Tuesday 29 April 2014

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (second-pass)

World of Blackout Film Review

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Poster

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2D / HEAVY SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 142 mins / Dir. Marc Webb
WoB Rating: 7/7

Okay, you read that spoiler-warning at the top, didn't you? I wrote some words about the film which are completely spoiler-free in this post, but you're here because you want big dirty spoilers, right? Good, I won't warn you again.

More so than in the fim’s 2012 predecessor, here Spider-Man's major enemies and losses are inextricably linked with Parker himself. Notwithstanding Rhino, who's essentially a pawn in Osborn's game, Green Goblin and Electro represent either an inadvertent flaw or failure-to-act on Parker's part. Max Dillon clearly has (underdeveloped, cinematically) psychological issues that increase the ideological gulf between him and his hero. Parker's left wondering, as are the audience, if anything he's said or done could have changed that? No matter, things are the way they are, and he can only play the hand he's dealt. Similarly with Harry Osborn, we clearly see the reasons for Peter's reticence in helping his friend, but we're left unsure as to how many of his problems he could have solved, if any. When both characters have had their fill of the friendly neighbourhood vigilante, their combined hatred only spurs them on to a mutually beneficial partnership where they can focus their efforts on the subject of their disdain. As with his Uncle in the first film, Peter Parker learns that his most pivotal moments don't occur because he's there at the right or wrong time, but because he's there at all.

This is ramped further and further until the point where Gwen Stacy dies, meters away from Parker trying to save her. Because Parker tried and failed to save her. It's vital for the progression of Spider-Man's character not that she dies, but that he's effectively responsible for it (in the same way that it was cinematically vital that a late pickup shoot added in the scene beforehand, where Gwen emphatically states to Peter that she chooses to be involved. It's a little over-egged, but a wise move to put it there, nonetheless). Even watching the sequence a second time, it's not clear whether Gwen's head hitting the concrete kills her, or whether her sudden deceleration breaks her neck (in the comic universe, it was the latter). Either way, Parker has to live with the repercussions of his failure to keep a promise to Gwen's dying father (which to be fair, he wasn't really responsible for. For a change). The death of Gwen Stacy not only brings a sense of consequence to the storyline and cast-list of the next movie, but also irreversibly builds Parker's character. While the video of Stacy's graduation speech brings Spider-Man out of his self-imposed exile, how much longer can he be the city's sole vigilante protector? Where does the balance lie between the greater good of the people of New York, and the personal losses Peter suffers (and causes) as a result?*1 It’s a far more subtle way of illustrating the old axiom about power and responsibility than having Uncle Ben repeatedly spell it out.

And it's this final hammer blow to Parker's resolve that transforms the movie from good to great. The scene where Peter cradles Gwen in his arms could have been about a minute and a half shorter in any other adaptation*2. A director or editor could have chosen to fade-to-black early, and raise the sentimentality by laying Gwen's speech over the funeral scene. But Webb keeps us there, making us watch Peter's disbelief and growing acceptance, holding the scene until the expectation of Gwen opening her eyes has ebbed away from the young superhero and audience alike.

Peter's subsequent five months of mourning are covered very smoothly*3 and Spider-Man's re-emergence is handled spectacularly. A callback to an earlier, throwaway villain that represents the day-to-day supervillains he faces, the single-comic-stories if you will, and sees the return not of a darker, brooding hero, but a one who remembers his greatest weapon is hope, not fear.

And a little cheeky humour, of course.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Apart from those couple of moments which are in the trailer, but seem to have been cut from the film, yes. Perfectly.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
I did.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
For me, absolutely.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
If you're going to see it, your cinema has a massive screen and matching sound-system which is ideal.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I will a bit, yeah.

Will I watch it again?
I will, yeah.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Pretty certain there isn't.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
As much as I love the movie (and I do), did I miss the bit where it explains how Max Dillon isn't just killed by falling into a vat of electric eels whilst also being electrocuted? I know he's an expert electrician, but biology is biology, and that's like saying the Gordon Ramsay wouldn't be killed if you locked him in a heated oven, he'd just emerge as Gas Mark Ten™, or something.

*1 How many more times can Stan Lee appear before Spider-Man stops what he's doing and asks "Look, who are you? I keep seeing you everywhere…"?

*2 Although it has been pointed out that the factory-floor where Parker and Stacy have their final, doomed embrace seems remarkably clear of the half-ton of debris which was falling down with them only seconds earlier. Hey, ho.

*3 Although at this point you've been sat on your arse for over two hours and you can see the finish-line, so you're a little anxious to skip over the moping.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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