The Amazing Spider-Man

April 22, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

CLUTTERED

Okay look…The Avengers broke the internet man.  And what I mean by that is, their film changed the way comic book movies will be done forever…or at least the foreseeable future.  That is why The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is, at best, a CLUTTERED mess.  Almost as CLUTTERED as that god-awful poster above.   It’s a hippy who needs to cut their messy hair.  It’s a fat person who could be much healthier if they just cut down on the sweets.  It’s greedy for more when less would actually make it so much stronger.  All because The Avengers broke the internet.

Every money hungry studio (I could have just said studio and the meaning would still be the same) wants a shared universe franchise of their own.  On the surface, you’d think that’d spell doom for Sony, seeing as they only own Spider-Man.  Fortunately for them, Spider-Man has the most character rich universe in all of comics other than maybe Batman.  Unfortunately for them, all the patience in crafting and carefully cultivating those characters went out the window when the world saw Earth’s Mightiest Heroes save New York from the Chitauri on half a billion screens across the globe.  Sony and Fox and Warner Brothers don’t want to follow the same model Marvel Studios used because IT’S THEIR MONEY AND AND THEY NEED IT NOW!  This collective impatience is why Man of Steel 2 is now called Batman Vs. Superman Guest Starring Wonder Woman, Flash, and Dick Grayson.  It is why X-Men: Days Of Future Past has EVERY SINGLE X-MEN CHARACTER JAMMED INTO IT.  It’s why a collection of Spidey villains known as the Sinister Six are getting a film for a yet to be determined purpose.  And it’s why The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just feels like 10 pounds of plot in a 5 pound bag.

Think I’m being unfair to them?  Why?  It’s not like they don’t realize this.  They do.  They know they’re sacrificing story for what they think people want.  I know they know because Batman Vs Superman has already been delayed a year to give them just enough time to finish their over-stuffing.  Days Of Future Past cast then cut then put back in several big name stars just to keep their films stuffed. (Hello, Goodbye, Hello Rogue)  Hell, Divergent star Shailene Woodley won the role of Mary Jane for Amazing Spider-Man 2, shot scenes and then was cut out FOR GOOD.  This is on top of the fact that Spidey has to deal with THREE underdeveloped bad guys and a now restructured love story and a friendship with a supposed best friend that is dropped in our lap with all the ceremony and subtlety of a wet fart.  That screams CLUTTERED story to me.  And sad to say, that is exactly what this film gives you.  

Shut up and tell us exactly what the film is about already DJ!  Well, it’s about Peter Parker still assuming the mantle of New York’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  It’s also about how Peter struggles to keep a promise to stay away from his on again off again girlfriend Gwen Stacy.  It’s also about Peter finally finding out the first film’s promised untold secret left by his parents.  It’s also about Peter reuniting with his NEVER BEFORE SEEN best friend Harry Osborn and the secrets behind the Osborn company.  It’s also about a slighted Spider-Man fanboy who gains a power that he believes will make him special.  See what I mean by cluttered?

The biggest complaint I had with the first Amazing Spider-Man was that it felt like a Spider-Man film seen through the eyes of someone who didn’t give a crap about Spider-Man, resulting in him crushing every ounce of heart the Spidey world should have in order to appeal to the more moody and overly cynical society we live in now.  This movie is not as bad as that.  Instead, it is a good film pulled in so many different and ultimately pointless directions that it becomes a thin waste of time.  Every moment I tried to give the film credit for something it did right, my praise would immediately be undermined by the film doing something stupid, convoluted, or gutless.  Example?  Not to get too spoilery but the final fate of a certain character winds up being extremely true to the comic book and a very ballsy move in this cinematic day and age.  Just when I’m about to applaud the testicular fortitude, the film rushes past the emotional impact of that fate with a sloppy time lapse and a hurried happy ending.  When you watch it you can almost hear the studio executive shouting “Uplifting ending damn it! So what if emotionally sad endings worked for Smaug and Catching Fire and even the first Spider-Man!  I need a happy ending!”

