On The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Following The Amazing Spider-Man is The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which was quite awful in my opinion. The problem could b lazy writing, as according to the io9 article, “Amazing Spider-Man 2 Is A Decent Movie Smothered By Layers Of Crap“:

Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels like four or five movies jammed together. The good news is, two of those movies are really, really good. The bad news is, the bloat and extra subplots get in the way of the storytelling, and feel like harbingers of overstuffed superhero movies to come. Minor spoilers ahead…

And by “minor,” I mean “vague generalizations, plus plot elements that are fully revealed in the trailers.”

Amazing Spider-Man is the sequel to 2012’s sturdy reboot, which rested on the chemistry between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), plus an assortment of well-cast father figures. The sequel still gets a lot of mileage out of the chemistry between Peter and Gwen, but it’s also the most sequel-y sequel in the history of sequels.

Part of the charm of the first ASM was its slight “indie movie” feel thanks to(500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb. There were a fair number of intimate scenes involving Peter, Gwen and the people in their lives. That, plus the emphasis on Peter learning to be a real hero, save innocent people and earn the trust of New Yorkers, helped Amazing Spider-Man to overcome some notable flaws.

The best parts of ASM2 still have some of that “indie movie” feeling, as Peter and Gwen work out their relationship in the wake of Peter’s promise to Gwen’s father to leave Gwen alone. Whenever Garfield is in a scene with Stone, or with Sally Field (Aunt May), the drama feels real and personal.

A lot of the rest of the film, though, feels rushed and fake — a deadly combination for this sort of movie. In particular, there are a million subplots. Every time you start following one of the movie’s countless storylines, it switches over to another. At times, the film cuts back and forth between two subplots in progress. It’s not that they’re confusing or hard to follow, but it’s hard to care, and some of them are painfully underdeveloped and seem tacked-on.

Textbook example of crap villainy

This film has a lot of track to lay on introducing two new major villains, the Green Goblin and Electro, but also laying the groundwork for multiple sequels, because Sony wants to put out a Spider-Man movie every year.

There are a few problems with this: First, neither of the film’s villains are compelling enough to justify the amount of time we spend with them. The film obviously wants to flesh them out, but in fact both Goblin and Electro remain one-dimensional cardboard characters, for the most part. Dane De Haan (Chronicle) does a valiant job to bring a bitter wryness to Harry Osborn, but is stuck with a mostly one-note character. And Jamie Foxx, as Electro, seems to be in a very different movie than everybody else — he’s a campy caricature of a pathetic loser who obsesses about Spider-Man until he gets superpowers.

In fact, Electro (and to a lesser extent Green Goblin) feel like throwbacks to 1990s superhero movies. Foxx’s performance doesn’t feel that different than, say, Jim Carrey in Batman Forever. Neither of them feels like the kind of villains we’ve come to expect in the wake of Heath Ledger’s Joker, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, or even Frank Grillo’s Crossbones.

Secondly, the problem of rushed subplots is especially acute with some of the villain setup — there are a ton of scenes, especially setting up Harry Osborn’s character, that feel like shorthand. The contrast between the Peter-Gwen scenes, which feel like the way people actually talk to each other in real life, and almost any scene involving the villains, in which the dialogue and acting are stylized and expedient, is especially telling. Garfield is good enough that he raises the villains’ game on any scene they share — but it’s not enough.

And finally, the villains don’t have anything interesting to do in this film. Given how much of its running time they occupy, they ought to have something more going on. In fact, if you diagram the villains’ progression in this film, it closely mirrors the way Sandman and Venom were used in the much-maligned Spider-Man 3.

The Lizard was also kind of a crap villain in the first movie, but I at least liked his moments of being a mentor to Peter and Gwen, and his final scheme was sort of amusingly weird.

The weakest subplot in the film is the one in which Peter searches for the truth about his father (both his parents went missing at the same time, but this is Hollywood, so we get daddy issues.) This subplot has a few potential pitfalls, chief among them the danger of cheapening Peter’s heroism by pushing the focus onto how he got his powers, as opposed to what he chooses to do with them. But mostly, it’s boring, and serves as an excuse for cheap “buried mystery” tropes.

