by D.W. Lundberg

Friday, February 13, 2015


There are good movies and there are bad movies. There are bad movies with pieces you admire and good movies with scenes you'd be happy to do without. And it's hard to tell which is worse. I vote the former, because any stinker that seems to get so much wrong from the outset is only that much more frustrating when you catch glimpses of its greatness - those moments, however fleeting, where its makers have an absolute grasp of their material. It's scenes like these which we'll highlight for the purposes of this series.

I apologize if I've been harping on Sony Pictures' rebooted Amazing Spider-Man series a little too much as of late. I don't mean to sound like some disgruntled fanboy, unhappy with even the slightest attempt at "modernizing" everyone's favorite web-slinging superhero for the silver screen. Watching them mishandle the property so spectacularly for so long, however (I'm talking about 2007's woebegotten Spider-Man 3 and onward), it's only natural that the reboot became the proverbial punching bag among comic book-to-movie franchises, especially in lieu of Marvel Studios' continued dominance at the box office. (Which is what makes Sony's recent decision to "loan" Spider-Man out to Marvel such an exciting prospect - if you're going to reboot the character, you might as well give it to people who know what they're doing.)

As you're no doubt aware, I have not been a fan of The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) - it's too dour, tries too hard to re-imagine everything that's come before it, and Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is much more confident and charismatic than his comic book counterpart ever was (though that probably has more to do with Garfield's real-life persona than anything else). And while it's not much of an improvement, last year's Amazing Spider-Man 2, at least, tries to offer up a few decent thrills (and a different villain) than we've seen in the past - that is, when it, too, isn't working overtime to re-imagine everything that's come before it. (Relationship troubles and Harry Osborn again as the Green Goblin? Really?)

In fact, if you take the centerpiece scene of TASM2 - Spidey and Electro's first confrontation in Times Square - and watched it completely out of context from the rest of the movie, you might think you'd dropped smack-dab in the middle of the perfect Spider-Man adventure:

All the essential elements are there: Spidey's sarcastic sense of humor ("Yo, Sparkles!"), used to catch his enemies off-guard...

... homemade web-shooters...

... his uncanny Spider-sense, which gives him the ability to detect potential dangers before they actually happen...

... the look of utter joy and gratitude on the faces of the people he saves (the one aspect, I'll admit, where these rebooted Spider-Mans excel and Raimi's films come up short)...

... and finally, Spidey working hand-in-hand with authority figures (here, cops and firemen), ending the clip on a clever joke:

Even the color palette is brighter and less diluted than the first ASM - ice-cold blues and neon reds, like the pages of a comic book:

It's the one scene in the movie where director Marc Webb (love that name for a Spider-Man gig, by the way), his army of screenwriters (including Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, of Star Trek reboot fame) and the rest get everything unabashedly, unequivocally right - where Spider-Man gets to be Spider-Man and we don't have to worry about questions like, "Hey, didn't they do this already in a previous movie?" or "Gee, I wonder how many films it will take before that not-so-subtle Easter egg pays off?" or "Just how does Harry learn to pilot that glider after riding on it for, like, only ten minutes?" And that's a particular point of frustration because, had the rest of the film followed suit, we might have been treated to something truly special. As it is, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 spends too much time treading familiar ground and too little time telling a story worth justifying its existence.

Oh, well. Bring on the (re)reboot!

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