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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Webb of Mediocrity

There was a time in my days of youth when I couldn’t get enough of Spider-Man.  I watched the cartoon series with the catchy theme song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8GLoDHZMZQ every day after school, and not only did I read ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ comic but also its spin-offs ‘Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man’ and ‘Web of Spider-Man.’  It’s easy to like Spider-Man because his alter ego is an unassuming underdog we can’t help but root for.  Peter Parker is a high school science nerd who overcame adversity and ended up with the hot girls (Gwen, Mary Jane, Felicia Hardy), right?  He’s the ‘Archie’ (not Archie Bunker) of superhero-dom.  And while most superheroes come off as serious and a bit stiff, Spider-Man’s sense of humor and wisecracks are a welcome breath of fresh air.  Even so, I cannot recommend the utterly sterile, depthless and vacuous mess that is ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2.’
 
TASM2, the eagerly anticipated follow-up to 2012’s tepid ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ is a study in contrast.  Over its bloated 2 hour, 22 minute length our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is mostly either: (a) battling one of the many villains featured in the movie or (b) sweet-talking to his on-again off-again girlfriend, Gwen Stacy.  As a result the film is unevenly paced, with mind-numbing, loud, sense shattering set-piece scenes of CGI overkill when Spidey is battling his foes punctuated by glacially slow periods of doe-eyed puppy love between Andrew Garfield’s Peter and Emma Stone’s Gwen.  The famed writing team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci crammed too many characters and threads into the movie, as Peter not only had to save NYC from the ravages of Electro, the Green Goblin and Rhino but also reconcile the demands of his heart with the dying wishes of Gwen’s father (Denis Leary), reconnect with his beloved Aunt May (Sally Field) and solve the mystery of his parents’ disappearance when he was little.  Jamie Foxx’s talents were wasted as the bioluminescent blue freak Electro, and his transformation from a shy and socially inept outcast who owed Spider-Man his life to a hater with anger-management issues seemingly at the flip of a switch (no pun intended) was unconvincing.  Dane DeHaan, as Harry Osborn/Green Goblin, did a better job than James Franco from the Sam Raimi version, with his young David Bowie looks and the quiet intensity of Christopher Walken.  Paul Giamatti played the Rhino with a manic glee, but there’s otherwise little of note in that one-dimensional character.
 
Not surprisingly, director Marc Webb, whose only directorial effort is the wistful and quirky rom-com ‘500 Days of Summer’ before he took on the new Spider-Man franchise, is more at home with chick flicks than mega-budget action blockbusters.  The romantic scenes between Peter and Gwen are genuine and heartfelt (Garfield and Stone being real life boyfriend and girlfriend didn’t hurt to say the least), while the action sequences suffered from being overloaded with CGI and rendering us insensate with their been-there-done-that rote repetitiveness.  I mean, really, did we actually even think for a second that our agile web-slinger wouldn’t somehow gracefully weave and dodge through those lightning bolts Electro’s hurling at him with his ‘amazing’ acrobatics?  And how many times do we have to see NYPD squad cars get flipped over and slammed into the ground before we start yawning in sheer boredom?  Much of the movie is nothing more than ‘wink, wink’ teasers for upcoming movies in the Spidey-verse to fanboys, including the ‘Sinister Six’ movie Sony Pictures recently announced along with the 'Venom' spin-off (http://variety.com/2014/film/news/sinister-six-and-venom-movies-to-be-released-before-amazing-spider-man-4-1201156518/).  Oh lookee here, Felicia Hardy 'The Black Cat' (Felicity Jones) is Harry Osborn’s personal assistant!  And check this out y'all, Harry just walked by the cool gear of ‘Doc Ock,’ ‘Vulture’ and ‘Rhino’!  Enough already.
 
Grade: C+
  
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