Note: This is one of those spontaneous posts I mentioned about on my blogging resolutions post. I just got to let the word out now.
“I made a choice. This is my path.”
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field
Release Date: May 2, 2014
MPAA rating: PG-13
Director(s): Marc Webb
Producer(s): Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach
Screenplay: Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman, James Vanderbilt, Robert Orci
This is coming from a non-comic-book-reading fangirl’s standpoint: Spider-Man was and still is my favorite superhero for all that he is (a good boy) and for the things that he’s not (the usual mega-wealthy, sturdy built, god-like superhero archetype).
I want to do this for no other reason than sharing my love of Peter Parker and his story. I hope it can help you see that everything that was thrown at him in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 would eventually mold him into the great character that we all know and love.
By now I’m sure most of you already know what’s going to happen. Regardless, you can rest assured there are no spoilers beyond this point.
Within less than a week, I’ve contributed twice to the hefty USD 116 million the film’s amassed by its third weekend release outside of America. Indonesia spawned USD 5.2 million to the sum, with me watching its first screening in an XXI theater on April 30 and its 4DX format two days ago.
Jakarta’s traffic didn’t stop us from trying our luck at the ticket booth on the night before Labor Day. While there were only seats down in the frontest row remaining, we didn’t hesitate. We secured our seats, which were easily a few feet away from the screen. And you know what? Even when I was right up front, I was blown away by the web-slinger. I held my bladder throughout the entire 142-minute play, all the way till the credits stopped rolling.
Then, over the week, a friend told me he’s catching the sequel in the 4DX experience. I was jealous. So what did I do? I went to purchase my tickets for the same experience right after he said it was phenomenal. And that’s how I got my second Spider-Man viewing as my second 4DX experience at Grand Indonesia’s Blitzmegaplex (Gravity (2013) was my first).
We’ll go into the 4DX attribute of the viewing in a minute. For now, let’s talk about the movie itself.
The Amazing Spider-Man follow-up enters with Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) fully embracing his masked identity as Big Apple’s wall-crawling hero as well as a new grad of Midtown Science High, alongside the main squeeze of his life, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Though the two years hied, the promise Peter has made (and broken) to Gwen’s late father was still haunting him. Things only get more complicated when a jarring villain emerges, an old friend returns, and his own mysterious past unfolds.
I admit: Judging from the trailers, I didn’t dare myself to expect anything greater than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 (2007), considering the magnitude it looked like Webb’s trying to cram in just one feature. But amid the variegated plotlines, it’s a bracing surprise to see how well they all tie in together.
While it doesn’t look obvious on my first viewing, director Mark Webb [(500) Days of Summer (2009)] was essentially navigating around the theme of time and how the characters choose to spend it. As much as this is a character-driven story, it felt as if the underpinnings of Peter’s gradual turnabout were contrived into multiple distinct subplots, although the overall flow between scenes felt quite organic. The second time around, however, meaning I was also watching it more with an analytic eye, it did felt like it was all spelled out for me.
The very first scene opens with the metaphorical face of a wristwatch. It belongs to Peter’s late father, Richard Parker. At that time, he was recording a video that will later become the crux of the plot, and in it, he said he’s always thought he had more time – both for his work and for his son. Then we enter Peter’s present-day world, where he missed Gwen’s denotive valedictorian speech due to his Spider-Man duties, but came right on time to receive his own degree. Throughout the film, their dialogues almost always starts with Gwen stating that “it’s time.” Also, it’s no coincidence that the day Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) turned into Spidey foe Electro falls on his own birthday, or that Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) is forced to race against time as his fatal illness1 looms over him, or that the pivotal event toward the end conveniently took place within a giant clock tower.
Figuratively or otherwise, everything was set against the backdrop of the irrefragable onward movement of time, its unceasing passage (that it waits for no one, not even the amazing Spider-Man), the moments we choose to create, and how little of it can change matters of life and death.
