The UnPopular Opinion: The Amazing Spider-man 2
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
Now that we know Andrew Garfield will not play Peter Parker for a third film, we can reflect on his tenure as your friendly neighborbood Spider-man. I was a fan of Marc Webb's origin story, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and I also appreciate the sequel, warts and all. I am not going to pretend that there are not flaws in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, but overall it is an enjoyable portrayal of the character that forgoes all of the elements that handcuffed the first film. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 should have been a jumping off point for some quality Spider-man films that explore where the character could go and it will be a shame that we don't get to see them come to fruition.
You might be already scoffing that someone could find THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 to be a good movie, let alone even a tolerable one. Marc Webb's reboot of the beloved Marvel character started with a film rooted in the darkness and nihilism of Christopher Nolan's DARK KNIGHT trilogy, a decision that was not ideal for a character that is the epitome of what comic books should be about. With this sequel, Webb and crew returned the webslinger to his candy-colored, over the top wheelhouse and just went bananas with it. There is zero realism in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 and that is what makes it feel like a genuine comic book movie featuring the character for the first time since Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN 2.
There is a lot of hate for Andrew Garfield's performance as Spider-man, but he truly comes into his own in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. Garfield imbues Parker and his superhero alter ego with the cocky swagger of a teenager who doesn't have the maturity to deal with his superpowers that is wholly reminiscent of his early days in the comics. His smartass attitude and desire to protect the people he loves while also learning more about how his past fits into the larger scope of the Oscorp conspiracy gives the film an urgency that propels the viewer forward along with Peter. Because this isn't just a hero fighting a villain, the stakes are higher and gives the audience a desire to uncover the mystery unfolding on screen.
Sony pushed very hard for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 to be the kickoff film for their own cinematic universe. Hints to this were alluded to in the first film but dropped before it hit theaters. The sequel capitalizes on the connection between Peter's parents and the events unfolding at Oscorp which gives this Spider-man franchise a cohesive nature that the previous trilogy did not have. Marvel Comics have always had massive interconnected narratives that drive their stories and once those tales are told, they often reboot the franchise. Some fans love it while others despise it. It is a shame we will not get to see where all of the breadcrumbs left in this film lead because there were countless possibilities.
Andrew Garfield himself has criticized the final cut of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 and says that studio interference affected the true vision that Marc Webb and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman intended. Yes, there are a lot of things built up in the movie meant for payoff in other films, but the final product is still good in a way that outweighs the negative. Dane DeHaan's menacing take on Harry Osborn outweights the costume design for the transformed Goblin. The visual effects that bring Electro to life outweighs the lack of menace and character development in Jamie Foxx's performance. And, above all, the stunning Emma Stone delivers a very powerful performance that realizes the death of Gwen Stacy that perfectly captures the tone of that story from the comic book.
As I said about THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, what made that film work was Marc Webb's focus on Peter and Gwen's relationship. The chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is palpable and it carries from that movie to this one. I was never truly sold on Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire as a couple until SPIDER-MAN 2 but Stone and Garfield absolutely shine as a couple on screen and off which makes the final act of the movie all the more powerful. It is a shame that if a third film had been made that we would not have gotten the chance to see more of Stone, but her exit from the franchise will reign as one of the most powerful scenes in superhero movie history.
What works in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is what is lacking from a lot of superhero movies these days: fun. I appreciate that the darkness that pervades the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the X-MEN films, but they are often too serious. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY broke the mold and showed that you can make an action-packed comic book film that still has a strong undercurrent of comedy which is why that film was so well received. There is definitely a place for movies like CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, but Spider-man has to be fun. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 was starting to strike that balance for the franchise and it looked like the third film was set to knock it out of the park.
When all is said and done and we look back on the exploits of Spider-man on the silver screen, I am confident that THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 will be well regarded as a great entry in the character's big screen evolution. Like each comic book reboot, the big screen version will be reshaped to mimic the universe it inhabits, for better or for worse. I just think that Marc Webb's efforts to give us a modern take on Peter Parker and his roster of supporting characters was better than many make it out to be.
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