Cinema-Maniac: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Review

When are comic book films going to learn when a single hero goes up against multiple villains it increases chances for disaster. Why be so dead set to be realistic when the characters act like cartoon. Don’t follow the course of blockbusters formula aiming bigger. Instead aim for being better even if it means going small scale. That’s why “The Dark Knight”, huh, what you do mean wrong movie, Izanagi, figment of my imagination. No I’m pretty sure I just saw “The Dark Knight”. A throwaway villain, lackluster romance, bad set pieces, realistic tone defeated by logic it characters live by, and, oh it was “The Amazing Spider Man 2” that I just saw. Oh you can’t be serious. Are we still pretending “The Dark Knight” was a good influence on comic book films? Yeah the day I believe that is also the day I believe Thor is a competent character in his own franchise. Preconceived notions aside about unrelated movies. “The Amazing Spider Man 2” is….amazingly bad especially when it comes to screenwriting.

The Amazing Spider Man follows Peter Parker trying to maintain his love life, discover what happened to his parents, while dealing with three villians. It reeks of very noticable rewrites, ideas that are clumsily stitched together, and is just a series of non sense when you step back to think about it. All of these moments are clumsily stitched together. It setup asks allot of the audience to accept before earning their trust. The first seven minutes are a bad indication of things to come. The opening scene has Richard and Mary Parker trying escape from inconsistent Oscorp on a plane. All we know is in the first seven minutes Oscorp doesn’t want the Parkers to leak or upload specific information. Before getting more…scribbles of information the method to take out the Parkers is very illogical when viewing how flimsily they conceal information on another employee by the name of Max Dillon. After seeing a bit of how Oscorp maintain secrecy you’ll question the logic from them in the opening scene. A plane crash is not very easy to hide especially when there are burned remains of former employees of Oscorp and one that has bullet hole through her body would cause suspicious under investigation. I could assume that Oscorp has that much power to do away with anything unwanted, but that doesn’t go well for attempted realistic tone.

Marvel properties in general is mixed when it comes to making their action scenes. Depending on the director, concept, superpower, or secondary filming unit there’s too many variables to take into account to know for sure they’ll utilize everything as their disposal. Now imagine this; a couple is on a plane, a hired killer just took out the pilot, the hired gunman knocks out the wife, and the husband is now struggling in a prolong fight against the hired gunman. A sound setup, but the why it’s occurring is literally something someone would write for a spoof movie. We have a fight scene that is over closing, and opening a laptop. Sure it’s too upload information, but it’s still two people fighting over closing, and opening a laptop. If that wasn’t cartoonish enough there’s the classic logic of a single bullet that goes through a plane window opening a big whole. That grows increasingly as it sucks out anything in the plane. This scene is shot to be very dramatic with overly dramatic music in the background as Richard Parker attempts to keep a laptop open. An opening scene like this could have been fun and exciting, but borders down to being heavy handed dramatics with its serious tone. It does not favor either the audience or the film when you don’t play by your own established rules which this film is more than happy to disregard.

That’s only seven minutes in. When a film opening is as broken as it is in this film you could only down hill if you fail to recognize the problem. In this, just as with “The Dark Knight” which it’s heavily influence by, is attempting to be realistic while it characters function like cartoons. So after that over the top and heavy handed opening action scene it’s immediately follow up by another action scene. One that tops the opening plane fight in silliness. Here’s the setup; Spider Man must stop, Aleksei Sytsevich, Russian mobster (this ain’t Captain America to allow a clever ironic joke, so nitpick strike one), who is wildly driving a Oscorp truck full of plutonium. Unlike before where the setup is good minus why it’s happening. With this action scene you are left with a series of questions. Does Aleksei Sytsevich know exactly how dangerous the thing he stealing is? If so, was getting chase around New York by dozen of cops part of the plan? If not, what exactly in his thought process prevented him and his goons from quietly stealing plutonium? All these questions are neither importance to me nor the writers that wrote this mess. My biggest complain is how Spider Man does not handle this robbery. Instead of immediately stopping Aleksei Sytsevich whose driving like a mad man destroying everything in his path. Spider Man takes his time to wisecrack. As irresponsible this particular moment might be of Spider Man I would still prefer him to protect New York over Thor. The worst thing that happens while Spider Man is not focus is a couple dozen people likely got killed. Compare to Thor who while focus almost gets the whole universe destroyed. Yeah, they’re both terrible heroes in hindsight aren’t they? This is also the right time for Spider Man to answer a phone call….just exactly where does one keep a cell phone in a skin tight outfit? On second thought, I would rather not know.

