Saturday, May 10, 2014

In Theatres: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

There are positives & negatives to "The Amazing Spider-Man 2", the current #1 movie in the country.

Positive: Electro, aka Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), gets an upgrade. When we first meet Max, Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) rescues him during a rampage by a saboteur named Alexi (Paul Giamatti), who would later become the Rhino. More on that later. An accident lands Max in a vat full of electric eels, and turns him into a blue skinned walking dynamo who later gains the ability to travel via electrical lines. He goes from being a geeky Spider-Man fanatic to one of his most dangerous adversaries practically in no time at all.

Negative: Rhino gets his costume at the end of the movie, and it's a waste of special effects money. Alexi is fueled by revenge against Spidey, of course, but it seems as though this fight is set up to segue into the next film. The trailers and ads led fans to believe Rhino would play a bigger role.

In the middle: The plot. Peter Parker is haunted by the ghost of Capt. George Stacy (Denis Leary), and the promise between them that Peter would leave Stacy's daughter, Gwen (Emma Stone). Peter misses Gwen's graduation day address as the valedectorian (look for Stan Lee's cameo in this sequence), but it was recorded, and Peter plays it back later on. He also learns the truth about his father (Campbell Scott), and the idea created by the writers of these movies that Richard Parker implanted his DNA on some spiders, including the one that bit Peter in the first film. Preposterous? Of course. The whole idea of Richard Parker being a spy of some kind was introduced in the books in the 90's, along with wife Mary, and even then I thought this was a little convoluted, since there was very little about Peter's parents in the books up until then.

Peter breaks up with Gwen, but then they gradually get back together, just as Gwen lands a job at Oscorp. She gets into trouble when she decides to do some investigating for Peter into Dillon, and that gets the attention of some nasties at Oscorp, who covered up the accident. Gwen also is accepted into Oxford, but if you know your comics history, well..........

In the middle: Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). In the books, he was a high school classmate of Peter & Gwen, but here, he was shipped off to a private boarding school at age 11 by his father, Norman. Norman passes away early on in the movie, but he's not the same menace he was in the Sam Raimi series, not by a longshot. Harry discovers he's dying, and is convinced Spider-Man can help him. Spidey turns him down. Harry then finds out that there was some spider-venom hidden away in Oscorp's vaults, and manages to get himself injected, turning into the Green Goblin, though he was never referred to by that name, even with the familiar glider in place. He figures out Peter is Spider-Man, and stands between the webhead and Gwen in a critical point in the movie.

In the comics, it was Norman, the original Goblin, who had been responsible for Gwen's death. I'm not spoiling anything here, since most of you had seen the movie before I did, but making Harry the first Goblin was a big mistake, erasing a large chunk of Spider-history. I guess in theory, it might seem better if Gwen's death was caused by someone in her own age group, rather than an older man. In today's society, Norman stalking Gwen would be way creepier than it was 40+ years ago.

Harry & Electro team up, with the former creating new duds for Max, the better to contain Electro's powers. Unfortunately for Harry, the makeup used on him when he becomes the Goblin doesn't work. I get that they are looking to use Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde as a sort of inspiration for the Goblin, much like the Incredible Hulk, but, again, it fails, badly. Harry as Goblin isn't scary. Instead, he looks like a case of a bad hair day coupled with going without brushing his teeth for a month. Gross.

As noted, the story moves up 5 months after Gwen's death, and Spider-Man has taken a leave of absence, only to return when Rhino does, when a much younger Spider-fan, complete with costume, decides to be brave and confront Rhino. The CGI that was wasted on Rhino is all wrong. Rhino's late appearance also teases the rumored "Sinister Six" movie, since he & Goblin will be partners, and likely Electro as well, since there's a clue as to his whereabouts after his 2nd battle with Spidey.

Was it better than the first film? Yes, but not by much. It's not better than "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", and "X-Men: Days of Future Past", which opens in 2 weeks, will be a better film as well. Speaking of which, Marvel's marketing department made a cheeky move by cutting into the credits for a teaser, showcasing Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, "The Hunger Games"). Maybe Marvel Studios is hoping to get 20th Century Fox & Sony to play nice and blend into the Cinematic Universe. Would it work? You bet it would, especially if Marvel can get the rights to Spider-Man back from Columbia, and the X-Men & Fantastic Four from Fox.


There was a fresh trailer for "Days of Future Past", which we discussed before. We also discussed "Maleficent" (opening May 30), "Expendables 3" (August), & "Godzilla" (next week). As for the others:

"Annie" (December): Jamie Foxx returns as a politician who befriends the comic strip icon in this reboot. Since it's a musical, can we hope Jamie sings on the soundtrack?

"A Million Ways to Die in the West": Seth McFarlane (Family Guy, Dads, "Ted", etc.) steps in front of the camera, as well as behind it, as he stars & directs an ensemble including Dads star Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, and Neil Patrick Harris in a sendup of Western cliches.

"22 Jump Street": Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, & Ice Cube return in the followup to the "21 Jump Street" reboot, but this time, Hill & Tatum go undercover in college.

And, here's the trailer for "Amazing Spider-Man 2":

Rating: B-.

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