The hero and his city

It’s too bad Spidey is weighed down with so much excess baggage this time around, because the film at the center of all this mess is pretty solid. Not just the Peter-and-Gwen stuff, but also all the stuff that worked in the first film, about heroism and the city.

Once again, New York is a full-fledged character in the film, and some of the best moments involve ordinary New Yorkers interacting with the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Marc Webb really gets what makes Spider-Man work as a character, more than Sam Raimi ever did.

And Webb goes even further towards showing the skyline and the heights of the huge buildings. Spider-Man’s swinging from the building tops is still one of the most thrilling effects in film — see this in IMAX if you can — and a lot of the best visuals in the movie involve swooping from great heights, or standing on top of a tall suspension bridge.

At the same time, the emphasis on dull subplots and villain origins drags the film down, both metaphorically and literally — you can’t help but notice that the city feels smaller, squatter and less expansive, any time Webb is forced to employ a lot of greenscreen and CG. The angles get lower, the shots stuck at ground-level. At just the moment when the movie ought to be opening out and getting larger than life, the canvas paradoxically seems to shrink.

Christopher Nolan thought very consciously about the vantage points of each of his three Batman films — the first was in the tops of the skyscrapers, the second at ground level, and the third subterranean. Here, the disconnect between vantage points in the film feels both accidental and symptomatic of the larger problem of muddle. (And Nolan, too, had a flair for making an overstuffed film feel like ambition and a broad canvas, rather than just studio-mandated toy advertising.)

Final thought: Amazing Spider-Man 2 is mostly enjoyable enough, in spite of a somewhat underwhelming final act that feels like the logical result of the rushed storytelling earlier in the movie. But this movie’s weaknesses feel like a taste of the “megafranchise” era to come — when you sacrifice basic storytelling in the name of cramming in as many characters and hints for future projects as possible, your film inevitably suffers.

Or to put it another way — when it comes to storytelling, with great irresponsibility comes a lack of power.

Additionally, according to Vannevar‘s article, “922 Words On The Not-So-Amazing Spider-Man 2: The Problem with Lazy Writing“:

I probably wouldn’t have said anything if it weren’t for Anthony Lane’s asinine comment in his New Yorker review of the film. Lane offhandedly refers to the character Max Dillon (played by Jamie Foxx) as “a dweeb so hapless and friendless that he sends himself birthday cards.”

I can just picture Lane bullying that awkward kid at recess—that kid whom, by the time you’re a little older and more mature, you feel guilty for not befriending because his clothes didn’t fit right or he had an awkward haircut or perpetually walked around on tip toes with hands bent daintily in front of his chest, as though channeling his former life as Tyrannosaurus Rex.

To me, Lane’s comment indicates that viewers may not be seeing that the film is ultimately punitive of mental health issues—making the film all the more problematic as it subtly bestows a backward ideology upon unsuspecting viewers.

In case you haven’t seen the film, Max is probably the most troubling and sympathetic character. His story is heartbreaking. He has no friends, is shunned and bullied at work (despite being clearly intelligent and an asset to the company), and is so isolated he’s grateful when someone simply remembers his name at the end of a measly three-minute conversation.

The character’s isolation leads to emotional and mental instability, evidenced by his apartment-turned-Spider-Man-shrine and his imagined conversations with the superhero on his birthday.

Matters get worse for Max when he falls into a tank of electric eels and morphs into Electro. After the mutation process, he stumbles around New York City confused, inadvertently sending electric shock waves rippling down the street. As cop cars and passersby crowd around him, Max tries to explain he means no harm, but to no avail. Bystanders ridicule him while the cops shoot at him, apprehend him, and turn him over to Oscorp, where sociopathic doctors and corporate executives hold him in captivity and experiment on him. Incidentally, can we blame Max for the rage and violence that ensue?

Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker acknowledge the atrocity of (1) Oscorp covering up the accident that resulted in Max’s mutation and (2) the company imprisoning and torturing him for the sake of experiments and covering its own ass. Yet, they do nothing to expose the Oscorp’s warped C-Suite. Instead, they, too, treat Max Dillon like a science experiment and ultimately obliterate him like a battery.

It’s troubling that the film stopped viewing Max as a dynamic, complex human being the second he became a “villain,” even though he clearly still experienced human emotion. The movie makes it clear that all Max ever wanted was a friend, to be understood by that friend, and needed by that friend. Based on this characterization, it’s entirely feasible Spider-Man could have successfully reasoned with Max, but instead, he killed him without remorse.

