Reception for The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) was pretty mixed, which perhaps serves to explain why the enthusiasm for the sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) has not exactly been at fever pitch. Personally, I enjoyed the first film at the time. But I don’t really look back on it with much fondness, simply because in retrospect I just feel it did everything Raimi’s first Spider-Man film did, but in a far less enjoyable way. All that said, I was still moderately looking forward to this film, albeit I was a little concerned at the prospect it would fall into the too many villains trap that plagued Spider-Man 3 (2007) terribly.
Whilst too many villains is not really the major issue with the film, unfortunately that terribly lame joke I made on twitter above pretty much encompasses my feelings on this film. It is clearly well made and is a polished piece of blockbuster work. But it is far from amazing and in this world of ever increasing Marvel Cinematic Universe quality and consistency, this film is downright average in comparison. The plot is totally tired, refusing to take any of the risks that films like Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) or Iron Man 3 (2013) take with their narratives. Peter Parker is graduating high school, having trouble with his missus as he is haunted by a broken promise he made to her father, fighting various bad dudes you will have seen from the trailer and NY is having the good old vigilante/superhero debate on talkback radio. It takes a bloody long time to do all that though, clocking in at a bloated 140 mins. It felt that long and more, starting with a really unnecessarily long prologue that is a definite taste of what is to come. One thing the first film in this series, and even more so the trailers for that film, did well was insert some nice humour into the script and the characters. This film though, with a pretty weakly written script, bombs hard on that front. Peter Parker/Spidey’s one liners that are meant to zing just make you want to kick the character in the face they are so deplorable. Actually for me to call the script weak is a little unfair. Aspects of the film are really well written, especially the on and off again relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. As a romance, the film is surprisingly successful for the most part, and a lot of that is down to the writing of that aspect of the film.
Whilst my overall impressions of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are pretty unenthusiastic, there are parts of the film that are really good. There are a bunch of performances that deserve to be in a much better film. Jamie Foxx is great as Electro and whilst I didn’t feel like the film needed less villains, it would have still been nice to see this character get more screen and character time. The use of CGI for this character is pretty special, managing to somehow still capture so much of Foxx’s performance and attitude whilst still being incredibly arresting and otherworldly to look at. Dane DeHaan is likewise really good as Harry Osborn, although he does struggle to get the tone right in various sequences. Although again, you could apportion plenty of blame on that front to the writing of his character. Emma Stone has her usual spirit as Gwen and does well to elevate her scenes with Andrew Garfield who is neither terrible nor particularly charismatic as Peter Parker. I won’t give away the huge plot twist/spoiler that comes toward the end of the film, although if you have managed to avoid it you must have been living under a rock with only sporadic internet access for the past year or so. There seems to have been very little attempt to keep it a secret. But just on that big twist, I will say that it is horribly foreshadowed early in the film and I also think that it a really cheap ploy after what has led up to it. Those criticisms aside, I think the whole sequence is delivered incredibly well and works on that level. I would be keen to get your spoilery thoughts on all of that in the comments.
You have probably already decided long ago whether or not you would be catching The AmazingSpider-Man 2. But if you were at all on the fence about it, my suggestion is that it is not really worth your time. In this golden age of comic book films, this has very little to offer you. It brings nothing new or exhilarating, and everything else has been done better elsewhere.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught
- Not Suitable for Children (2012), Peter Templeman – A cracker of a script brings this inner-west Sydney comedy to life. Not afraid to confound expectations, the film also delivers a healthy quota of genuine laughs. Refreshingly frank about booze, drugs and sex this excellently performed piece is the kind of Aussie film you really hope finds an audience. Also features the most fantastically awkward sex scene ever.
- East West 101: Season 1 (2007), Steve Knapman & Kris Wyld – This is an intriguing Aussie cop drama. There are definitely annoyances – shaky, hyperkinetic camerawork and individual storylines that are not always satisfying – but the storyline of Malik and his father is really well drawn out. The exploration of race, despite some initial clumsiness, also comes to satisfy by the season’s excellent (and genuinely shocking) conclusion.