Now I don’t think Andrew Garfield is a bad actor.  I believe his moody/neurotic/goofy/douchey portrayal of Peter Parker in the first film falls more on bad direction.  Thankfully, his character comes off way more likable this time around.  His overall chemistry with Emma Stone, the first film’s one bright spot, was so good that the two became an item off screen.  That chemistry is still there.  Sally Field, one of our finest living actresses, FINALLY gets a scene to justify her casting.  Even Garfield’s rapport with new addition Dane DeHaan is pretty damn good.  As I watched all of these relationships, however, I got agitated from the fact that they were being rushed to make more room for action set pieces with inconsequential villains.

For all the criticism I lob at director Marc Webb, I can give him credit for one thing.  He really understands and utilizes all of Spider-Man’s powers.  His strength especially.  Webb does this even more so than Raimi did.  Webb loves to show off every ability Spidey has in the most jaw dropping ways possible.  The action set pieces, though pointless at times, are well designed and beautiful to look at.  I just wish they were placed in a better overall story.  Webb also deserves credit for trying to rectify the faults of the first film.  But again, it all comes down to the story he is trying to piece together.  All the cosmetics in the world can’t make a bloated pig pretty.

This year, we’ve already been fortunate enough to see one of the best comic book films ever made.  By comparison, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just not up to snuff.  Sure, it will make its money.  However, will it be remembered with some of the greats?  Not a chance.  Will it be remembered a few hours after you leave the theater?  I highly doubt it.  Follow your Spidey Sense…don’t forget Max Dillon’s birthday cake…try not to Spidey-Stalk your girlfriend…look out for leering Leary…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

February 9, 2013

London Calling: V For Vendetta

FORGOTTEN

With the Oscar season here and the summer movie season fast approaching, I wanted to talk about a film I think fits into both.  Now comic book films are usually shrugged off as just popcorn fluff.  Most times, they are.  To this day, however, there hasn’t been a comic book film that has challenged me intellectually more than V For Vendetta.  It is one of the most intelligently made, beautifully shot, well performed films of the genre.  But sadly for some reason, it is FORGOTTEN.
V For Vendetta plot revolves around a knife wielding masked terrorist/freedom fighter trying to take down an oppressive British government in the not too distant future.  I put terrorist/freedom fighter because the film blurs the line between the two.  It makes you question the difference and presents the perspective of people on either side of the chaos.  Some would argue that the character of V is clearly the hero and the government is bad.  However, when you really get into the specifics of V’s acts, it is hard to paint him as a true blue hero.  Even an antihero for that matter.  Robin Hood robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.  V is out for vengeance, admittedly so.  He kills in cold blood.  He kills innocents.  He kidnaps.  He tortures.  He does whatever it takes to accomplish his goals.  You might say the ends justify his means, but his acts seen through a different spectrum can easily be construed as terror.  That is why I love this film.  It can be dissected and analyzed even to this day.  The Avengers is my favorite comic book movie of all time, however, V For Vendetta is much meatier when it comes to substance.
Comic book legend Alan Moore is famous for angrily dismissing and disavowing any adaptations of his work.  This is thanks primarily to the abysmal League Of Extraordinary Gentleman.  I wish he’d take a slightly lighter stance on this though.  It might be easy for me to say but, films aren’t bad solely because the filmmakers take liberties with the source material.  I detest Michael Bay’s Transformer films and Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man not just because they changed things.  I detest them because they are poorly written, horribly performed, lowest common denominator catering tripe.  Their changes weren’t done to add anything new or stimulating to the material.  They were made for convenience sake.  The same cannot be said for V For Vendetta.  Yes, V is a warmer character in the film than he was in the comic book.  However, I think that makes him even more complicated when compared to the coldness of his methods.  Yes, the fascist vs. anarchist theme was more liberal vs. neo-conservatism.  However, that is a lot timelier for today’s political atmosphere and still has the nod to the fascist’s ideas of purity from the comic book.  My point being that the alterations made in V For Vendetta do not weaken it as a story.  It merely updates it. 
The Wachowskis, the source material meddlers in this case, exist in a weird place for me as a film fan.  I was highly disappointed with their conclusion of The Matrix trilogy, but still respect the fact they always take crazy chances.  They entrusted the directing duties to long time collaborator James McTeigue, while staying on to write and produce.  However, their fingerprints are still all over this picture.  Finding and concentrating on the heart of their cinematic worlds is a common Wachowski m.o..  Where a film like V For Vendetta could have just fallen into the basic action vehicle cliché, the Wachowskis don’t let it.  There are genuinely moving moments in the film that still stun me.  The action scenes are terrific, but always serve as a tool to tell the story.  Not the other way around.
Before The Dark Knight came along, V For Vendetta was my choice for best ensemble cast performance in a comic book film.  Strange category, I know.  However, it is always a relief and a thrill for me when I see great talent trying to do great work in a genre film such as a comic book movie.  It thrilled me in History Of Violence, it thrilled me in The Dark Knight, and it thrilled me in V For Vendetta.  It is still a common misconception that the genre should be treated the way Schumacher treated Batman.  But there can be some amazing work turned in with the cape and cowl subset.  For example, this is by far my favorite performance by Hugo Weaving.  Yes, even more than his iconic Agent Smith.  Odd, seeing as we never see his face and that he was a last second replacement for James Purefoy.  Despite his Oscar, I’d put Weaving’s V right up there with Ledger’s Joker.  To accomplish the subtleties of V’s rage, anguish, humor and theatricality through an emotionless mask with only a voice is no small feat.  Portman, who I’ve loved since Leon: The Professional, seems to be playing a stereotypical damsel at first.  Much like she did in Thor.  However, Evey has the strongest arc in the film.  Her performance highpoint happens during the film’s big twist.  Her emotional journey during the four minute long scene hints at the Oscar caliber performance she had in her in the years to come.  Other than the leads, you have stellar supporting performances from John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Roger Allam, and the unsung anchor of the film, Stephen Rea.  There is absolutely no phoning it in here.
V For Vendetta doesn’t get nearly as much love as it should.  Even from it’s creator.  It seems to get misplaced amongst it’s lesser comic book movie brethren   For me, however, it is a film that shall never be FORGOT.  Remember, remember…to watch it….then tell me I’m wrong.  