The film even gave itself the opportunity to speak constructively about mental health issues. It clearly portrays “society” (represented by Max’s coworkers, the Oscorp C-Suite, and New Yorkers) as a culprit in creating and exacerbating mental instability—and fully responsible for the extensive violent capabilities that follow. Yet, in the end, the film condemns the person with the illness, rather than exploring the systemic problems it initially introduces.

This becomes more problematic at a time when we’re publically trying to figure out the best way to address mental illness as mass violence grows increasingly prevalent. What is the film trying to say here? That rather than treat mental illness, we’ll just continue to ignore it until we have to deal with any violent ramifications that ensue? That whatever responsibility we as a society bear, we will not shoulder it?

I’m not saying the writers intended this, but I am saying they were lazy, and that their laziness was and is socially irresponsible, particularly because these issues are currently at the forefront of public consciousness.

You might think that I’m reading too much into this, that it’s just a comic book movie, and as such we shouldn’t expect anything from it. Maybe we don’t need to expect comic book movies to impart wisdom about improving society, but we should be able to reasonably expect them to not espouse potentially damaging ideas. Because like it or not, humans are malleable.

The only thing I learned (and not so much learned as reinforced) from reading Tristram Shandy in college was that the more often a message is relayed, the more likely it is to be internalized. Sure, this movie alone is not going to make people adopt a punitive view of mental health disorders, but when such views are fed to you over and over again in film, literature, the news, etc., you’ll probably start to believe in them eventually (which explains why these writers likely perpetuated problematic notions unknowingly). And let’s not forget that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is largely geared toward kids—the most susceptible of us all.

So what were the writers supposed to do? Make Spider-Man and Electro become best buds? Have Spider-Man conveniently talk Electro down so we later see the glowing blue mutant reclining on a chaise as he relays his woes to a therapist? I know that “de-villainizing” Electro doesn’t make nearly as “sexy” of a storyline. But, I think that if the film had employed truly talented writers,9 they would have been able to craft a compelling story without compromising social responsibility.

One of the reasons production on future films may have ceased was due to Andrew Garfield’s desire not to return to the role, as according to the Den of Geek‘s article, “Andrew Garfield opted not to return to Spider-Man role

It didn’t all quite go to plan for Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man. His performances as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the two The Amazing Spider-Man movies earned praise and credit, but the films around him never really took off in the way that Sony was hoping.

In the light of yesterday’s announcement, that Spider-Man was joining the Marvel cinematic universe, it had been widely assumed that the character was being rebooted again, and that Garfield would be moving on from the role. That’s the case, too. There will indeed be a new Spider-Man cast. But it’s being reported that Garfield was indeed offered the chance to carry on as Spider-Man, but chose not to.

As The Daily Beast Reports, Garfield had talks with regards carrying on as Spider-Man, “but ultimately it didn’t make sense to keep him for what will be a new chapter for Spider-Man”.

We should note that there’s been no public comment from Andrew Garfield on this, so it’d be remiss to consider that as definitely his position.

It’s understood that Marvel and Sony will be aiming young with the new casting. Which may yet mean a third big screen origin story for the webslinger in just over 15 years. Uncle Ben would be pleased with that. He seems to have more lives than a cat (not that a return for Uncle Ben has been confirmed, we should point out).

Further personnel shuffles? Well, Marc Webb won’t be directing the next Spider-Man movie, and producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad are being given executive producer credits on the next movie. However, it seems unlikely that they’ll have much in the way of creative involvement this time around.

The first new standalone Spider-Man movie will arrive in July 2017. Before that, the character’s going to appear in a Marvel cinematic universe movie, believed to be Captain America: Civil War.

On the ending, director Marc Webb has said as according to the Den of Geek‘s article, “Marc Webb on The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s ending“:

A couple of weeks ago, we got to chat with Marc Webb, the director of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and as part of that conversation, we had a brief chat about the film’s ending. We’ve held this back until some time after the film’s UK release, but still, if you don’t want the ending spoiled, don’t go past the big picture we’re about to place.

Still here? Fair enough. We asked Webb about the filming of the conclusion, specifically the death of Gwen Stacy.

