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Friday, 2 May 2014

Reel Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man 2...Electric Boogaloo



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Reel Reviews


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/02/The_Amazing_Spiderman_2_poster.jpgMovie: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Release Date:  2nd May 2014

Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn/Green Goblin, Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro, Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich, Colm Feore as Donald Menken, Felicity Jones as Felicia Hardy, BJ Novak as Alistair Smythe, Dennis Leary as Captain George Stacy, Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn, Scott Campbell as Richard Parker, Embeth Davidtz as Mary Parker, Martin Czokas as Dr. Ashley Kafka, Michael Masee as Gustav Fiers with Sally Field as May Parker and Martin Sheen as Ben Parker

Genre: Comic Book

Score: 7.7/10 (w/out vfx; 8)


Pros:-As a whole, the film perfectly captures the essence of Spider-Man from the classic storytelling to the themes and above all else it's most heart breaking moment that changed the industry as a whole
          -Writers weave a detailed arc for Peter Parker, providing another step for his alter ego to understand heroism and the sacrifices it takes. Like with the comics, his relationships are also understood at a core level. Gwen also gets a lot of layers added to her character moving more from a damsel in distress to a vital partner grounding Peter
          -The development of Spider-Man's scientific origin is handled well and adds a new dimension for the film while keeping in line with a lot from different versions of the comics
          -More than the writing it's Mark Webb who deserves applause. His execution of the smaller human moments especially the romantic ones shows a matured director who understands depth in character and plot. He also improves in the big set piece moments
          -The action while little is spectacular even making slow motion look good and utilizes the POV camera tricks well
          -Andrew Garfield one ups his performance from the previous film, he gleefully embodies the aspect of Spider-Man and defines the angst yet hope that Peter represents. Watch him in scenes regarding his father and the climax with Gwen
          -Emma Stone ones again lights up the screen with her charming screen presence and mastery of comic timing. She boils down the iconography of the character which is desperately needed
          -The stalwart however is Dane DeHaan. He is simply mind blowing as Harry Osborn, and not even the amount of screen time can stop him from stealing the show. Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon is great at times
          -At the heart of the film is the love story and as such the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is dynamic and makes each and every scene of there's till the finale worth watching. Garfield also shares a great rapport with DeHaan and Sally Field.
          -Hans Zimmer makes a score that fits the mood and theme to Spider-Man making it inspiring as well as romantic and sometimes dark

Cons:-The writing as a whole isn't so great, dialogues are rife with exposition and in order to focus on the world building aspects the film becomes distracting and over long
           -At times there are noticeably jarring tonal changes from the light hearted to the very grim
           -The villains are woefully underdeveloped. Harry's change to Goblin is too quickly brought up. Once again a franchise building problem
           -Indirect of the origin change, the film short changes the role of Uncle Ben being a bit disappointing   
           -Certain scenes go overboard performance wise. Foxx as Electro is a bit too hammy from time to time while Marton Csokas and sadly Paul Giamatti are woefully over the top threatening to drag the future movies down
           -While the action is set up right, the camera work at time makes the experience nauseating especially taking into account the post production 3D. With it the VFX is woefully defined and cartoonish

Best Scene: The final depiction of Gwen's death is the most heart breaking moment on screen

Best Dialogue: I can't particularly remember but when Mr. Fiers asks Harry about the team, Harry says 'Make it small' implying the Six for the Sinister team

Best Performance: Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn/Green Goblin

Coolest Comic Book Reference: Anything to do with the Sinister Six and in a way Gwen's death as well


Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit theaters to a worldwide success but critical backlash. There are many problems with both Spider-Man franchises and I enjoy both although not Spider-Man 3 (though it has its moments). The second installment returns with the promise to look to the future in terms of Spider-Man and more such as the upcoming Sinister Six and Venom films. 

So head on down to enjoy my review but remember Spoiler Alert!

 

Story 

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ASM 2 picks up a few years (?) after the first film as Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man has become well versed with his role as protector of New York City; The Amazing Spider-Man. He fights bad guys like Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti), works for the Bugle through mail and is a prodigal scientist set for graduation. In his down time he is Peter Parker, in a complicated relationship with Gwen Stacy and haunted by the ghost of his girlfriend's father and the promises he made him. They break up and they make up as their relationship tumbles onwards. But a turn of events for his fan Max Dillon into the Electro heralds a change in the city that links back to Spidey's origins and the nefarious works of Oscorp and their leader Norman Osborn, and now his dying son Peter's best friend; Harry Osborn. When his enemies unite, Spider-Man will have to fight like never before, but at what cost?

