Saturday, May 3, 2014

I saw Spidey (in damn love)...

I saw Spider-man, in Marc Webb's "The Amazing Spider-man 2", the high-voltage, though often quite campy, sequel to his mega hit reboot of two years prior.

As with Webb's first sling, Andrew Garfield deftly takes the reins from Tobey McGuire, giving his Peter Parker a more "complicated" edge. Emma Stone also returns as Gwen Stacy, but as with the initial chapter, where precious time was stolen from the Spidey/Lizard story line, this outing's romance level is even more annoyingly pronounced, consistently interfering with both action sequences and character development. Fortunately, our hero somehow finds the time to do what he does best--fight the bad guys. 

With this said, there are, indeed, bad guys aplenty, from the mounting menace of Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan)--sorry folks, but the original Green Goblin, Norman (portrayed by Chris Cooper), dies before he can even don a costume; the luminous, though initially bumbling, Max Dillan/Electro (Jamie Foxx); and Aleksei Sytsevich/the Rhino (Paul Giamatti) in an extended cameo.

The script (written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner) presents a continuation of secrets-to-be-revealed, particularly regarding Parker's defunct dad, who holds a mysterious link to the powerful Oscorp. Just as the Lizard rose from the consequences of such secrecy, Electro does much the same (while ripping an obsessive page from the Jim Carrey/Riddler playbook), emerging wide-eyed, ominously glowing and successfully, if not confusedly, terrorizing Times Square.

Can Spidey set things back on proper track? Well, of course, he can, at least well enough to pave the way for the third chapter, but what empowers "Spidey 2" (even if such is only occasionally allowed to cut through the unnecessary mush) is its unpretentious view of opposing forces: relegating the tale to a noble philosophy embraced by Spidey's co-creator, Steve Ditko, where good and bad are indisputably distinguished. For example, unlike in Sam Raimi's "Spider-man 3", where sympathy was generously granted to the murderous Sandman, no such forgiveness is dispatched by Garfield's superhero, even when it comes to his childhood, goblin-turned pal. However, he does appear oddly lax when he should otherwise be unraveling Electro's manifestation.. 

To add to the mix, Felicia Hardy/the Black Cat (Felicity Jones) is introduced, but her presence is, like the Rhino's, but a fleeting set-up for a future entry, which is too bad since the character would have been a welcome sight in full gear this time out, acting as a lovely counterpart to "Winter Soldier'"s enticing Black Widow.

Unfortunately, famed Daily Bugle honcho, J. Jonah Jameson, though referenced, is conspicuously absent yet again. It was rumored that J.K. Simmons might possibly reprise his role from the Raimi trilogy, but even a basic recasting failed to occur here. Hopefully, the character will surface in an upcoming installment, for his presence is relevant, considering the current, Orwellian scheme of things. (For now, one can only assume that ol' Jameson is toiling behind the scenes, diligently burying Benghazi details for HYDRA--whoops, I mean, CNN.)

Beyond those essential characters present and missed, "Spidey 2" is full of solid, supporting players, like Sally Field, reprising her heartfelt Aunt May role, and the ever versatile Giamatti gives the Rhino a nice, disgruntled edge, even if his screen time is disappointingly brief. 

Among the primary players, Foxx especially rises to the occasion (at least when fully transformed), energizing Electro with the panache the character needs and deserves. DeHann, on the other hand, is more subtly impressive as the evolving Goblin, giving Osborn ample psychotic insinuations, before becoming a high-flying version of "Fright Night'"s original Evil Ed.

Though no ground breaker, and embarrassingly hindered by its amorous content and hapless attempts at being funny, "Spidey 2" is still rather uplifting in the end. Like the recent (and far superior) Cap America blockbuster, it ballyhoos the importance for us all to do right, stand on principle, go out on a limb to fight the good fight. On this basis alone, the movie admirably mirrors its founding Marvel mythology; and in this day and age when snubbing tradition seems all the rage, that's pretty damn impressive.


  1. I have to agree with you, Mr. Housel - the romance in this film was a little too much for me. I don't know why the writers have to add unnecessary romance to films like this. With that being said, overall, it was not too bad. If you could choose anyone (living or deceased) to play Spiderman in a film, who would it be?

  2. I do like Tobey and Andrew, actually. I think they're both quite good for the sake of the new, big-budget films. (As a kid, I always thought John Ashley would have made an excellent Spidey, for what it's worth.) I do believe, however, to make this sort of mythology work, one needs to stick close to the primary character: the way Parker/Spidey has been traditionally portrayed in comics and cartoons. Poor Peter was never a lover-boy, not by a darn long shot, and by gosh, if there's going to be romance in the plot, at least let it progress the story line. The romance in this film just kept looping. Actually, I'd have preferred more interaction with Electro and/or the Goblin. Even silly interaction would have been better than cutting corners the way they did. I sure hope matters get straightened out for the next movie. Spidey certainly deserves that much. I guess it all depends on how they handle the inevitable Mary Jane component.

    1. PS: For the record (when it comes to Spidey portrayals), I actually fancy Nicholas Hammond's from the short-lived '70s television series. His approach was more mature than one might otherwise expect, but appropriate for the offered scheme: similar in style to the excellent Incredible Hulk series. Also, the stories were never bogged down by mush, thank goodness. (I also caught some of the Japanese television counterpart series on YouTube, but as colorful as it is, it falls terribly short of capturing the Ditko/Lee mythology. Again, to make Spidey work, one must at least embrace the legend's fundamental concepts.)

    2. Well, as per recent reports, Webb and Garfield are out of the picture. Yep, there won't be a third entry in this series. A pity, for a third attempt, without the damn romance, may have rectified the situation and justified more entries. Still, Spidey won't stay out of the cinematic scene for long. It's only a matter of how and when he'll return.

  3. Guess it's now settled: Tom Holland (not the writer/director, but rather the young, British actor) is the new Peter Parker and will make his debut as such in "Cap America 3: Civil War". And so, a new era begins...