It’s done very well in the film, and – even though comic book fans will have known it was coming for some time – the way it was presented was quite brutal when she landed. But were there earlier drafts, where she got to say a few final words on her death bed?

“We did talk about last words a lot”, Webb admitted. “It was ultimately about the reality of it, and given the nature of it, physiologically it would have been impossible”. It didn’t stop Batman’s back break being fixed though, we pointed out. “That’s true! But it’s a shocking thing for people, but it was deliberate. That’s the nature of the tragedy, and that’s the nature of the trauma”, Webb said.

“In the comics, the last words didn’t happen. It’s terrifying, it tears you apart, and that’s what has to happen to Peter Parker. It decimates him, he’s transformed forever. The last words, which we didn’t do, [ultimately] come in the form of the speech that he plays back later on”.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is in cinemas now.

Furthermore, the depiction of mental illness in the film has much to be desired (for another show of reference, see Smallville Season 2), as according to MamaTanad‘s blog post, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the ‘Criminally Insane’“:

I walked into the theater for ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2,’ which was released earlier this month, with the assumption that I’d be entertained by an action-packed storyline and young, attractive actors. What I did not expect was a distasteful portrayal of mental health facilities and mental health issues in such a popular film.

“Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane,” read the distinct lettering on a building that appears about half-way through the movie. This institute is a facility for individuals with mental illnesses, who also just so happened to be lawbreakers or villains. While this center exists in the Marvel Universe, and has thus been part of the comic series, there is still something distinctly wrong with naming an institution in this manner. This picture has been painted before, so it isn’t a novel idea unique to this film or Marvel Comics.

Over the course of history, society has found a way to equate men and women living with mental illnesses as “insane” and violent criminals. This understanding perpetuates the idea that such illnesses serve as explanations for why these individuals are felons. It feeds the mentality that criminals are mentally ill and are the “untouchables” in our society.Why else would our society support institutionalization and isolation of those living with mental illnesses, rather than put resources for these individuals into rehabilitation and reintegration into the community?

The film also introduces several characters living with mental illnesses, including the protagonist. Peter Parker/Spider-Man (played by Andrew Garfield) encounters hallucinations brought on by PTSD. Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) displays severe problems with abandonment. And Max Dillon/Electro (Jamie Foxx) lives with an attachment disorder, which is demonstrated in his ever-changing mood and behavior throughout the film. With the inclusion of these mental illnesses in the film, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ creators had the ability to open up dialogue on mental health in a constructive way. Unfortunately, the opposite occurred.According to Melissa Brooks:

“… the film condemns the person with the illness, rather than exploring the systemic problems it initially introduces.”

There is something extremely wrong with the narratives presented in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2.’ While these stereotypes associated with mental health have been around for some time, I found myself rather disappointed with the creators of this much-anticipated summer blockbuster.

Today’s media and pop culture ultimately feed public opinion. Regardless of whether or not our news sources are actually forms of yellow journalism, the general public tends to turn fiction into fact. With regards to superhero films, the target audience ranges from young children to adults. Images that are seen in these types of films become influential to those watching the films. These images are the most harmful to younger viewers, as these kids go on to live their lives, having being exposed to stories where a mental facility is the rightful place for a “crazy person.” Furthermore, in the news, mass shootings are attributed to mental illness rather than other factors, including our failed mental health care systemand concern over gun laws. Thus, individuals committing crimes are repeatedly defined by their mental health issues. Those living with mental illnesses or health concerns become the population within our community that is ignored, criminalized and mistrusted. This is the understanding that our nation’s youth is growing up with. This is what our society subjects future generations to.

Whether or not it was the intention of the writers and filmmakers to misrepresent the mental health community in an irresponsible manner, they ultimately failed to conduct proper research before including such a sensitive matter in the film. Movies, especially those part of popular franchises, have the ability – intentional or unintentional – to influence  the masses.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ creators could have presented a wiser and more educated understanding on mental health, especially since this health concern has a growing presence in the media. In fact, May is also ‘Mental Health Month,’ and this year’s theme is “Mind Your Health.” Instead, the film does not contribute to a positive dialogue, but perpetuates the stigmas and taboos associated with mental health.