Barring the emotionally heavy climax, the script doesn't pick up from any particular story from the Spider-Man books. With four writers at the helm notably Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, the film is overstuffed with a lot of elements that both the plot requires as well as the studio.

ASM 2 is reminiscent of Iron Man 2 and not in a particularly good way, it builds towards the future of the franchise and the worlds it wants to encompass (e.g.. Spin-Offs and cinematic universes, a rage since Avengers mammoth box office success). There's so many plot threads going on and multiple ideas being presented that the film while fun to watch for it's easter eggs feels overstuffed, and simply chokes the main plot of the film. It doesn't help that this creates a tug and pull aspect of artistic vision between the studio, the writers and its director. All together this makes a film that is overlong with a stretched ending (Harry's scene with Gustav Fiers could have been in the end credits).

Two of the detrimental elements of blockbuster cinema leap forward here as well. There are many plot holes in the film, most notably the deterioration of Harry's condition quickening at an alarming rate where as his father fought his for decades. The other is the dialogue in the film, in far too many instances the dialogue becomes rife with exposition especially during the final battle when Gwen and Peter discuss for an extended period on how to take down Electro. In a fun way it kind of reminds you of the Spidey comics of old.

But not only that, the dialogue at times is too corny for its own good. The threats Electro trashes out seem odd fitting and feel as if they would be at home in some overblown action film, where as a lot of Gwen's dialogue is in your face with the idea of hope and most importantly foreshadowing of her fate.

The biggest problem the film has though is the clunky shift in tone the it makes each and every time. There's basically a noticeable division between the different kind of scenes the film is portraying from the action to the lighthearted romantic to the dramatic human moments to the main plot revolving around Peter and Harry and then the world building aspect. All in all the script jumps between these point without crafting a balanced narrative thread that makes the movie flow seamlessly, rather making it all too jarring when a fun moment is followed by a darker one.

It all comes back to the previous films grounded approach that felt reminiscent off the Dark Knight Trilogy and the writers here trying to keep with that while also trying some MCU style moments. It would have been better if the script could have blended both moments or made their own. 

In all honesty I don't get why each superhero film has to be specifically funny or gritty, like with a comic they can be both if the screenwriters can merge them well enough.

On character, the writers develop a well laid out arc for Peter and Spider-Man around the origins we were promised in the first film. Here they makes sense of the scientific origin of Peter's powers tying into his parents, it's a different step to take and one that makes for an interesting read especially if built upon in future films. Unlike Spider-Man 3 this doesn't change the reason behind Spider-Man becoming a hero, but it does short change Uncle Ben's role in Spider-Man's life. Peter's pursuits for an ideal family make for an intriguing concept nonetheless and gives much needed screen time including one well written and executed scene between Aunt May and Peter.

In Spider-Man's case, the writers pick up on the essentials of the comic book character giving the film and the hero an adventurous and fun edge. This Spider-Man is full of quips than even before, which fits right into the mold of the comic character. The scientific origins of his villain are as comic book as they can be for the film.

Even the larger themes are understood, specifically those of Spider-Man's symbolism of the spirit of New York and the hope he instills. The writers though do veer into the melodramatic during these parts, as well as in the romantic scenes. It seems like they had no concrete idea on what to do with the relationship so they played the on/off game through out.

Speaking of relationships, Gwen's isn't only a romantic point to Peter but is grounding for Spider-Man. Unlike the previous trilogy, this one doesn't make her (the love interest) into a cardboard damsel in distress. Rather the film gives a whole lot of dimensions to how heroic and smart Gwen is on her own, it helps that like with the previous film it's her who manages to save most of the city while allowing Spider-Man to defeat the main villain (in this case Electro). The writers do as well as they can so that even when she dies it doesn't feel like a Woman in the Refrigerator situation. Still that scene is very important to not just Spider-Man, but comic book lore as well and it is justifiably well written.