I know that we all think we’re immortal. We’re supposed to feel that way, we’re graduating – the future is and should be bright.
But, like our brief four years in high school, what makes life valuable is that it doesn’t last forever. What makes it precious is that it ends.
I know that now more than ever, and I say it today of all days to remind us that time is luck.
So don’t waste it living someone else’s life, make yours count for something. Fight for what matters to you, no matter what.
Because even if you fall short, what better way is there to live?
These days, it’s just rare to find a comic-book movie that’s got its fare share of fantasy-made-true elements whilst still coming out this relatable, mostly because the orphaned crimefighter is already so easy to empathize with – he’s no monster, no alien, no billionaire, nor some god. Peter’s grounded, multi-dimensional, and at the core is still a boy who’s trying to find his place in the world.
I love how Webb’s faithfulness to the source material comes through in terms of plot and especially of character portrayal. Even the tweaks in backstories (e.g. you’ll see that Webb’s Peter Parker is literally predestined to be Spider-Man) and in some parts of the original storyline (particularly those concerning Peter’s friendship with Harry) are conducive to this relatable aspect of the film. Never before in history have anyone interpreted Spider-Man to be this accessible. It grants casual viewers and comic-book fans alike the vicarious joys and difficulties of juggling the superhero life as we reckon Peter’s psychological depth, suffer his angst, and share his raw and very much human emotions that shine through the film beautifully.
Of course, a large part of the equation is Brit talent Andrew Garfield himself, who has done over and above doing stunts and memorizing lines2. As Stan Lee himself has put it, he’s sensational3 and perfect for the role (with loads of Spidey’s signature one-liners to boot). Coupled with Andrew’s overcommitment, there’s the undeniable on-screen chemistry between him and his real-life girlfriend, Emma Stone.
Though neither have divulged the relationship to the public, you can’t deny the sparks between the two as much as you can resist the laws of attraction. In fact, I’m willing to argue that the summer blockbuster is fundamentally a love story. They’re such a joy to watch that you almost wish the villains would just stop with their monkey business already and leave the magnetic duo alone to galvanize your senses.
Also worth nothing: In case you haven’t noticed, the franchise has placed quite a substantial weight on Gwen’s role in Spider-Man’s making (behind every great man there’s a great woman, right?). It was a pleasure to see this woman being treated as an equal opposite her partner as she willfully partakes in Peter’s slugfests using her smarts and her heart. For Pete’s sakes – she’s going to major in molecular biology, on scholarship, at Oxford. Can Webb’s Mary Jane beat that?
Other pointers include Dane DeHaan’s dead-on depiction of the classic Harry Osborn (In the previous franchise, James Franco was just too cute for Harry). Buoyed by Dane’s performance, Harry became a far cry from the wimp who’s only trying to get back at Spidey – he’s hurt, he’s volatile, and he’s dangerous. Even when he cries, he was actually kind of scary, thanks due in part to the telling Green Goblin costume.
The only letdown for me is Electro, though it’s not entirely because of Jamie Foxx’s performance.
Compared to other prominent villains in the Spider-Man universe, Electro is one with lesser personal resentment against Spider-Man and/or Peter Parker. He’s abandoned by his father at a young age and raised by an overprotective mother, so Max is already screwed from the beginning. This gives Webb plenty of leeway to experiment, which, I think, culminated in a dubious adversary to our wall-crawling hero.
He just didn’t come off as convincing to me, and yes, there may be piles of back issues to explain his own story, but I haven’t read them all. As much as I want to, I find it hard to sympathize with the Max Dillon in this film. I do feel his anger with the lack of respect that surrounds him (not to mention the spiteful Smythe), with his deeds going left unnoticed all his life, and just the general neglection that’s frankly overstated. But it’s his scattered motives (or lack thereof) that reduces his significance and altogether dampened the villain’s potential, because in the comics, Electro is one of the recurring members of Sinister Six.
