a rough prototype look, but still. Even if Rhinos have tiny arms and legs and huge heads, tweak the anatomy for crying out loud! It looks really weird, guys. Maybe take a look at some of the comic versions of the suit, I'm sure someone's done an awesome mech version of it before.

Like this one!

...this one looks kind of fat, guys.

 ~ T O N E ~

The sad thing is, like a train wreck, there are pieces of the film that still work, like the parts of the train that are still functional after the crash. Unfortunately, the most important parts of the train broke. What this admittedly bad metaphor is trying to illustrate is how there is some genuinely good stuff trying to alleviate the bad. And it almost works. The scene where Peter's distracting the guards surprised me. I thought it was really funny. The closet scene was pretty funny. It seemed improvised, which made it feel a bit amateurish to me, however, I think the charm of the actors showed through enough to salvage it.
I liked Peter missing the graduation, that was kind of a callback to the comics, which I appreciated. I liked all the Gwen/Peter chemistry and the Peter/Harry chemistry, and yes, even the Harry/Norman chemistry. The main actors were great, the script was clearly the problem.
There was a scene during the movie that made the entire movie ten times worse for me, though, and is the reason why my overall feeling with the film is "Ehhh." The Ravencroft scene. I don't know why the movie suddenly tried to go Young Frankenstein-esque goofy, but it REALLY didn't work. The over-the-top scientist was almost unbearable to watch. It ruined the tone of the movie. Other, small things that ruined the tone were some of the jokes around Max Dillon and how goofy evil Green Goblin was. But I could forgive those if the Ravencroft scene had been scrapped, or at least made more serious. This is supposed to be a gritty reboot of Spiderman, (though it usually manages to shake that off and be lots of fun in spite of itself), so when you can go darker, the idea is to go darker, not to flip the switch and give us a Disney prison!

~ I N   S U M M A R Y ~

Cut opening scene, have Spiderman chase scene open the movie. It was fun and funny. Don't fast forward over Gwen's death. Either make the Rhino awesome or cut out that ending. Eliminate all the goofiness. Give us less Electro back story and more Electro. Don't just give Electro puns to say. Give him some awesome, quotable lines to say too. Don't make Harry Green Goblin yet, just establish Peter and Harry's relationship for now.

And, while I'm at it, in the next movie... Don't introduce Mary Jane right away. That's cold and contrived after what just happened to Gwen. Upgrade that Rhino suit, or make the arms bigger at least. Give J.K. Simmons the role of James Jonah Jameson, nobody cares if it's the same actor from the other movies. He was born to play that role! And please, don't do the Clone Saga or the Black Suit Saga. And don't introduce Black Cat yet unless the Sinister Six movie covers Green Goblin.

So there you go, that's what's wrong, in my opinion. I tried to include everything, but chances are I missed something, so I'll probably edit this post in the future. Thanks for reading.

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