This isn’t a matter of being PC. This is a matter of holding our society accountable in promoting appropriate portrayal of mental health facilities and mental illness. The more that negative stories and images of mental health are featured in the news, television, movies and other forms of media, the less of a chance we have at changing this narrative.

There are several misconceptions associated with mental illness and mental health.  We may not be able to control what is being presented in the media, but we can start by educating ourselves. We should inform our families, friends and networks by starting a dialogue. And for those with families and children, we should be mindful of what we expose our children to, and  be proactive in restructuring the narrative for future generations. We can speak up and join campaigns and initiatives that help continue the conversation. In time, we can shift our perspective and cultural understanding of those who have become subjected to social othering purely on the basis of mental health.

 

Finally, according to the Mental Floss article, “11 Things We Learned About ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’“:

Spidey is back in theaters today in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the sequel to 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. We found out a little bit about the movie from the director, stars, and producers.

1. THE ENTIRE MOVIE WAS FILMED IN NEW YORK.

In fact, it was the largest film to ever shoot in New York State. The Amazing Spider-Man 2filmed on location in the boroughs of New York City and in Rochester, as well as at studios in Brooklyn and Long Island. Some places to look out for: the Hearst Tower at 57th Street and 8th Avenue, which doubles as Oscorp; Lincoln Center; Union Square; Brooklyn Bridge Park; and Chinatown.

2. SPIDEY’S SUIT LOOKS DIFFERENT THIS TIME AROUND.

The suit in the first movie was designed to look like something a kid from Queens could actually make himself, using materials he could easily procure (the eyes, for example, were made with sunglasses). This time around, director Mark Webb wanted to stick a little bit closer to the suit that’s in the comic books, making the blue darker, and the eyes of the mask white and large. Costume designer Deborah L. Scott—who created Marty McFly’s iconic look in Back to the Future and made the costumes for Titanic—brought this version of the suit to life.

3. PRODUCERS WANTED TO MAKE GWEN STACY A TRUE EQUAL TO PETER PARKER.

Producer Matt Tolmach said that in many of the previous Spider-Man movies, the focus has firmly been on Peter Parker’s journey—but it’s different in this film. “The truth is, [Gwen] is driving this story,” he said. “Peter is trying to keep it all together. That’s his struggle. Gwen has a real sense of who she is and what she wants. It’s not that it isn’t complicated but it’s incredibly empowering in a character. She’s making choices.”

Emma Stone, who plays Gwen, agrees. “I love how the relationship evolves in the second movie,” she said. “The clarity and maturity that Gwen has sort of achieved—I think because of the death of her father, honestly—has brought her life in sharp focus. So she’s really following her destiny. I think that’s one of the most inspiring parts of their relationship is that it is two incredibly equal parties.”

“When the comics were written—in the ‘50s and ‘60s—women didn’t really have much of a role in comics,” producer Avi Arad said. “They were supposed to look good and stay on the side and we are all very proud we were able to change [that] completely.” And a lot of that credit, he said, lies with Stone: “When you have a great actress and you give her the bulk of the material, now you have a real scene. You don’t just have someone screaming. When you have someone like that, you better make it a two person act all the time.”

4. THE CREW BUILT A REPLICA OF TIMES SQUARE.

For the scene where Spider-Man faces off against Electro for the first time, the crew shot for a couple of nights in Times Square—and then built a replica set at the studio in Long Island. “The logistical obligations of that scene were so complex, [that] we had to, and we could, amazingly,” Webb says. “I remember that scene came up in the script and we worked on it a little bit and I was sorta denying myself the pain/fear of how it was actually going to be shot.” The replica included the red TKTS stairs, recreations of storefronts, Father Duffy Square, and numerous Jumbotron scenes (the rest of the area was added later using CG).

But even though building the replica set allowed the crew the control they needed, it still wasn’t easy. “It was a very difficult thing, just in terms of bringing the amount of lights that were required, the amount of cement that was required,” Webb says. “Our production director did a really extraordinary thing, and it was a huge spectacle. There were explosions and extras and all that stuff.”

