The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Pitch: Oh what a tangled web(b) we weave…
The Review: There was no question for me who the coolest superhero was when I was a child. (Not least because I was only aware of three.) For while Superman could turn back time and Batman had a sidekick and a utility belt, Spider-Man could climb up walls and spin webs from his hands! Not only that, but in one telling cliffhanger of his TV series he fell off a building, but saved himself by spinning a web to catch himself as he fell! And he got the coolest lines of any of them. These are the kind of things that unnecessarily excite a six year old child, but we now live in a world where every superhero is restricted to an audience no younger than 12 unless they have their parents in tow. Now on our fifth Spider-Man film – the last two, as was the TV series, called Amazing – what does the latest incarnation offer us now it’s got its origin story out of the way?
Nothing particularly amazing is the perhaps unsurprising answer. Marc Webb demonstrates again that his version does have an edge or two over Sam Raimi’s original, firstly in the key personnel. Andrew Garfield is a more satisfying Peter Parker / Spidey than Tobey Maguire ever was, for all the strengths of Sam Raimi’s trilogy, and his chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey keeps the film afloat during some of the quieter periods. Sally Field also continues to charm despite being noticeably younger than her comic-book counterpart. The web-swinging and slinging continues to be refined on a film by film basis, and the action scenes make the most of the athletic, gymnastic lead, so there’s certainly a decent amount to satisfy your Spider senses.
The problems start with the villains. We have three, but none are as effective as they might be. Jamie Foxx feels miscast as the pre-transformation Electro, and his character is completely mislaid for large stretches in the middle of the film. He still fares better than Paul Giamatti, whose appearances bookend the film and you might just have worked out who he is by the end of the second of them. Dane DeHaan is an improvement over James Franco’s rather static Harry Osborn, but his relationship with Peter has a hollow, unconvincing feel to it and his transformation into the latest incarnation of a familiar villain is based on some dodgy fudging of the mythology. There’s also a certain amount of franchise sowing going on, from Felicity Jones’ extended cameo to the costumes of future bad guys in the background; the main problem is you can’t help feeling you’d have preferred those costumes to be the ones being worn this time out.
While Webb marshals the action scenes clinically, he’s less successful at wrangling the script from Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner. Kurtzman and Orci recently announced they would go their separate ways as a writing duo, and on the evidence of this (and Cowboys & Aliens, two Transformers movies and their dreadful effort for Star Trek Into Darkness) it can’t come soon enough. Even three minds aren’t enough to deliver a script that rises above the generic and predictable, spending so much time on the origins of its new characters that it never surprises with the older ones. If you, like me, can’t remember much of what happened in the original of this sequence, you’ll appreciate the extensive catch-ups woven in – which in turn drag the running time out to a testing two hours and twenty – but none of that can help overcome the plodding predictability or prepare you for the slightly sickening crassness of the way in which the climactic twist is staged. When the Marvel properties at Disney are learning and developing, Sony’s Spider-Man just feels like it’s retreading the same mistakes. With two more films and spin-offs already in the early stages of production, they’re going to have to learn the lessons quickly to return Spider-Man to the place of my favourite.
Why see it at the cinema: The web-work is undoubtedly the most impressive yet in the series, and although I saw it in 2D, everything suggested those elements would work well with an extra dimension if you’re so inclined. The action scenes can get a bit busy, so seeing them in a cinema will help work out who’s hitting who with what at key moments.
What about the rating? Rated 12A for moderate violence and threat. The BBFC descriptions become ever more dramatic, including on this occasion the line, “Human characters transform into scary looking super-villains, with close-ups on their creepy looking eyes and skin.” Find me an eleven year old who’s creeped out by this lot.
My cinema experience: A Friday late night showing at the Cineworld in Cambridge. The staff kindly – and firmly – pointed out upon my arrival around 11:20 p.m. that there was nothing at the end of the credits. Not only a generous public service but also undoubtedly a group of people who would be kept working an extra seven minutes at 1:30 a.m. by a bunch of nerds waiting for a clip that never comes. I stayed for the bizarre mid-credits X-Men advert (designed to fulfil a contractual obligation of Marc Webb’s) and then made my excuses.