July 31, 2012

MONTH IN REVIEW

FAV of the month
The Dark Knight Rises
DJ’s Review / Matt’s Review / Justin’s Review

SoSo of the month
Something Wild
Review

HATE of the month
The Amazing Spider-Man
Review

TV SHOW of the month
Newsroom
Review

July 19, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

DESPERATE 

DESPERATE to keep the property at Sony to thusly prevent a possible Spidey sighting in Avengers 2, which would thusly lead to Marvel Studios earning an estimated BAGILLION dollars. (I Rounded Up)

DESPERATE to win over the hipster/Twilight audience with its emo, big haired, recluse, douche hero and his “Ready To Turn My Back On Everything, Including My Own Self Worth” love interest.

DESPERATE to make the film grim and dark like The Dark Knight, but sadly only accomplishing to make it poorly lit and soulless.

DESPERATE to be special and different with a highly promoted yet LAME half-baked Spidey secret origin, which they abandon before the film’s midway point.

DESPERATE to not be like the first trilogy while poorly attempting to steal things from it.

DESPERATE to cast great actors but then relegating them to being only exposition spewing wallpaper.

DESPERATE to redefine the hero’s core mantra but only managing to debase it into a vague, poorly delivered shrug of a purpose.

Some say the greatest inspiration is often born through desperation…good words.  I, however, don’t see inspiration here.  I see a middle aged hoodlum, who managed to get a gun, trying to hold up a liquor store.  Unfortunately the cops showed up too fast and he is now using an old Korean woman as a human shield, desperately holding on to what little semblance of hope he has of escaping.  A slew of dumb ass decisions piling up to result in a chalk outline on a splotchy linoleum floor.  THAT is The Amazing Spider-Man.  If you waste your time and watch it, you’ll be hard pressed to…tell me I’m wrong.

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