Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Chris Cooper
Many people say that Sony’s revival of The Spider-man franchise is possibly a bit too soon considering the character was only introduced to us on screen by Sam Raimi a little over ten years ago. But it was a shrewd move by a company that had seen possibly its biggest movie asset flounder into obscurity after the critically panned Spider-Man 3. A film that failed to give those within Sony the confidence that, Raimi along with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, were the right team to carry forward into a fourth Spider- man installment. The previously mentioned film was a rather camp and at times flawed affair featuring three villains none of whom got enough screen time and were executed poorly. Comic book fans were left waiting throughout the film’s run time to get a brief ten minute look at Venom before he was wiped out. Thoroughly disappointing.
Marc Webb then came along in 2012 and took the director’s chair on The Amazing Spider- Man a rehashing of the character’s origin story that pitted him against Rhys Ifan’s Lizard. Although it garnered some weak reviews upon release a reflective look shows us how vastly superior Webb’s iteration of the character was and continues to be. Remember it’s a common trend in comic books to have different versions of a character’s story. Spider-Man himself has several narrative threads such as Ultimate Spider- Man, Fantastic Spider- Man and The Amazing- Spiderman as titles in his comic book backlog. So to refresh the character by beginning all over was a much better idea on Sony’s part. The first installment of Webb’s planned four- part epic was a good grounding for a team finding it’s feet. Andrew Garfield has defined himself as this generations favourite webslinger and the future looks bright for the newly invigorated franchise. With Webb harking back to Spider- Man tradition by installing Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) as Peter Parker’s first love and making the character of Spider- man an altogether less whiny emo baby than Tobey Maguire and a more comedic and self confident hero has propelled his version to newer ground.
So to the sequel, The Amazing Spider- Man 2 attemps to better what Spider- Man 3 could not accomplish. A showdown against three villains that does justice to all characters. The film begins with Spidey still on top form as New York’s favourite hero. However he is haunted by the ghost of Gwen’s Father who if you’ll remember made him promise to stay away from Gwen so that she did not fall prey to Spider- Man’s enemies. So shortly after their high school graduation Peter reluctantly terminates their relationship. The work never ends for Spider- man though as soon he has all kinds of trouble on his hands when a unassuming electrical engineer Max Dillon (Foxx) transforms into the villain Electro and lays siege to New York City. The arrival of old friend Harry Osbourne similarly throws up more problems for Spider- man and his choices begin to become his mistakes as the very villains he never intentionally confronted team up against him and threaten to destroy his entire world.
All in all Part 2 does what a lot of superhero movies fail to do in that it is actually a much better offering than it’s original. Garfield, Stone and co. are on fine form and it is pleasing to see Marc Webb finding his feet once more in this genre. His cinematography and story telling methods give new light to Spider- man so that his work doesn’t feel like it’s feeding off Sam Raimi’s in the slightest. The story twists are much more enjoyable this time round as well. The intricacy of the plot means that we aren’t just sat waiting for the big good vs. evil showdown and it’s exciting to see Spider- man facing threats on different fronts. Paul Giamatti’s Rhino is your typically flawed gangster thug. Electro is merely a lonely man who finds a way of garnering attention, sadly that’s by blowing up Times Square, and Harry Osbourne, who’s descent into the famous Green Goblin is merely a ploy to save his own life, is a refreshing take on a super- villain team.
The action pieces and fight scenes are all aided by the impressive Garfield in the role of Spider- man. He has redefined the character and uses his own boyhood fandom to add strength to his portrayal. Spider- man is a comedian, a scientific genius and daredevil rolled into one and personally I feel there is no better actor in the world right now suited to be playing the character. His acting range is incredible and this is only highlighted by his on screen chemistry with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey. Their real life relationship obviously having something to do with it. But they are a great pairing and they drive the film forwards. You get the sense that Kirsten Dunst wanted to wash her mouth out when she kissed Tobey Maguire in Spider- Man 2 thankfully there’s no insincerity here.
Jamie Foxx is good value for money his nervous and jitterbugging Max Dillon is a delight on screen and his evolution into Electro is also great to see, even if it does riff on The Sandman from Raimi’s number 3 a little, but we can forgive that. His powers make him a tricky man to defeat as well, you can’t punch him in the face unless you want to get 1000 volts pulsing down your arm and it takes both Spidey and Gwen a long time to figure out how to defeat him.
Dane DeHaan as Harry Osbourne really steals the show though, handpicked from his role in Chronicle, Harry returns into Peter’s life having not seen him for the best part of 8 years and upon discovering he is the recipient of genetic terminal illness tries to convince Spider- man to give him some of his blood in the hope his super DNA can cure his illness. He begins in a swagger and ultimately ends up on screen a mutated freak of a creature… just in armour and on a glider. The Green Goblin’s appearance for me was the moment I had been waiting for, but although he appears to be the film’s main villain he merely waits in the wings to exact his brutal attack on Spider- man. My only criticism being that he doesn’t quite get enough screen time and his physical appearance seems like it was made up to sell action figures. HOWEVER, Harry doesn’t die at the end of the film and in a huge twist (WHICH WE WON’T REVEAL HERE) we can see that his return to Spider- man’s story will not be long off… particularly if you consider the upcoming Sinister Six movie currently in the works.
The film also boasts possibly one of the most gripping opening sequences in current movie history which reveals the secrets behind Peter Parker’s parents and their disappearance.
In a post- Avengers world it’s harder to keep a superhero franchise ticking over as it used to and it seems Sony are investing heavily to make sure Spider- man can stand up to his competitors. There are two more planned follows up in Parts 3 and 4 which will introduce Peter Parker’s next love Mary Jane Watson (Shailene Woodley) and with super-villain spin offs and a potential team up with The Avengers in Marvel’s Phase 3 we can expect to see Garfield swinging his way between the skyscrapers of New York for many more years to come.
A little trivia here, Spider- Man, back in 2002 was the first movie I ever snuck into underage and I remember the sensation of wonder I felt upon watching it. It’s pretty difficult to return to those emotions but under Marc Webb’s direction I felt eleven years-old again, gripping the edge of my seat as I was taken along for the ride. Spider- man is my all time favourite superhero character and I’m so happy that someone finally managed to come in give the character the justice he deserved on screen. Well played.