Review – Even Our Reviews Get Sequels… (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”)

It’s widely regarded that the reason the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” franchise died was the introduction of  too many villains in his third movie. Sandman, Venom, AND the Green Goblin, plus an iffy script, sunk the franchise for good. . .so it was with great consternation I felt when screenplay writers Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner announced they were doing the same thing for part two of the reboot series! Introducing three super villains; Electro, the Green Goblin, and Rhino. Yikes!


*

We have college grad Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) doing his thing again as Spider-Man, after saving NYC from the villainous Dr. Curt Connors (aka The Lizard) and getting yummy girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in the wake. Not too shabby.  After a prologue about Richard Parker’s (that’s Peter’s father) death, Spider-Man has a exciting opening capture in downtown NYC of  Russian criminal, Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) after he’s stolen some plutonium. During the chase, Spider-Man saves an Oscorp employee named Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) from death. Max, it seems, is a brilliant electrician, but a nebbish introvert and sociopath who’s obsessed with Spidey’s fame.

But uneasy lies the head that wears a webbed hood. Peter is haunted by his duty as the city’s hero and his love for Gwen, which makes her a instant target for any looney that wants to get to him. Not to mention his growing desire to find out what really happened to his father. 

Meanwhile, Max suffers a near fatal electrical accident at Oscorp that turns his skin translucent blue and his whole body into one big generator. He feeds off anything electrical and heads for Times Square. After reeking havoc there, Spider-Man takes him down and Max is incarcerated at the Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane, a privately funded Oscorp mental facility and prison.

And speaking of Oscorp, young Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) says goodbye to his dying father, Norman (Chris Cooper) who tells him he’s slowly dying from a family inherited disease! Gee, thanks dad! Harry thinks that Spider-Man’s blood might hold a cure for him, but the webcrawler refuses to help, saying that nasty side effects could happen. Needless to say, Harry now hates Spider-Man.

Back at Oscorp, Harry, cocksure and full of gravitas, starts to run his company as his own playground, much to the ire of his fellow board members. He also discovers his fathers hidden “special development” area that is off limits and top secret. Hmmm. I wonder what’s down there? But Harry’s snooping around gets the better of him and Donald Menken (Colm Feore), CEO of the board, has Harry fired and thrown out. But revenge is a dish best served with a side of ‘juice’, and Harry breaks Max (who now calls himself “Electro”) out of Ravenscroft in exchange for power and Spidey’s blood!

Just as Electro gains unimaginable electrical strength and starts to blackout the city AND battle Spider-Man in the process, Harry forces CEO Donald to that secret room and have him injected with genetically altered spider venom. But, oops! That venom has a serious side-effect and while Harry is cured of his disease, but also he’s driven mad and dons a mechanical biogenetic weaponized body suit with it’s own personal jet glider. Oh, and did I mention his skin is a strange shade of green and his hair is all wacky?

Across town, thanks to Gwen and her knowledge of the power plant, Spider-Man defeats Electro, but then has to deal with the newly hatched Green Goblin (who isn’t really named at this point). There is a shocking ending and the beginning of part three with the Rhino (Paul Giamatti again) rampaging in town inside a huge metallic beast suit. Don’t look for red-headed Mary Jane Watson (Shailene Woodley) here, as her part was filmed and then cut out of the final print. Will she be back for the third film? We’ll see.

Okay, so you DO have three super villains, but they’re spread out through the whole movie. Electro takes up 90% of the core villainy with Goblin and Rhino making only lengthy cameos at the end. But what about part three’s villains? This is certainly telegraphed in the movie as you can plainly see “Doc. Ock’s” tentacles and Vulture’s wings in laboratory cases inside Oscorp’s secret lair. Yes, the “Sinister Six” film is already planned. 

The real highlight here is Jamie Foxx as Max/Electro. He’s just so good first as the bespectacled nerd at work, then as an evil villain who is at first confused and scared and later drunk with power. Garfield and Stone still have the chemistry that lit up the screen in part one and you can see that it has grown. Having a real-life relationship will do that. Spider-Man is more jokey here and more of the city’s hero, which is nice, but I’m missing J. Jonah Jameson, who is only mentioned in an e-mail and yes, father-creator Stan Lee makes his requisite appearance as usual.

Director Marc Webb (gotta chuckle at that) does a great job at keeping the action going, but I have a problem with the script: too much story! You got SO many storylines whizzing about (I didn’t even touch on half of them in this review) that it’s hard to keep track. One of the very best plots written was Raimi’s  “Spider-Man 2” with the intro of Doctor Octavius and his mechanical arms. It was focused and detailed and didn’t stray from the original story. This movie is all over the map plus there were way too many down-times that didn’t add to the overall tone of the film. I just hope that part three in 2016 regains it’s footing!

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010)


*

After playing in a battle of the bands competition, Scott is smitten with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a hard-core, multi-hair color-changing girl. Obsessing over Ramona, Scott dumps Knives and finds out, much to his horror,  that to keep her as his girlfriend, he must defeat her seven “evil exes”.

Oh, and each of her exes has a different fighting style that, when Scott defeats them, he is rewarded by gold coins falling from the air and gains “points”, just like a video game! And nobody acts like this is a weird thing! Some of the fun “exes” he must face are none other than “Captain America” Chis Evans, as a egotistical movie star skateboarder, and “Superman Return’s” Brandon Routh as a platinum blonde-haired Vegan rock star. Each fight is uniquely choreographed and stylized, with no two alike.

Peppered throughout all of this is Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin), who disperses sage advice and tries to steer Scott on the straight path to love (so to speak). In the end, Scott must face his fears with not only his band and their playing against evil musicians, but battling against Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman)mastermind behind the League of Evil Exes and Ramona’s final evil ex.

Based on the graphic novel by Byan Lee O’Malley, the diabolically brilliant screenplay by Edgar Wright (who also directed) and Michael Bacall is just genius. From the comic book balloon signs popping up, to the color pallets and washes that spill over to the “next page”, to the graphic novel-ish distortions come to life on camera, this picture is very much like “Watchmen“, only a helluva lot funnier.

Highly recommended.

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