Friday, May 30, 2014

Amazing Spider-Man 2 does whatever a Spider can. But not much else.

The more time there is between now and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, the more I find wrong with it. But nothing more so than Spider-Man 3. For all the minor things the two predecessors got wrong, the third film just went whole hog and fucked up everything, with the minor exception of Sandman. Venom was wasted, and Harry as Goblin was rubbish. Then Sony rebooted the series, and Amazing Spider-Man seemed to be on a much better track. Except we had to watch that bloody spider biting Peter again.

So it's quite shocking that the very next film, Amazing Spider-Man 2, makes a lot of the same mistakes as Spider-Man 3. Oh it doesn't do anything so bad as the dance number, and the one thing Mark Webb's second foray has going for it is that it absolutely nails Peter and Gwen, and is possibly the greatest live-action portrayal of Spider-Man in existence. This little Spider-Fan may have incredibly geeked out at just how Spidey moved during combat and quipped the whole time. But it does get the villains completely wrong again.

One of the big issues with Spider-Man 3 have often been laid at the feet of too many villains. So why, only two films later are Sony making the exact same mistake. Electro always struck me as an odd choice to headline a movie. Electro, really, is a jobbing supervillain. He generally is working for someone else. In other words, he's not one to plot, and hard to build a film around. Unless you have him just trying to generally build power and keep returning with no major plan. Which is something this film does right to be fair, but where they cock up is the characterisation of Max Dillon.

They make Max a snivelling human being. A waste of of space that no one cares about, and everyone takes advantage of. Admittedly a genius, who designed a new electrical system, who gets his designs ripped off but doesn't do a thing about it. When Spider-Man shows him the slightest bit of compassion after saving his life it's enough for Max to become the creepiest Spider stalker ever. After getting his powers, why does Max go evil? Because Spidey doesn't quite recognise him, and the citizens of New York are happier to see him than this weird electric guy who's been blowing up police cars. Weakest super villain origin ever.

Electro is meant to be one of Spider-Man's most powerful villains, but has a lack of ambition and the low goal of money and power (as in Amps, not control over people). Amazing Spider-Man 2's Electro just want to be loved. I'd prefer the jobbing villain over that.

Then there's the Green Goblin. For Harry's medical condition to start deteriorating the minute he turns up in the plot and his dad died makes incredibly little sense. You could have the same motivation for Harry if he finds out that it is a genetic incurable disease, started researching the disease that will eventually kill him, what with all that research his father did that supposedly kept him alive for many many years more than it should have. Have Harry realise that Spider-Man held the cure all along and just let his father die, and be that his impetus for getting involved. From there, instead of just making him a Goblin for the sake of it, you do what the Ultimate and Spectacular Cartoons did so well, and have an Osborn behind everything, manipulating and setting up the villains in order to bring down our Wallcrawler. Have him become the Goblin further down the line. Set him up to be a big bad and huge pain in the arse of Parker. Everyone's expecting Osborn to become the Green Goblin, so you throw them off by doing the exact opposite.

Don't just Goblinise him for an excuse to kill off Gwen.

Even back in the sixties, back when issues were done in one, and they didn't worry too much about reader retention and generally recycled plots after a couple of years, Stan Lee went for the slow boil on the Goblin. Having him escalate from a minor nuisance to Peter's greatest foe. Not just turn up after the epic final battle with Electro to throw a couple of pumpkin bombs and kill off the love interest.

I realise being the man responsible for Gwen will put him high up on Peter's hated list, but the death was not the evil machination it should have been. It's a petty tit for tat by Harry.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is therefore a mixed bag for me. That Peter and Gwen are done so well is almost enough for me, because I'm that much of a geek about Spidey that I can forgive a lot for that. Electro is just very badly done. When Harry turned up as the Goblin I rolled my eyes and checked out until Gwen's neck snapped. Once again, Gwen historically dies, and everyone was expecting it, hell from the moment Emma Stone made references to not doing anymore we all knew Ms. Stacy's fate, why not then surprise us and have her go off to England to study? The comics wrote her out for awhile by sending her to Europe (we won't talk about the retcon as to why she went though) and Ultimate comics proved Gwen can do more than just die. Like Spider-Man 3 before it, this movie feels like it's had too much interference from executives who insist on certain elements to 'please the fans' and in the end just piss us off instead.

Hopefully Amazing 3 can right this train.
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