I want to take a moment and acknowledge Denis Leary first ghostly appearance in the film. He disapprovingly looks at Peter Parker while he’s attempting to stop a robbery, though I like to believe his disapproving look is aimed directly at the audience. As if to tell us “You’re still staying? You disappoint me” with his soulless eyes staring into your soul. I laughed the first time Denis Leary appeared on screen because of how silly it looked. In context, Dennis Leary is likely disapproving of Andrew Garfield dating his character daughter. There is a good excuse for that…it’s Emma Stone. Of course Andrew Garfield is going to break his promise and I would too, but that is just me. Thankfully Denis Leary does return in the film a couple more time who disapproves of me (and possibly you) of watching the film. In one scene, he looks directly at me behind his family with his emotionless stare. Telling me telepathically “You have a loving family? Go spend time with them. If not, I’ll keep staring at you disapprovingly”. Everytime Denis Leary appears it’s comedy gold. Wondering what the next thing he’s going to disapprove of next is something to look forward to. Until you’re given actual context if you haven’t seen the previous entry.

I could literally break this whole film down, but why continue to beat on a dead horse with the same old criticisms. Multiple villains that lack proper motivation and development. The first villain that appears on screen, Rhino, is very cheesy and goes unused for virtually the whole film. Peter Parker is terrible at concealing his identity. He uses his powers in public buildings that have cameras and in one instance almost forgets to take off his mask. Aunt May and Norman Osborn are superfluous characters adding nothing the film. Both could have been easily written off and in way no would it have affected the course of the film. Sparing viewers from the pointless laundry argument between Peter Parker and Aunt May. Most of Peter and Gwen Stacy dialogue goes like “it’s over”, “we’re back together”, “it’s over”, and “we’re back together”. Then there’s Peter Parker finding this secret laboratory in a location that convince me these writers are as far as remove from reality as possible. The final act consist of two climaxes and two action scenes right after one another. Several subplots like Peter discovering what happened to his parents, his friendship with Osborn, Aunt May struggle to raise Peter, Peter romance with Gwen Stacy, and so many more get tossed aside without the proper time to develop them. The ending is very stupid and insulting to Rhino fans. Something cool is happening behind the closing credits. These complaints are pretty much common for anyone who hates this film, but for me these common criticisms is not enough for me.

So lets focus on specifically Electro who is play by….um what was his name again? It’s that one actor who always gets overshadowed even when he’s the star of his own movie. This movie might be bad, but I will say casting, Jamie Foxx, there we go is an inspired move. Because who better to play a forgettable character than an actor who is unable to steal the spotlight from his costars. For the first half Jamie Foxx fits his role just fine pre-electro. The way he speaks and the way he move capitalizes on the nerdy characteristics of Max. While also allowing room for his obsession to Spider Man can be perceived as creepy won’t overshadowed an ultimately good intentioned man. However, when Jamie Foxx is cover in blue skin he’s forced to play a rejected member of the Blue Man Group. He’s unable to recover when he turns into Electro or make the villain remotely memorable. Speaking of which, how exactly does his powers work? Apparently when he walks by cars alarms will go off, but doesn’t affect cell phones in time square despite a scene showing earlier his power can affect technology not on the ground. Electro also has the power to fix gap in his front teeth. Well if that’s not pointless I don’t know what is. I especially love how in New York a glowing blue man doesn’t get anyone attention even when he pulls up a grate to get more electricity. Just another day in New York I guess. Since I’m still on Electro I want to discuss just how ridiculous it is how he obtain his powers. There’s is no way that…wait what. Huh, uh huh, hmm? You can’t be serious Izanagi! That is not a valid flaw!