Apart from how quickly dear old Max shifted his gears to embody the Electro persona (when he said “Don’t you know? I’m Electro.”), it all just seems so nebulous: So what if the people of Manhattan finally acknowledge his existence? So what if he’s messed with the city’s power grid to “take back what’s mine” (he designed it)? So what if he got back at Spider-Man? What does all that have to do with one another? What does all that make him? If he’s returning to the franchise again (I’m not closing out the possibility), the movie’s finale is one iffy springboard to depart from.
While I won’t say it was phenomenal, watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on 4DX certainly brought life to the average cinematic experience. Obviously it’s a contrast from the slow-moving Gravity (2013), as our friendly neighborhood is rife with action.
I did get what I expected going into the cinema (serious mists, winds, and other thrills whenever Spidey’s shooting his web or swinging between skyscrapers), but sorry CJ, those effects felt more like a distraction than they do enhance the storytelling. They were excellent and the movements flowed cohesively with all the angled shots in Gravity, but for this movie, I had to readjust myself in my seat and bring back my attention to the story on multiple occasions.
Clearly, I’m still hungover from the spider fever. It’s already racking me to have to wait for another two years for the upcoming sequel, which has secured Webb in the director’s chair again. All we can do now is read the old comics, watch the animated TV series, and follow The Daily Bugle. At least, it’s what I’m doing to ease the withdrawal symptoms.
On a more exciting note, Sony’s ambitious plans to expand the Spider-Man universe (confirmed spinoffs include Venom and Sinister Six) will ensue following The Amazing Spider-Man 3, which is slated for June 10, 2016, and I sure hope The Amazing Spider-Man 4 won’t be the last installment of this franchise.
There were plenty of references in this film that suggest the characters and events that may appear in the next sequel, though Webb hasn’t confirmed anything just yet (here’s one comprehensive guide to the easter eggs in the film, courtesy of Comicbook.com). Again, I’m simply left agape with how much they’ve managed to squeeze in 142 minutes, and on top of my head I can picture different plotlines that can go after the events in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. These are the characters I’m watching out for:
- Felicia Hardy a.k.a. Black Cat (played by Felicity Jones),
- Eddie Brock a.k.a. Venom (he’s already around the block: He covered the story on the captive Cletus Kasidy a.k.a. Carnage),
- J. Jonah Jameson (Mark Webb expressed his eagerness to see J. K. Simmons portraying JJJ during the TASM2 shoppable Google+ hangout),
- Harry Osborn a.k.a. Green Goblin,
- Aleksei Sytsevich a.k.a. Rhino,
- Dr. Otto Octavius a.k.a. Doc Ock,
- Adrian Toomes a.k.a. Vulture,
- Max Dillon a.k.a. Electro (he may or may not be dead),
- Alistair Smythe a.k.a. Spider Slayer (played by B. J. Novak),
- Gustav Fiers a.k.a. The Gentleman,
- and obviously, Mary Jane Watson, originally set to appear in this film as played by Divergent (2014) star Shailene Woodley.
Otherwise, I’m leaving you now with my final verdict of the film on a 0-5 scale below, based mostly on the character development and evidently less of the technicalities (screenwriting, cinematography, editing, etc), along with a couple of comic strips that’ll likely elicit episodes of what’s to come …
My rating: 4/5
Have you watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2? What do you think of it, and what you do you think will happen in the next sequel?
P.S. Check out this interesting article on the dangers of world-building in the superhero genre (contains major spoilers). The Avengers‘ (2012) multi-franchise success is sure breeding envy among studio competitors …
- retroviral hyperplasia [↩]
- He’s turned up at a kids’ charity in London dressed as Spider-Man, he’s used Spidey emblem of hope in promoting environmental and wildlife protection causes during Earth Hour, and he’s donned the suit during Comic-Con twice, with the second time on last year’s TASM2 panel. [↩]
- Check out this featurette. [↩]