- This Means War (2012), McG – I’m a big fan of all three leads in this – Pine, Witherspoon and Hardy. This is nice and light, there is no real sense of tension but the action scenes are good. The script is not great, especially the early establishment of Pine’s character and the motivation of all the characters is often warped. But in the end, this is genuinely funny and well performed, with Chelsea Handler as Witherspoon’s best friend almost stealing the show.
- The Amazing Spiderman (2012), Marc Webb – This is a fun film that looks great. But there is no denying that much of what is covered was done better by the first Raimi film. Andrew Garfield is a little hit and miss in the title role but Emma Stone is her usual delightful self. Unfortunately very little of the welcome humour that characterised the trailer is transferred to the final film. But despite all of this, the film is still more than enjoyable enough popcorn fluff.
- Batman Begins (2005), Christopher Nolan – This incredible film has come to sit somewhat unfairly in the shadow of its phenomenal sequel. Nolan’s first Batman flick is a really dense, multifaceted origin story which remains extremely accessible to non-comic book readers. The script expertly establishes the characters’ values and psychology above all. Katie Holmes’ performance in this is really underrated; I think she does better than Maggie Gyllenhaal who replaced her in the sequel. The film finishes on one of my all time favourite sequel setups as well.
- The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Christopher Nolan – As a standalone film, this is imperfect. However as the closing film of the trilogy, it is pretty darn close to perfection. The quibbles for me include the late twist, OWS references which veer into the overwrought and resolution of the main action that is not 100% successful. But I loved much of this. There is a couple of cracking action set pieces, the setup for the sidequel/spinoff is masterful and personally I was a huge fan of the ending. Michael Caine is amazing in a small role whilst Joseph Gordon-Levitt in detective mode is very good.
- Magic Mike (2012), Steven Soderbergh – I really liked this. On the surface this is a tale of male strippers. But there’s some (not too much) added depth here. Channing Tatum has a real charm and presence about him onscreen, as does female lead Cody Horne who is delightful despite occasional stilted line delivery. Biggest accolades must go to director Soderbergh though who is in good form, keeping proceedings zipping along rapidly, even as the action threatens to become predictable.
Not Worth Watching:
- Brave (2012), Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman – As far as animated films go, this is decidedly average. For a Pixar film it is utter pants. Technically, they continue to improve but it seems too much effort has gone into making Merida’s hair look amazing, and not enough into making the narrative amazing. This is a tepid tale, totally lacking in any Pixar distinctiveness or subversiveness.
- Safe House (2012), Daniel Espinosa – Cool idea. A CIA traitor just saunters into the American embassy in South Africa. Especially when you add in the fact that the traitor is played by none other than Denzel Washington. But this film never gets off the ground, making you wonder why anyone bothered. The action scenes are surprisingly sparse, and when they arrive they are annoyingly, shakily shot. Denzel is surely the most watchable actor of his generation, but even he can’t make this worth your while.
If you only have time to watch one The Dark Knight Rises
Avoid at all costs Brave
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Perhaps the trailers that get me the most excited are not those for films that I know will be fantastic or have hugely high expectations for. Rather, it is those that give me a glimpse of a film that could be incredible, or perhaps could just be average. More than maybe any other genre, the contemporary gangster film is a very inconsistent one. It is rare to find a really well made and enjoyable example. But when the genre is nailed just right, it can be something really exceptional. This trailer for Gangster Squad (rubbish name don’t you think?), shows that they have the feel downpat – the costumes, the voiceover, the violence. And a cracking cast. Who knows if that will translate into onscreen awesomeness, I have high hopes following the trailer. And I’ll definitely be checking it out to see which way it goes.
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Modern trailers get a fair bagging. And generally for good reason. There is a tendency to give away far too much plot and all the best jokes, having the effect of a spoiler ridden review.
But every so often a trailer serves its purpose – makes you want to see the movie. This week’s trailer did that for me. I was not at all keen for The Amazing Spider-man. I thought a reboot was entirely unnecessary, and that if a another Spider-man film needed to be made, it should be another Raimi film (despite the general woefulness of much of his third). But this looks like a really cool new take, with a bit of humour, back story and engaging leads.
Check out the trailer, and let me know your thoughts.And enjoy your weekend.