Okay. Originally I was going to test the film theory myself, but it was rather difficult to find a fish tank big enough to fit around ten electric eels. Turns out after who knows how many hours of explanations and research here’s some science for you. Apparently, a person could pick up some of the electrical producing cells of eels called electrolytes. If you want to splice electric eel power cells into your body it would then possible to become Electro. All of our cells operate electrically; they are pumping ions in and out all the time and changing charges, and nerve cells absolutely work on electrochemistry. If you can generate half a volt out of a nerve cell, and you could stack up a bunch of them, in theory, you could get a reasonable voltage. Electric eels generate about 1/6th of a volt per electrocyte, but stack up thousands of them to generate typically 600 volts. But they do not shoot lightning bolts, because their voltage isn’t high enough.

So rather than a capacitor Electro is more like a battery. He feeds his cells, and among the things the cells will do with chemical energy is create electricity. So he would be feeding his electrical cells with food, and when he needs to produce a charge, he would generate a charge electro-chemically. It makes a lot more sense than if he were a living capacitor. Depending on how it’s designed, you can make nice arcs. But the problem with a conventional capacitor is that you have bunch of conducting plates with an insulator in between them, so that’s a problem with a human body. Because it’s full of salt water, it’d short itself out all the time. If it did hold a charge, there are all sorts of problems. If he has a million volts moving from one side of the body to another, why wouldn’t he electrocute himself? If he’s shooting sparks out of his fingers, that means that his fingers are going to a much higher voltage than the rest of the world, so how does he do that? The electric eel does it by doing some chemistry on the fly, and that’s the best this theory can describe. But he’s really a battery, not a capacitor. By the way, there is some evidence that electric eels do in fact shock themselves, but that they are more resistant to the effect than their prey is.

I’m just speechless. So how Electro gets his powers is actually possible if unlikely to duplicate it exactly in the human body as presented in the film. They did not insult the audience intelligence with that scene. Scientifically speaking it’s possible. I was proven wrong by “The Amazing Spider Man 2”. Damme you movie. Even when you’re correct at something you still find a way to make me angry. Wait a minute, than the way Electro is defeated in the climax makes no sense at all. Since Electro produces electricity it would have been more effective to throw him into salt water to make him release his current of electricity. Well if that’s true, then it makes no sense how Electro remains in the film as long as he does since I doubt every single drop of water in New York is purified. Even then, that’s still asking a lot for the audience and regardless the quality of the water Electro should still short out. Just wow. I won’t even bother how Electro clothes stays on him when he travels through electricity. Electro is scientifically possible, but at the same time how he functions is not accurate. Did I really spent four paragraphs on Electro? See what happens when you have poorly written movie and a maniac.

Actually comes to think of it what was the point of having three villians? For starter Rhino doesn’t really make much of an appearance in the film. Write him out and what do you know not that much changed. What about Harry Osborn? Well the way he’s brought into the the film is contrive, much like how I brought up the Japanese god Izanagi as a figment of my imagination out of nowhere in this review. If I removed all references to Izanagi you wouldn’t have noticed much of a change in what you’re reading. The same goes for Harry Osborn who is just there as a plot device whenever it’s at a stand still. If you removed Harry Osborn you would have a shorter film, with better character development, and more scenes with Aunt May raising Peter Parker. Unless of course the writers wanted to stretch this out as long as possible. What about if Electro was removed? You would pretty much have another Green Goblin versus Spider Man film.

Now time to analyze one of my pet peeves with comic book films in general and those are the action scenes. Action scenes in this film are very short and go more for visual flair over clever staging, and creativity. All the action scenes in the film try to make spectacles appear bigger than they actually are. One way the film crew go about is huge amount of particle effects whenever Spider Man and Electro fight each other. Whenever these two fight it formulaic; Electro has the upper hand in the beginning with his electrical bolts and Spider Man turns the tide of battle after receiving a certain amount of electrical shot. That’s all. Talk about basic that you could literally picture point A to point B in your mind. In glorious slow motion which is always present and for Electro his own dubstep theme. The opening fight in the plane cannot have the camera stay still to make it possible to enjoy. The fight in the plane is basic granted two grown men fight over the screen of a laptop is silly. Than after that are the two throwaway Rhino scenes. Shockingly the action scenes involving Rhino feature more environmental destruction than the two climaxes combine. They look impressive of the sheer amount of destruction, but the execution and design of them are land in specific point, talk, and in quick fashion finish the scene. As for the second climax that involve the Green Goblin it’s short, shot in tight spaces with closeups, and favorite the usage of slow motion to keep up with the not that fast fight.