Goblin brings me to the villains of the film. Lord knows writers for this sub-genre have been unable to find the right balance for multiple villains and ASM 2 is no exception. Like with Spider-Man 3 there's too many villains and too much going on between them for focus, unlike Spider-Man 3 (and I hate to say this, cause I hate Spider-Man 3) it doesn't even make one villain compelling enough. The motive behind Electro and to some extent even Harry is too shallow and could have been better if Max had been fleshed out well enough. The addition of other Sinister elements (pun intended)distract too much, especially when you consider that most of them wont return or make an impact until the fourth Spider-Man film (e.g. Alistair Smythe).

All in all, the films major writing issues stem from the strangle hold on the writers to build for the Spider-Man's own cinematic universe like of Marvel's. It threatens to derail a film that could have been much more simple yet made a more bang and given complexities to its characters. It's an issue that plagued Marvel's Iron Man 2 but allowed the breathing space afterwards to create multiple ongoing franchises and then a super franchise in Avengers. The prospects for the sequels and spin-offs specifically the villain centric Sinister Six look really good, the question is; at what cost? ASM doesn't have the advantage to falter and be picked up by anything else such as Cap or Thor. Everything here ties to Spider-Man, so each new franchise needs to be churned out from there. This could wholly diminish the main films like the writing nearly does here.

Score: 5.9/10    


Direction 

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It's at that point the film should consider itself lucky for being under Mark Webb's vision.

His execution of most of the other things salvages the film from becoming a total atrocity. Unlike the previous film, Webb seems to have gotten a better handle on how to flawlessly execute big action set pieces.

While too few and far between, the action scenes are bolstered by some time worn elements such as slow motion and even shaky cam are presented well on screen.  Mark Webb has a much more matured understanding of how Spider-Man can work on screen, and he pulls that off with aplomb.

It's breathtaking especially when Spider-Man does battle with Electro.

Cinematographer Daniel Mindel utilizes the elements from the previous film (by John Schwartzman) with the dark hues bolstering the effects and giving the film a palette of vibrant colors that just leap out of the screen. This allows for that world around Spider-Man to feel organic and makes the visual construction of his powers specifically his Spider-sense intriguing even if it is just slow motion.

All in all it makes the action and 3D come to life, the construction of it is brilliant but there are issues as I note below.

But it's the human moments where director Mark Webb strikes gold, specifically his greatest asset in romance. The romantic tryst between Gwen and Peter is what forms the beating heart of the film and while formulaic and lazy in writing, is executed such that on screen it elevates the film to a whole other level. Much of this stems from the chemistry between the actors, but credit is due to Mark Webb who understands how those light hearted moments and even the larger dramatic ones work.

It's how he's able to get right one of the core aspects of Spider-Man stories, the human relationships. He perfectly brings to fore different parts of Peter's life and how they make him who he is. The opening scene is crafted spectacularly and gives much needed complexity and understanding to Richard Parker as well as his wife and their own sacrifices and love. A scene well written between May and Peter is underlined by great camera work that captures the raw emotions of the situation fate has placed the two characters in, and how it deeply saddens both of them yet how May makes Peter a better person (Even if he wants it or not).

The much grimmer scenes are also reflected with poignancy especially when it comes too the final montage but before it the most iconic scene in comic book history. Gwen's death marked a turning point for comics from the fun Silver Age to the grim Bronze Age and even if everything else goes wrong, Webb constructs this scene with such reverence and heart wrenching dexterity that the film becomes simply great cause of it.

While a larger audience will be let down by the less action more drama approach, Webb's effort cannot be understated nor hated on. He might keep things too long, but it still allows in creating an effective portrayal of character and human spirit. Overall, the film's greatness is all in the execution. 

Score: 8.8/10


Performances 

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Of course, Webb's vision wouldn't have been perfectly executed if it weren't for the actors he had with him. The first film was bolstered by at least competent performances by the whole cast all round. Here however it's a mixed bag, there's many instances of over-acting even from the likes of Foxx and Stone but there's also some terrific showings capped off by a marvelous turn by Dane DeHaan.

Among the supporting cast there's the likes of Felicity Jones and BJ Novak who with limited screen time leave no mark, but might be able too in future films. Once again Oscar winner Sally Field is left out in the cold, but in one scene between her and Peter she proves why she's a master class thespian.

The bad proved to be someone I didn't expect, the always underrated Paul Giamatti was forcefully producing a hammy accent and as such his performance just fell through. It was a terrible cameo, and hopefully with an imminent role in the sequel he can fix it up with more character. This is a man who is one of the greatest modern actors, and his first showing in a block buster film he messes up doesn't feel good for a fan like me.

