Released back in May to a mixed response, a large number of fans found Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 more than a little disappointing. Despite boasting a talented cast, big blockbuster visuals, the world’s most popular superhero and a promising director in Mark Webb, things never really worked out according to plan for this year’s Spidey sequel.
Even though it hit a solid $700 million at the worldwide box office, the movie ultimately fell short of both of its critical and commercial expectations – ranking as the lowest grossing of the four CBMs this year. It also divided the fans – many of whom would have preferred to see the web-slinger’s movie rights back in the hands of Marvel Studios. So what exactly went wrong? And is it as bad as many people make it out to be?
Read on to find out in the second of four editorials analysing the best and worst elements of 2014’s comic book movies…
The Marketing Blitz
“You know what it is I love about being Spider-Man? Everything!” – Peter Parker
While this may not be a major criticism of the movie itself, it certainly applies to the creative minds behind it. The whole concept of a movie ‘trailer’ is to tease and engage a potential audience – without ever revealing too much of the plot. Right from the very beginning, Sony Pictures got their approach horribly wrong. We, as CBM fans are subjected to the dangers of scoops, set-pics and spoilers more than anyone else – but the difference is we choose to view them. Sony forced their secrets in everybody’s faces.
However, it’s only upon actually viewing the movie that you manage to gather a sense of how damaging this over-zealous marketing scheme was. Harry Osborn’s transformation into the Green Goblin? Spoiled. The Sinister Six easter eggs? Nothing new, we saw those in the promos. Gwen Stacy’s death? The whole world knew she was doomed from ‘Trailer 1’. Any shock and excitement potentially generated from these moments was lost – largely thanks to over-excited studio heads pumping out TV Spot after TV Spot.
Lack Of Pay-Off
“Isn’t that the question of the day?” – Harry Osborn
Spinning-off of some of the advertising criticism, in the end, a lot of what the trailers promised never saw the light of day. Most likely casualties in the film’s brutal editing process, various scenes involving Harry, his father, Felicia and many other supporting characters were lost in the final-cut. As a result of this, in addition to feeling incomplete, the movie also seemed a little confused by its own multiple plot-threads – most of which were never concluded in a logical or satisfying manner.
The big talking point here is, of course, the mystery of Peter’s parents. Initially introduced in the first movie in an attempt to distance itself from Raimi’s original trilogy, this plot-line was awkwardly shoe-horned into a few short scenes in this movie – most of which were either riddled with plot-holes or just seemed out of place. It felt like a shameless U-Turn from the writers, who had built up this whole side-story, only to abandon it at the last minute to devote more time on Paul Giamatti and his colourful underwear.
Don’t You Know? I’m Electro
“It’s my birthday. Now it’s time for me to light my candles.” – Electro
Batman Forever has been widely criticised for the portrayals of its villains ever since it came out in 1995. However, much like many blockbusters of its era, it’s been cut a little slack over time. The same cannot be said for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which almost pitch-perfectly replicated the personality and motivations of its main villain, Electro, from Jim Carrey’s Riddler – making the latter seem complex and engaging in comparison.
Burdened by terrible characterisation, a cartoony personality and some of the corniest dialogue ever to make it into a comic-book movie, Electro was incredibly underwhelming. Visually impressive, the villain contributed to all of the film’s best action sequences, but ultimately ended up being a waste of actor Jamie Foxx’s talents. That said, it was Foxx’s performance as a creepy nerd caricature that made it so difficult to take Max Dillon seriously in the first place.
The (Many) Other Villains
“I had a friend once. It didn’t work out.” – Electro
“Yeah. Me too.” – Harry Osborn
Batman Forever was not the only CBM this film failed to learn from. Inexplicably, the sequel ended up repeating many of the same mistakes seen in 2007’s Spider-Man 3. Chief among them was an over-abundance of villains – a topic that has been debated time and time again when it comes to superhero movies. Balance is key in handling antagonists (as the successes of The Dark Knight and The Winter Soldier have proven over the years), and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was sorely lacking in any here.
The studio’s greedy, impatient approach to sowing the seeds for its shared universe ultimately cost them the respectability of this movie. While other franchise builders, such as Iron Man and Man Of Steel, were far more subtle in their world-building, TASM 2’s tendency to bounce from one new supporting antagonist to the next detracted from the main villain, Electro. Green Goblin appeared to have been shoehorned in at the last moment, while Smythe, Felicia and The Rhino barely made an impact at all. And the less said about Martin Csokas’ ridiculous Dr Kafka, the better.
Direction & Tone
Are these the real
culprits directors behind The Amazing Spider-Man 2?
Who was really directing this movie? Matt Tolmach? Avi Arad? Kurtzman & Orci? Judging by how convoluted the final product ended up, it was a combination of various different parties. Regardless of whoever had the final say, it’s hard to imagine that Mark Webb, the director of one of the most original romantic comedies of recent times, had full creative control of this project. Going into this franchise, Webb looked like one of the most promising up-and-coming directors around. Sadly, this movie may have tarnished his reputation for good.
In hindsight, the signs were always there. From the numerous deleted scenes, to the script re-writes, to the shameful Mary-Jane Watson debacle – it seems that Webb and Sony never really had a complete vision for this film during its shooting and production. The tone was unbearably corny, while the bright visuals and pulsating score ended up garish and unappealing – albeit fairly inventive. Solid turns from Garfield and (in particular) Emma Stone were undermined by cheap relationship drama, while the movie’s single highlight oddly ended up being the death of its best character.
“There will be days where you feel all alone, and that’s when hope is needed most. No matter how buried it gets, or how lost you feel, you must promise me that you will hold on to hope.” – Gwen Stacy
It would be pretty harsh not to mention any of the movie’s better moments – and there were a few. Despite the negatives, claims that this is the Batman & Robin of the Spider-Man franchise are a little unfounded – it’s closer to the Batman Forever. As noted above, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield do an admirable job in the lead roles – although the titular hero’s overly cocky demeanour has understandably alienated some fans.
With regards to the future of this franchise, only time will tell. Sony’s plans are not yet as clear as, say, DC or Marvel Studios’, but their ambition to build a cohesive Spider movie universe is well known. Here’s hoping Sinister Six turns things around – and with a director like Drew Goddard (Cabin In The Woods) on-board it’s definitely a possibility. Quality is key with superheroes – most fans don’t mind what studio the characters are at, so long as the movies themselves are good.
Despite its potential, Mark Webb’s latest entry into the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man franchise ends up being one of the biggest disappointments of the year – largely thanks to a messy storyline, weak villains, terrible dialogue and a painfully corny tone.
Well that’s it! Thanks for reading guys! I apologise for the dour tone with this one – it’s not the worst CBM ever, but it might be one of the most disappointing. What did you guys think? Let me know in the comments, especially if you enjoyed the read!
In the end, regardless of whether you loved the movie, hated it, or simply didn’t mind it, we all know it was seriously lacking in one thing…
Also, if you want to read my full review of the movie, you can check it out below…