Oh the film embargo! Wrote my review of Spidey 2 last night after the film and at dinner in Boston at the Boston Beer Works ($7.00 off the meal with my Boston Beerworks card! Must have accrued points or something!.) BUT – seeing Andrew Garfield on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Kimmel and watching the clip from the opening of the film it was most revealing. The early part of the movie works better on the TV screen than in the theater! The in-your-face exploding inevitable that is the formula for these modern day comic books dominating another media, the motion picture industry. Where we spent twelve cents on a new comic book back in the day (those of us FROM the day) it took another generation to get hip to the fact that those wonderful stories could bring in twelve bucks per ticket. With Iron Man and the Avengers now in the billionaires club with Batman it is “amazing” that two of Marvel’s biggest names, Fantastic Four and Spiderman, have taken a back seat to the “b” list.
Andrew Garfield is terrific (though Tobey Maguire was good casting as well, these pictures are still at the mercy of the directors) yet I still like the small screen – the trailer on YouTube or Garfield’s film clip on the Tonight Show – to enjoy the nuances of the film making. The big screen tended to distort some of the expected explosions and spectacular use of color and light.
The small screen clips actually help you appreciate many of the subtleties that swing right by, just like Garfield/Spidey on the web. Jamie Foxx was better as President Sawyer in the Channing Tatum flick, White House Down, and his “Max Dillon” is – dare I say it – almost as bad as Richard Pryor as Gus Gorman in the awful Superman III
BUT – Foxx redeems himself as – presto/change-o – Dillon turns into “Electro” – dubbed “Sparkles” by Spidey. Electro is glowing neon-blue which matches Spider Man’s dark red and blue perfectly, a director’s dream come true as the electricity spurts all over the screen in a galaxy of Fourth of July-type fireworks. Where director Richard Lester (the Beatles A Hard Days Night, Help, the very good Superman II) dropped the ball on Superman III (starting with the horrible script) Amazing Spiderman I and II director Marc Webb can’t afford to make such a huge faux pas (one that, in Superman’s case, wrecked the franchise for quite some time.) Webb’s work with Green Day and 3 Doors Down, directing music videos, means that these Spiderman adventures have to be spot on.
Now here’s the interesting thing. This re-boot starts off slow on the big screen, the most fun is the majestic gliding Garfield or some stand-in display in between collecting plutonium and arguing with Aunt May. But Webb and Sony / Columbia Pictures and the scriptwriters make the right turns and go down the proper avenues here. The “reboot” – starting with the Flying Nun – Sally Field – as Aunt May (get the irony? She flew in the 60s when Spidey was emerging as a superstar in the comic magazines) is not the silver-haired sweet granny from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s imagination. The reboot gives Sally Field a great platform to fly again. But equally important is what they do with Oscorp and Richard Parker, something never seen in the original comics – though these concepts could have been concocted by Marvel in the 90s and new millennium, I haven’t kept pace with the magazines which seem geared to another generation. Oscorp seems like something out of Marvel’s S.H.E.I.L.D. while the secrets Richard Parker held are very cool when Peter Parker finds his daddy’s subway tokens.
As Captain America: The Winter Soldier utilized Robert Redford (retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir in 2001’s SPY GAME) in a fun Spy vs. Spy sort of way…take that Napolean Solo Man From U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughn who didn’t fare as well in Superman III – the new “formula” is to give the 20 something’s what they want with the incessant explosions while the millions of hardcore comic book fans get new twists in this succession of superhero films which will continue with X Men Days of Future Past, Justice League of America, Avengers 2 and the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot…not to mention films that became comic books, Godzilla and Star Wars, also about to be unleashed.
Amazing Spider Man 2 DOES stick to an original storyline, as the Tobey Maguire flicks did, but it is a spoiler so suffice it to say that both the purists and those looking for a different angle will be satisfied. After the Timothy Burton Batman sequel started that franchise on the wrong path – the Batman III and IV of that series in the same dilemma as Superman III and IV – studios realized the value of these characters beyond ticket sales. They generate a lot of revenue outside of the theater, and they have to be treated with the respect the original sagas earned. This is the new art of the new century, though Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo may dispute it, they certainly would also enjoy what is happening in this realm.
So, yes, Amazing Spider Man II is good fun. It isn’t Avatar, it isn’t the Matrix, and until the current road map wears thin (when the merchandising slows down along with ticket sales) you won’t see too much innovation. However, the legendary names finding themselves jumping onboard (Redford in Iron Man, Michael Caine in Batman) is kind of like the Batman TV series having Hollywood icons jump into the fun and games. That it took Hollywood so long to get it is an essay for another day.
It’s nice to see Visual Radio guest Felicity Jones as Felicia at Oscorp appearing in Spiderman II, and she’ll probably be back for III as well. All in all, good acting after Jamie Foxx turns into Electro, the rest of the cast is fine, and it’s worth a few spins at the theater and will, no doubt, hold up well at home on DVD.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.