Martin Csokas as Dr. Kafka is also a bit too much to bear, the film alludes to him as Dr. Octopus which hopefully doesn't happen. His performances was so over the top it sinks much of Electro's scenes on screen. The front facing scene between electro and Kafka seemed odd and jarring because of his and even Foxx's acting.

Jamie Foxx was promoted as the major villain, and while in a way he is so, he is shoehorned in as a lackey to Harry by the end. With a weak character, weak motive there comes a weak performance. It's not all round terrible, Foxx does make for an intriguing Electro especially as nerdy Max Dillon but he falters into ham territory from time to time.

It's the three leads that specifically carry this film.

Among them is the mind blowing young actor Dane DeHaan, his turn here is one worth the ticket price of the whole film. He gets a badly written character and doesn't have as many movies as James Franco did, yet DeHaan turns in a performance that truly captures you. He straddles the line between desperate and menacing so well that it never even feels like he's over acting in the full blown villain moments. The desperation for Harry as a character is perfectly embodies in the body language and expressions within DeHaan, this is a performance that bodes well for the Sinister Six film and hopefully beyond.

Special mention for his short turn as Goblin, the laugh he echoes is vividly reminiscent of those in the animation series and how Goblin would be effectively portrayed. DeHaan gets the beats of Harry from the comics right while also adding a bit of the maniacal Norman Goblin into the mix.

Emma Stone like with the previous film threatens to steal the show from right under her leading man. She is bundled with such energy that is infectious to the other performances and lights up the screen. She has perfect comic timing as well as natural screen presence, she dominates and rounds out the character well. That final death scene is wonderfully depicted just by her eyes.

Andrew Garfield's portrayal and look got a few scathing remarks the first time round, since he was more hipster that nerdy. While things don't necessarily change here, he does tap into the intellectual side of Peter and of course thanks to the writing and his own charisma is able to make himself a faithful Spider-Man. It's like watching a younger version of RDJ's Tony Stark on screen. What's better is that the character arc allows him to tap into the pathos and angst he reflected in his numbing performance from the likes of Boy A. The somewhat hooky silent montage sequence at the end is elevated by his solemn and regretful expressions. The cry he gives holding Gwen's body is haunting. Hopefully the next installment doesn't do away with the burden of Gwen's death or adds in another romantic interest, because it will allow Garfield to show his range like he does here.

The main element of the performances though comes down to chemistry. DeHaan was never the original choice for Harry, but his audition alongside Andrew Garfield proved brilliant due to the on the spot rapport they shared. As such their on screen chemistry really makes you feel that they could be lifelong friends. It gives an easy in to making Harry likable and above all else his arc convincing.

But the biggest win is with real life couple Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone's dynamic. It helps that the two are really in love, and makes the film worth bearing simply because of how enjoyable these two are too watch on screen. As one reviewer noted, you can't help but feel your being intrusive simply because of how relaxed and natural the two actors feel together.

Overall the balance of acting flows from atrocious to epic. I like to think if they had a well fleshed arc for Harry Osborn, DeHaan would have literally made for one of the best if not the best on screen superhero villains. His performance was mesmerizing and alongside Andrew and Emma, it took the film too a better place.

Score: 8.4/10

 
Score/Soundtrack  

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The luckiest break the film catches is in it's score and soundtrack, Sony acquired Hans Zimmer to produce Spider-Man's music. While it's not as good as his work on the Dark Knight Trilogy, here the music perfectly echoes everything that is Spider-Man. From the softer romantic tunes to the inspirational crescendo in the finale, and even the grungy sort of music that accompanies Electro.

Hans Zimmer's work makes anything better, and Amazing Spider-Man 2 is no exception.

Score: 8.9/10


VFX 

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As I mentioned above, there isn't much action in the film but whatever amount there is, is visualized stunningly. Even then so, the issue comes with the VFX.

It might not seem so because of how the camera works, but the special effects isn't that great and like the previous film feels a bit too cartoonish. Maybe it's the theater I watched it in, most people are recommending IMAX, so I might need a second viewing.

Though do note that the 3D was actually stunning.

Still as far as I could tell the composition of the set pieces was terrific but the visual work itself is iffy. From the on set as Spidey swings I could notice the clashing between the CGI and the green screen. Electro himself of course does look wonderful but at times he also seems a bit off against the screen, and the final battle becomes more of a video game than a believable movie.