5. BOTH JAMIE FOXX AND DANE DEHAAN HAD TO UNDERGO A PHYSICAL TRANSFORMATION TO PLAY VILLAINS.

Foxx wore 21 thin silicone facial prosthetics—which better mimic the quality of skin than foam prosthetics—to transform from Oscorp employee Max Dillion into Electro. The look was designed by The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero of NBB EFX Group and finalized by special effects makeup artist Howard Berger. “It was like taking me and dipping me into blue candle wax like four hours,” he said. It was also his idea to give Max a combover. “My sister is my hair stylist and she created the ‘Django’ look; Ray Charles and things like that,” he told Jay Leno. “When I’m the nerd guy, I want to be the first black man with a comb-over. I told her, ‘Make me look like I would look if I never made it.’”

DeHaan, meanwhile, endured 3.5 hours in the makeup chair—donning contacts, teeth, and prosthetics—to play the Green Goblin. “Then there was another hour just to get into the suit,” he said. “I literally had four people using screwdrivers and wrenches getting me into that suit.” Performing in the suit was tough not just because it weighed 50 pounds, DeHaan said, but because of the temperatures on set. “[The] set was at least 110 degrees. They were literally pouring buckets of ice water down my suit in between takes,” he said. “It had evaporated by the time they called action—that’s how hot it was. I think I lost 7 pounds in like two days. Which for me is a high percentage of my body weight.”

6. TO NAIL ELECTRO’S LOOK, THE VFX TEAM STUDIED ELECTRICAL PHENOMENA.

After deciding on the right look for the makeup, Foxx said, “[The VFX crew] took it from there. Those guys are geniuses at what they do. [Jerome Chen, Sony Picture Imageworks Visual Effects Supervisor] was like, ‘We got it, we know what we want to do. We want to make a thunderstorm inside your body.’ It’s great to see it all work.” VFX artists made it look as though the electricity was inside of Electro, not just running along the surface of his skin, and watched footage of nighttime thunderstorms and bioluminescent animals and photos of nebulae to achieve the look.

Foxx was thrilled with the way the CGI and practical makeup worked together. “The CGI guys would come out and be there and look at me and take pictures and say ‘stand this way, say this, laugh,’” he explained. “It was really fun. It was like you were back at your crib where you’re looking in the mirror practicing on how to act. When I looked and saw what they did with the CGI, I was like that is incredible because people don’t even know that that is actually me. They think it’s all CGI.”

7. IN ONE SCENE, GARFIELD’S FOOT GOT BRUSHED BY A CAB.

Andrew Garfield, who plays Peter/Spidey, has a favorite scene—which Webb and Stone also love—in which Peter and Gwen see each other for the first time in a year. Garfield had the idea that Peter should see her and cross the street, oblivious to all traffic. “[He] talked about cartoons—when the skunk gets a smell and he floats across,” Webb says. “It was that kind of idea.”

Peter Parker might have been oblivious to the traffic, but Garfield didn’t make it through unscathed. “In the take [that was] used, the taxi actually ran over my heel,” he says. “You can see a little facial recognition of that just as I’m about to step onto the pavement. Literally, a tire smacked my heel. It was really scary.”

8. PAUL GIAMATTI WANTED TO PLAY THE RHINO.

The actor appeared on Conan O’Brien’s show in 2011 and said that if he could play one character in a Spider-Man movie, it would be The Rhino. “Rhino came to us for the role!” Arad said. The Rhino’s mechanized suit is entirely CG, but he wore a rig on set.

“[Paul] was so great to have on the set,” Tolmach said. “He just showed up and [was] about fun. This movie felt like we were now free in some ways to have fun, and to tell a bigger story—and a more tragic story. We were freed up of the obligations of origin. [We could] build a movie that we all really believed in and tell this big superhero opera. And that’s what you’re going to see more of going forward—the expansion of the universe with all these characters.”

9. CERTAIN SCENES WERE INSPIRED BY SILENT-ERA STARS.

Webb, Garfield, and stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong are all big fans of silent film stars like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, who performed physical comedy on-camera. This time around, they wanted some of that physicality to inform how Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) moved. “Sometimes, Spider-Man is witty and sometimes not—he’s trying his standup routine out on the criminals before he takes it to the comedy floor,” Garfield says. “The physical ability he has—we don’t want to just be punching and kicking and being cool. There’s something sort of trickster element that we wanted to capture.” They hired Cal McChrystal, the physical comedy director on One Man, Two Guvnors, to help come up with a few moments.

