Another one bites the dust. 3/10
This movie almost won me over. Almost.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Yugi-Oh The Abridged Series, you may notice some similarities between that and this movie. If you haven’t seen that series, I highly recommend it. Check it out. There’s a lot of missing pieces.
I will be totally honest and say that the first words out of my mouth once I stood up in the cinema were, “I’ve never felt more betrayed by a film in my life.”
Sure, there are some very low bars for super hero flicks. But, this film set a new standard in how little it wanted me to think and how much it just wanted to make money.
At the start of the film, director Marc Webb zips us through an unnecessary flashback to the beginning of the first Amazing Spider-Man where we finally witness the demise of Peter’s parents. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the scene actually added anything to the film’s plot, but in the overall scheme of things, this scene was simply added to wrap up the “untold” backstory that was promised and neglected in the first film. It also gave the marketers a handful of shots to include in the trailers.
From there we catch up with Spidey as he soars through a beautiful New York City, saving the day from a humorous villain in Paul Giamatti, who is seen only briefly before he is (presumably) put behind bars. Fans who have read anything about the film online or seen the glut of trailers knew that Giamatti becomes the Rhino, one of Spidey’s notorious villains. It’s just a shame that he won’t be seen again until the final moments of the film.
Instead we are given a shaky intro to Max Dillon, a.k.a. Electro, in his nerd-form. We know he’s a nerd because the costume designers have crammed every last cliche onto Jamie Foxx, including a combover, a gap in his teeth, and a meek personality. On one hand I had to give it to the director and screenwriters for not wasting my time rehashing the same old story and speeding things up a bit in the introduction department. Indeed, nearly every character except for Harry Osbourne is introduced within the first ten minutes of the movie. On the other hand, I realized as the film went on that the quick introductions did not mean that I had more character development to indulge in later on.
The first ten minutes was the character development.
The rest of this overlong film zipped by at a frantic pace. Gwen and Peter are a couple, then they are broken up. A pop song overlays a montage of taping papers to the wall and the villains stumble around looking for reasons to hate Spidey.
I’ll stop here to say that I did go into this film with an open mind. After all, if Sony wasn’t going to go back and give me more Spider-man films featuring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, who I adored, then I would at least give them a second chance to win me over after I walked out of the first film halfway through (it was late and I had seen enough after Peter took off his mask to show an entire bridge of people his secret identity on purpose).
I had quite a bit of fun up until the last half hour of this film, I won’t deny that. Granted, I wasn’t analyzing the plot or the motivations of the characters.
But then the finale rolled around.
Now, comic book nerds, I am completely with you when it comes to movie adaptations remaining true to their source material. I didn’t collect over 100 Spider-man issues, both the Amazing and Ultimate editions, for nothing. I love these characters. But, this film really tried to pull a fast one and they didn’t get away with it as far as I am concerned.
We all knew that Gwen Stacy was going to bite the dust. We also knew that Harry was going to turn into the Green Goblin and initiate her death (the filmmakers chickened out by disposing of Norman, played by the criminally underused Chris Cooper, at the beginning of the film, so no luck on seeing that canon fulfilled).
This is where the film betrayed me.
I did some research before writing this up, so I’m not just pulling this opinion out of thin air. The writers and director shot scenes that set up Harry using the glider and goblin suit. The scenes even explained that the suit would heal a person while he or she wore it, designed completely by Oscorp. However, for time constraints or ego trips, whatever, that scene was chopped from the film. Now instead of watching Harry turn into the Goblin genetically and know in our own brains his reasoning for using the suit and glider, we are instead watching a supposedly oblivious Harry crawling towards the suit and glider, donning it for no other reason than a lucky guess that it will fit him and heal him. As if in an attempt to cover this plot hole up later after the finale, we are treated to a throwaway line of dialogue where Harry says, “I guess the suit healed me or something.”
Come on, Sony. You couldn’t spare the two minutes of screen time it would take to set up your finale? The studio certainly took its sweet time giving us improved lines between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone for the sole reason that it was cute and might attract a female audience.
Instead of a well-plotted story where the pieces fit together in the end, the characters all seem to realize they are puppets in a genre film and simply go from point A to point B because the plot demands it. This is very unsatisfying from a story standpoint. I was yanked from the film faster than Jamie Foxx’s gap between his teeth.
My second huge gripe with this film was that it was originally shot to be much more mature in tone. This can be seen in cast interviews and deleted scenes that have been included with the digital release of the film. Again, these elements that would have elevated the film to a new height, yet they were all removed. Why? To sell toys.
You see, for two hours I honestly thought I was watching a fun, energetic film that was not only kid-friendly (suitable enough for a 7 year old) but one that didn’t take itself too seriously on purpose.
Then the tone of the film takes a turn to the dark side.
Again, SPOILERS, Gwen’s death came completely out of left field. If I hadn’t read the comics, I would have never seen this plot development coming. Sure, they gave a subtle hint in Gwen’s opening graduation speech, and heck – all of us comic aficionados were squirming in our seats saying, “She’s wearing the same outfit from the comic!” But, the emotional blow that this particular death scene threw at me was akin to being punched in the face. It just didn’t fit this film. Not only that, but the chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield was the only thing that held the film together. Once the duo won me over, the director cut that chord like so much flimsy Webb (pun intended).
So, fellow movie-watcher, I didn’t care about all the setup with Rhino or the incredibly brief montage of Peter mourning Gwen’s passing because the emotional core of the film was gone. And these people expected me to look forward to a third film in two years? (Make that four, since the release date was mysteriously pushed back, presumably to allow cutting room floor MJ played by Shailene Woodley, to finish filming the Divergent quadrilogy and finally be available.)
This movie was a hot mess. Some parts were undeniably beautiful, specifically the opening action sequence, but the film neglected it’s audience by cutting too many crucial scenes in order to market the film to young kids in order to sell toys. I don’t see where this approach worked since the centerpiece with Gwen was the only thing the studio seemed to commit to, and just how many Spider-man action figures do you need? He always wears the same suit.
It’s a shame that Sony couldn’t have spared this film by committee and allowed Marc Webb to give us his full, unfiltered vision. You can count me out of the group waiting for The Sinister Six.