The direction is a mess with unfinished CGI effects. That’s also the same reason why Spider Man isn’t in the film much since it would actually require the filmmakers to put some actual effort. It’s selection of music is off putting distracting the scene it plays in. Dubstep is not exactly fitting for action sequence that is meant to be taken seriously when the lyrics cannot be made out properly. My eardrums might have bled since I personally don’t like dubstep, but I’m pretty sure I heard “He Hates-A Me” while Electro was fighting Spider Man at time square. I never knew Mario did film scores.

The cast is generally mixed, though easily the best part of the film. Andrew Garfield brings innocent charm and enough heart as ordinary Peter Parker. While as Spider Man comes across as energetic and cocky, even if a scene does him a disservice. Emma Stone is delightful in the film even when delivery some pretty awful dialogue. Stone chemistry with Garfield is genuine and very strong when the two share a scene. They make the on and off again relationship come across naturally. Jamie Foxx like mentioned earlier pre electro is good in the role. However, pass his scene at time square Foxx goes into a one note role. He’s always angry and, yeah that’s about it when he becomes Electro. Paul Giamatti is cheesy in his short time, though easily the most enthusiastic in his role. He plays his character like a glorious cartoon that it’s a shame he receives less than six minute of screen time. Sally Field gets very little screen time as Aunt May. I could forgive her for not trying in the role since there is not much to her characters. Dane Dehaan is okay in the role. He’s gets thrust into scenes with jarring tone differences with little breathing room in between. Leaning too often in one emotion of his character.

The Amazing Spider Man 2 has plenty of ideas and characters that sadly culminated into making its emotion superfluous. There is too many undeveloped ideas that holds it back from evolving into the grand spectacles it wants to be and from a technical standpoint it set pieces are too basic and short to deliver on its promised thrills. With the exception of the acting, every element in the film implodes on itself having the ideas, but not knowing how to use them. It’s a mess of a film that has too much for its own good and delivers very little of it.

3/10

Side Stories: Superficial stuff that happened before and after viewing the film

So I have a friend, Eric, who knows one of my biggest gripes for movies is terrible writing. Eric knows it to the point he doesn’t bother to ask me my thoughts on a movie I hate or love. For this one, after seeing the film himself Eric said to me “This is definitely something you would award a 0%. No doubt about it”. That is true, if I only cared that one thing. There is the production side of things which is just as important to me. It’s also his comment about Electro gaining his powers as an insult to the audience that inspired me to actually seek out information if it was possible. If you’re going call anything an insult to audiences intelligence be sure it’s an area you’re an expert in. If not, you could have a friend like me who loves bringing it up in debates.

My original review of this film was so long that it exceeded Rotten Tomatoes word limit. So I cut out 60% of that material and then edited everything in the remaining 40% down to what you just read. What I took out was not really all that useful or helpful. Plus, it went against my policy of the no spoiler rule. There are exception to the rules, but unless the film had some sort of promised in a theme or concept I won’t go into detail about its story. If I’m going to write anything that contains spoiler I rather put it after the closing paragraph to a review. Therefore anyone who has any interest in seeing the film regardless of they read can rest assure it won’t get spoiled entirely. There was also numerous scenes dissection that made it tedious to read. There’s only so many times you want to read “that piece of dialogue was horrible” before becoming redundant yourself. Now with a review that long I still would have given it the same rating. The film as a whole is flawed, but has it few merits. As a whole though, it just another film that solidifies my feelings that “The Dark Knight” has been a negative influence on comic book films. Three paragraphs about why that is, but like Rhino, it’s rather superfluous to include.

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