Score: 6.5/10


Source

http://cdn.unleashthefanboy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/gwen-final.png?62a76d


Unlike many others on this list that I had to read off the net this ones my own, so it might not be accurate; during a Spider-Man montage they show Peter removing his costume and throwing it into the cupboard. Each time he does this, the stains or wetness of his suit creates the illusion that it looks different. Different that each time it looks like another Spider-Man suit from Spider-Man 2099 to the infamous black symbiote suit.

 

Sony also has a viral site for the Daily Bugle where villains such as Cletus Kassidy (future Carnage) and reporter Ned Leeds (Hobgoblin) and more importantly Eddie Brock (Venom) are mentioned

 

Aleksei Sytsevich's boxers in the opening fight show small prints of Rhino's…alluding to his change later on in the film

 

When Harry discovers how to use the files his father left him, there's multiple easter eggs to be seen from the mentions of Ravencroft, Morbius (the living vampire) and even Venom

 

Although J Jonah Jameson is unseen, his personality screams out thanks to a simple WRONG! Sent to Peter through E-Mail

 

The obligatory Stan Lee cameo, not as funny as his previous turn but one that very meta

 

Peter Parker's ringtone is from the classic Spidey cartoon

 

Returning cameos by Dennis Leary as Captain Stacy and Martin Sheen as Ben Parker

 

The cake Max Dillon makes for himself is in the green and yellow colors of Electro's classic costume with even an electric bolt on top

 

Dr. Kafka unlike in the comics, here is a male. When we first see him he picks up some very familiar glasses that might hint at his change in the future into Doctor Octopus. Would make more sense than calling a scientist Otto Octavious and coincidentally he turns into Octopus. Even the German accent feels like a nod to the character from the animated series.

 

Doctor Octopus's hands are also seen in an Oscorp chamber alongside Vulture's wings and other doors that hint towards the sinister six

 

Max notes that they should call Spider-Man; The Amazing Spider-Man. Harry says that he 'does what a Spider can' referencing the song

 

In a final desperate attempt Peter convinces he loves Gwen by weaving it on a bridge, he then takes her up there. This of course being I think the Brookly Bridge where from Gwen Stacy died in the comics

 

Felicity Jones was cast as Felicia Hardy, Harry's assistant. In the comics she is the thief Black Cat, and her understanding of where Oscorp kept secret things (something even a powerful secretary couldn't know) hinted at that

 

BJ Novak played the smug Aistair Smythe who creates then eventually turns into the robotic Spider-Slayer

 

Colm Feore presumable plays another corporate villain from Oscorp; Donald Menken

 

The one scene featuring Chris Cooper's Norman Osborn shows him as Green as well as with long black nails like the Green Goblin of the Ultimate Universe

 

In the final battle scene Electro uses his powers on external coils to play the incy wincy Spider, Spider-Man quips 'I hate this song'

 

The Man in the Shadows returns from the first film and is revealed to be Mr. Gustav Fiers AKA The Gentleman. With Marvel having the rights to Kingpin, this could be a powerful character who could be using the Sinister Six to his benefit in taking over the New York underworld. Honestly I don't know much, but in the comics; Fiers formed a version of the Six for his work and was presumably also behind Peter's Parents death

 

Peter's father is a scientist like in the Ultimate Universe, but his death is made out to be a case of corporate espionage and making his parents traitors which is in line with the regular Marvel Universe comics where they were Agents of…SHIELD!

 

Instead of a regular post credits scene, there's an in credits scene. The final song in the credits plays along some symbols. Where the first is Goblin's glider the next then turn into indications of who might be part of the upcoming Sinister Six film; Kraven, Octopus, Vulture, Rhino and Chameleon/Mysterio (or Lizard? Hard to tell) alongside Goblin

 

This isn't particularly an Easter egg but Gwen's Death is an iconic moment depicted on screen, the clock where the battle takes place shows 1:21 a reference to the issue in which Gwen Stacy died. While her death happened on a bridge, it occurred because of the recoil when she struck bottom after Spidey's web shot at her and her neck snapped. It was brutal and kudos to Webb and everyone else for keeping it the same on screen. She also wears the same dress as Gwen did in the comics when she died.  


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Aneesh Raikundalia
       

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