The Score: 6/10
On a day somewhat overshadowed by the tragic and untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, once again two American teams played off for the biggest title in American football. Nothing since I slagged off American football last year, or the year before, or the year before that, has changed my opinion on the game: it’s supposed to be sixty minutes of men in excessive padding running at each other and gradually advancing a prolate spheroid made of pigskin one direction or the other over a distance of 110 yards that last night took three hours and twenty two minutes from kick-off to final whistle. More challenging to your sitting muscles than even Blue Is The Warmest Color or The Wolf Of Wall Street, American football is practically the Gone With The Wind of sporting endurance.
What the two hours and twenty-two minutes of not-football do provide is a succession of overpriced and overhyped adverts, including a batch of trailers. There’s a drive in the US to restrict movie trailers to no more than two minutes (typically they run to around two and a half for a full trailer at present), but thanks to the price of advertising they clock in at no more than a minute or so for the Super Bowl, and consequently they have to be rammed to the gills with the most important moments. So let’s see what we’ve learned from this year’s crop.
Transformers: Age Of Extinction
What we learned:
– it’s got giant fighty robots in it again, including my childhood favourite Optimus Prime. I have said previously I’d followed him to Dark Of The Moon and he was now on his own, but we’ll see if my resolve weakens between now and the summer.
– the robots can now turn their heads into giant guns. Hoo-ya!
– You can replace Shia LeBoeuf and Rosie Huntingthingy-Whatsit with Mark Wahlberg and New Generic Blonde, and nobody will really care.
– it’s got robots that look vaguely like dinosaurs, which will be much cooler than robots that look exactly like cars.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
– Apparently the movie will be dialogue free, 60% of it will be in slow motion while another 20% will consist of people turning round while the camera pans in the opposite direction.
– There will be more than one implausible giant flying aircraft carrier at the start of this movie, but there may not be by the end.
– Whoever the Winter Soldier is – oh wait, it’s quite clearly Bucky, are they trying to make this a mystery or not? – he can punch so hard that it makes Steve Rogers wince through his invincible shield.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
– Another silent movie. Since we clearly see people trying to talk, presumably this one will have intertitles.
– Random slo-mo shots of not-electricity are apparently more interesting than much of the film.
– This doesn’t look amazing.
Muppets Most Wanted
– Eighties Robot is back. Yay!
– Five seconds of Ricky Gervais is already testing my endurance.
– They won’t be skimping on the big musical numbers. I look forward to another three months of cheerful earworms.
– It’s basically Gladiator crossed with Dante’s Peak, with less Pierce Brosnan.
– Poor Kit Harrington is going to be typecast in either swords and sandals epics or fantasy (or both) for much of his career.
– It makes no mention of the fact it’s a Paul W.S. Anderson film, just in case you bottle it before the film comes out.
– It’s got George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett in, but you need to be told who these people are as they may not be that famous.
– You don’t need to be told who Jean Dujardin is because he’s not that famous. (See also The Wolf Of Wall Street where he’s in it at least as much as named actor Matthew McConaughey.)
– You also need to be told by Matt Damon what the title of the movie is. At least he gets straight to it.
Need For Speed
– It really wants to be a bit like Drive. I will not be that surprised if Aaron Paul turns out to have a giant tarantula on the back of that jacket.
– It’s not a silent movie! There’s at least one line of dialogue.
– Car. Car. Car. Car. Car. Car. Car. Car. Car. Punch. Car. Car. Dialogue. Wrap. Next!
– Although it’s the untold story – apparently all of the bits that the writer of Genesis didn’t think were important enough – it still has a boat and a flood, so it’s at least in the right area.
– Most of the animals are turning up are more worried about the flood than eating each other, so this is unlikely to get into any of the carnivore / herbivore segregation issues that probably beset the real Noah.
– Apparently Noah has a fiery stick and it’s going to rain fire, so the Bible probably left all of the good bits out.
– After the Matthew McConnaissance, this is the also the year of the Kevin Costback. Or something.
– The guys who do gravelly voices for trailers have had a really lean year.
– Releasing an American football movie in April might not be the best idea ever.
Jaguar British Villains commercial
Somebody get these guys in a movie together.