What to Expect?
Raimi’s direction of Spider-Man might certainly have been great for its time. It had humor, enthralling action and simplicity to boot. While the action set-pieces and the suspense is definitely what one would take home from the previous trilogy, the very phase of the franchise ended with a limp attempt at a maturing Spider-Man and connecting the dots, which for this writer didn’t make the cut. Although, in all honesty, there wasn’t so much to wonder or worry about as far as the franchise goes. We had X-Men, where franchise started on a thrilling note, giving an innate human element at a time where the genre had exactly this ingredient missing from it. Singer gave the films and their protagonists an identity (that Ratner would later brutally murder). For these reasons, as also the rise of Batman’s Dark Knight phase helmed by Christopher Nolan, Sony would gear for (and I would echo) a decision to retell the story with some grit and a few complexities. The movie’s first chapter would release to a mostly positive initial response, and some dislike, which would eventually grow to form appreciation in favour of the previous trilogy than the current retelling. This, the writer of this article may not be able to fathom. Let’s now cut it to two years later.
We’ve now gotten a sequel to the first movie, and it looks damn impressive from its promotional material. Here are three reasons why:
- The humour and wit seem to be upped a notch;
- The characters have a vast graph of evolution ahead of them; and of course
- The antagonists look cool enough to garner curiosity
But of course, there are problems with it – and most of it deals with a meaty section of people having found the first instalment of this retelling subpar. This in itself leaves a lot to be desired from the second.
What’s it About?
Unfortunately, desire is the one thing Parker (Andrew Garfield; Never Let Me Go) cannot seem to have. He desires to find the truth about his parents, but can’t. He desires to have a relationship with Gwen (Emma Stone; Easy A), but cannot get himself to shake off the past. And out of all of this, he desires to continue helping the human race by fighting the forces that can also allow for its destruction. As he’ll come to learn, however, that will be increasingly difficult, given the people he saves will be the ones he should look out for.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) knows very well how he wants to take the movie forward, and he does exactly that. With the first instalment of The Amazing Spider-Man going through a slightly darker spin on the web-slinging super-protagonist, this version definitely lightens it up a notch. The character having already established, there’s a lot of fun these guys seem to be having. This is evident right from the beginning of the expansive action set-piece that’s the beginning of the film. Of course, going with the underlying flavour of this thread of events, there’s a lot more going on here. There’s his on-again-off-again relationship with Stone’s Gwen Stacy that’s been written with utmost sincerity. The chemistry is electrifying and the characters, going through a lot of changes even in this film, react the way they should. The team of screenwriters consisting of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness), alongwith Jeff Pinkner (Television series Alias) join storyteller James Vanderbilt to help him tie the loose ends he (deliberately?) left off in the first. The very change in screenwriters seems to be making quite a difference here with regard to coherence. Webb, in collaboration with the team of writers, seems to be having a lot of fun bringing Spider-Man to us. Be it the action set-pieces, the comedic situations Parker is left with, or even the heart-rending ones with Gwen and Aunt May, the guys definitely know what they’re doing.
That being said, the movie needed to be a tad shorter than its current runtime of 142 minutes. There’s a lot that could have been done to avoid some situations that have been written in. Some scenes featuring Field’s Aunt May seem to be there simply to show she exists somewhere around the vicinity, which really does nothing to forward the film. Also, what with the antagonists receiving more of a convincing buildup before their process of transformation, the people these characters end up becoming after it are maybe not given the kind of justification they would probably need. In the opinion of this writer, what was really needed was to give equal weight age to both the Peter-Gwen relationship and the Spidey-versus-the-antagonists evolutionary graph, which sadly didn’t happen, as the former overpowered the latter. What, however, makes up for it all (albeit somewhat) is that some of it helps connect a few dots. This doesn’t support the film’s flaws entirely though.
Technically, the film looks terrific. It’s interesting to see another member of J. J. Abram’s Star Trek reboot join the fun here; this time it’s Daniel Mindel, B. S. C., A. S. C. (also known for Spy Game and Mission:Impossible III). Covering the vast cityscape consisting of skyscrapers isn’t just what he ends up capturing beautifully with the camera operators’ collaborative help; there’s a lot of beautiful close-ups, mid-shots and wide shots and the way they’re shot, giving the whole film a smooth finish. Colour grading definitely helps, what with the vibrance of a lot of colour ones giving the film a punchier, and tad lighter feel. Pietro Scalia (The Counselor) and Elliot Graham’s (X2) collaborative work on the edit is real smooth. This is shown especially in the action set-pieces, where the impact is definitive and visually present. The Webb-Zimmer creation The Magnificent Six dish out a terrific score, proving thus to be Hans Zimmer’s (Inception) most different work to date. Chucking the out-and-out orchestrated feel, the movie instead opts for an eclectic fusion of orchestration and electronic percussions, beats and pads. A specific piece to watch out for would probably be Electro’s motif track, which definitely gives the atmosphere around him a massively thrilling feel.
To Perform or Not to Perform
As far as performances go, Andrew Garfield kills it. He’s absolutely in form here, and this writer can safely conclude that with this film, Garfield is without doubt the best Spider-Man in the two cinematic universes. For all that’s worth with what he’s done to the role, he makes it come alive. It also helps that there seems to be more to him this time with regard to character evolution. It looks like the fresh group of collaborative co-writers have helped give Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s character more space and freedom to evolve, and that works. Emma Stone seems to have been given a larger role to play than was originally intended, and that vastly helps during a few key scenes. Jamie Foxx as the antagonist Electro is great fun as the pre-transformed, Spidey-obsessed Max Dillon. As Electro, he handles key action scenes with panache. There are, however, quite a few limp moments that can be attributed mainly to the writing. The same goes for Dane De Haan’s Harry Osborn, whose mutated self (Green Goblin?) requires a bit of explaining to do, considering Harry’s character has a very weak human justification for pitting against Spider-Man per se. Sally Field as Aunt May is adorable, however, her presence throughout at least 40% of her character graph on the film renders itself pointless. Dennis Leary and Chris Cooper are strictly functional throughout their short roles. Paul Giamatti – well, all this writer can now say is that we’ll have to wait for the next film to justify his short, terribly one-dimensional character. As a standalone movie’s character though, he has nothing to contribute other than the terribly made-up grunt. This is especially sad, considering his high level of versatility. Others are efficient.
Overall, the movie, without doubt, is a vastly superior sequel to the first instalment of the reboot, mainly because it helps demystify a lot of quizzical plot-points that were left hanging in the first movie. It, however, continues to raise many more questions; a possible trick to leave the audience waiting for the third. Had there been a control on the length, some more work done on the character justification at quite a few places (which would inadvertently have helped the plot itself), and of course, more action set-pieces included in the film, this would most definitely have been an awesome film. What brought this movie up, however, was definitely the Peter-Gwen on-now-off-later relationship that had more angles to it than would normally be shown in movies of this genre.
Of course, if Raimi’s universe is a better choice for you as a viewer, Marc’s ‘Webb’ of adaptive possibilities (I couldn’t resist anymore; gimme a break!) might end up feeling sticky and uncomfortable. Unbiased take? Worth one watch, at the least, for you to decide.
Star Rating: 3 / 5