“It was dipping into a different kind of filmmaking and acting,” Webb says. “If you sit down and watch a Charlie Chaplin movie and don’t listen to the music—or if you play different music over it, like a Pixar soundtrack—it becomes accessible in a way that is profound. It becomes emotional and beautiful and there’s something really powerful there. That was an attempt to bring back vaudeville for a second, which is a lost art. It was one of those things where people watch and it goes by and it’s as it should be. But it took a long time to do.”

Armstong watched a particular scene from one of Keaton’s shorts where the actor grabbed the back of a moving car and is whisked out of the scene almost horizontally; once he figured out how Keaton did it, they emulated it for a shot in ASM2.

10. THE PRODUCTION BUILT RIGS TO DO STUNTS PRACTICALLY.

A fight in a plane that kicks off the movie was accomplished mostly using actors and not stunt people. The crew built the interior of a G-5 plane and combined it with a motion base and two rings that could rotate the plane 360 degrees. They also used the rig in a later scene—inspired by Fred Astaire’s work in The Royal Wedding, in which the actor danced on the walls and ceiling—where Garfield rolls up onto the wall and walks along the ceiling, removing the Spidey suit. “All that stuff, people get a certain kind of pleasure from that,” Webb said. “It’s different from comedy, it’s different from action. it’s like watching people dance in a way. It’s physical virtuosity that people enjoy in a different kind of way.”

Garfield prefers to do his own stunts, but it’s not always possible. “I used to be a gymnast and an athlete and it’s important to me—just like with every other aspect with the character—[that] I have some enjoyment of it,” he said. “I don’t want to let it pass me by and watch somebody else play Spider-Man. I want to do it because it’s my only chance to really play it in a way that’s not just crawling up the doorway at my mum’s house. So I felt really stoked to get a chance. There’s me and there’s two stunt guys. It’s usually better man wins in terms of whatever stunt we’re doing. Sometimes it’s just the insurance risk is too high if I do them. If I die, the movie has to stop.”

11. THE MOVIE WAS SCORED BY HANS ZIMMER … AND A FEW FRIENDS.

It was Webb’s idea for the Oscar-winning composer to form the supergroup that would create the music for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The band called itself The Magnificent Six and featured Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr (The Smiths), Michael Einziger (Incubus), Junkie XL, Andrew Kawczynski, and Steve Mazzaro. The idea, Zimmer told Billboard, is that “Peter Parker, is a kid, he’s just graduating. If he had to listen to music and that was the way he expressed emotion, it wouldn’t be big Wagnerian horns and Mahler strings. It would be rock ‘n’ roll.”

According to the IGN review:

Marc Webb’s rebooted Spider-Man was divisive. There was a lot to like – Garfield’s take on Spider-Man, for one – but also plenty to remain unsure and sceptical about. Was it too soon?

The sequel will likely elicit similar reactions. There’s great action and compelling performances – Garfield is Spider-Man – but there’s also an obvious pressure to rapidly expand the Spider-Man universe that threatens to derail the film at points.

Events begin not long after the end of the first film. Peter is still haunted by the death of Gwen’s father and the promise he failed to keep (to protect his daughter by leaving her alone). But in some ways he’s moved on, graduating high school, enjoying life and really embracing the role of being New York’s protector. Unlike so many superheroes, the identity of Spider-Man doesn’t seem to be a burden but a release for Parker – he’s confident and cocky with his now-honed abilities.

There’s a lot going on in Amazing Spider-Man 2, and sadly it doesn’t always come together. The whole ‘should-they-shouldn’t-they’ dilemma of Gwen and Peter’s relationship forms a huge part. The more traditional aspects of the plot are put in motion by Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osbourne, who returns to New York to head up Oscorp. We learn he and Peter are old friends, and while this inevitably creates a feeling of deja vu – it’s a problem that such a recent reboot was always going to encounter – DeHaan is so creepy yet appealing as Harry that the relationship between them is as fascinating as ever.

Harry is suffering from a degenerative condition and requires Spidey’s blood to stand any chance of survival. This plunges proceedings back into the mystery surrounding the death of Peter’s parents. We eventually discover the truth, though the eventual revelation is in no way proportionate to the amount of mystery the series has already built up around the event.

On top of all this, there still needs to be action, of course – enter Paul Giamatti’s Rhino and Jamie Foxx’s Electro. Giamatti is limited to cameos, providing short action sequences, but Electro appears throughout the film as a main antagonist, yet the function is very similar.

The film tries to introduce Max Dillon as a character for whom we should feel sympathy – he’s socially awkward, lonely, unappreciated, and since Spider-Man saved his life, he’s become obsessed with the hero.

After an uninspired accident – he falls into a vat of genetically-altered electric eels – the whole world starts to pay attention to Max. But the film lets him down – it doesn’t ever establish him as a central villain, with real motivations, but more as a reason for the film’s set-pieces to exist, and later exists more as Harry’s lackey.

That’s not to say the action isn’t great – the Times Square showdown is definitely a stand-out sequence, brilliantly showcasing Spidey’s unique set of powers, especially his spider-sense. But you never genuinely feel the sympathy towards Electro the film wants you to – he’s a far cry from Alfred Molina’s tragic genius, Doc Ock. Foxx is fine, but the role is misused, the depiction too brash, and he’s saddled with one or two cringe-worthy lines that would be more at home in a superhero film from the mid-Nineties.

There’s a lot going on, but with a running time of 142 minutes it’s strange that I came away thinking there’s so much Amazing Spider-Man 2 leaves out. We learn that Peter’s in college, yet never see him actually attend a class. We find out he’s started to submit pictures to the Daily Bugle, but he never steps through the doors of that publication. That’s because there’s so much to get through, but also set up for future sequels and spin-offs. There’s a pressure being exerted on the film and it loses a bit of focus.

When you start to elide those aspects of Parker’s character, using that screen time elsewhere, it ultimately changes your perception of the character and his actions. You’re no longer conscious of just how young he is or the other pressures he is constantly facing – so instead of coming across as immature and unguided, the risks he takes seem all the more reckless and egotistical. Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn’t succumb – possibly due to Garfield’s likeability – but it’s definitely a growing problem.

The film is at its strongest when it comes to matters of the heart, whether it’s Peter’s complex relationship with Gwen or his increasingly strained relationship with Aunt May. Sometimes the scenes between Peter and Gwen are so intimate you feel like you’ve become a third wheel on a date, but that’s probably a measure of just how successful they are and testament to the strength of Garfield and Stone’s chemistry. This is undoubtedly where Webb is at his most comfortable as a director.

The action itself is also strong. While we’ve seen it plenty of times, it’s still a pleasure to accompany Spider-Man as he web slings around Manhattan. There are loads of great touches – his suit ripples as we plummet to the ground alongside him or we get wrenched across screen as he takes a tight corner. Garfield’s Spider-Man is more balletic than ever before, constantly striking iconic poses. And the depiction of his Spider-Sense during key action sequences is great – time slows to a crawl, allowing him to evaluate and instantly prevent disaster. He’s the superhero who enjoys being a superhero, protecting his city and giving hope to its people, whether that’s as a makeshift fireman or protecting a little kid from being bullied. No other superhero does that quite as well.

Whether it’s as a fireman or a protector of bullied kids, Spidey is undoubtedly the everyman’s superhero.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets a lot right, yet there’s a constant awkwardness to the machinery of its plot; you can almost hear the cogs turning. However, what’s worse is that at times it becomes overtly patronising: there are flashing screens and computer voice-overs constantly telling you what something is or what something is doing, just in case the people in the back rows aren’t paying attention, which feels at odds with the film’s emotional intelligence.

Emma Stone is a great foil for Peter and Spider-Man alike, though in the later scenes she’s gets stuck on exposition duty. But it’s Andrew Garfield who delivers the standout performance. He’s a great Peter Parker and an even better Spider-Man. He’s cocksure, funny, yet still loveable. The film absolutely nails those moments when the bravado drops and the sincerity seeps through – when he protects a little kid carrying a science project from a gang of bullies or speaks directly the citizens of New York. There are legitimate concerns that we aren’t going to see enough of him as Peter before we get tangled up with more villains and even more elaborate plots, but there’s enough charisma in Garfield’s performance to keep those worries at bay for now.

 

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One thought on “On The Amazing Spider-Man 2

  1. Pingback: On Captain America: Civil War | The Progressive Democrat

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