Friday, June 2, 2017

Spider-Man 2 (2004) Movie Review


      One of the very first cartoon shows I ever watched regularly as a kid was the 90’s Spider-Man series. However, while I enjoyed watching the show back then, I never called myself a fan of Spider-Man. I never read the comics, I didn’t really know any of the characters, and I didn’t even see the first theatrical “Spider-Man” movie when it premiered way back in 2002. Then everything changed in 2004, when I went with my friends to see “Spider-Man 2”. From that point on, Spider-Man became one of my all time favorite superheroes. Currently on my Blog site, I’ve been reviewing all the theatrical Spider-Man movies this month in celebration for the premier of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, but I decided to save “Spider-Man 2” for last, because this is one of my all time favorite super hero movies, and no other Spider-Man movie sense has measured up to this. I was first drawn to this movie when I saw that Doctor Octopus was going to be the villain, because I remembered him as my favorite from the cartoon show I grew up with. Plus, way before the first theatrical Spider-Man movie, I remember seeing this amazing advertisement for Universal Studios, which was featured on the old VHS tape of “Babe: Pig in the City”. It was a live action add that featured Spider-Man fighting Doctor Octopus on the wing of an airplane, which was really cool, and got me excited for the possibility of seeing them battle in a real theatrical movie. Needless to say, both the villain and the action lived up to my expectations, but it was the emotional focus on the characters, and the themes of the film that went above and beyond anything I had expected.


     The movie begins with a gorgeous opening credit sequence, featuring hand drawn paintings that recap all the events of the first movie. Now I personally saw this movie before the first film, and this opening helped clue me in on everything I needed to know. A year has passed sense Spider-Man defeated the sinister Green Goblin in the first movie, and now the city is safer than ever. Unfortunately, while the city prospers, Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter Parker get’s noting for it in return. Actually it’s worse than that, Peter Parker gets shunned for it. He can’t hold onto a job, he’s failing classes, and all of his family, friends, co-workers and even his land lord see him as just a plain lazy bum. It’s not for a lack of trying, he just can’t be everywhere at once. It’s just a tragic thing that’s happening to our hero, and it’s a very human situation I’ve never really seen before in a superhero film. With all the internal stress and conflict building up inside, Spider-Man suddenly starts losing his powers periodically. I really like that his failing powers are psychosomatic, as it makes this a story about the person behind the mask. With his life getting more and more complicated, Peter Parker throws away his costume and refuses to be Spider-Man any more. As a result Peters life finally starts shaping up again, but now it’s the city that’s suffering for it. I feel that the classic line of “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” is showcased better here than in any other incarnation of Spider-Man, as we do see his struggle between his life, and the safety of his city. Eventually the movie gives us a side plot involving a super villain with a dooms day machine, which fits just fine in a comic book adaption of this sort, but the focus is still on the human condition of our hero.


     The first Spider-Man movie was all about building the superpowers, but the sequel is all about the struggle of a regular, every day guy with those powers. The arching theme of “Spider-Man 2” is sacrifice, it’s about giving up what matters to us in-order to accomplish something meaningful to the world at large. There’s a beautiful scene in which Aunt May gives this heartfelt speech on what characterizes regular everyday people as hero’s, and it really gets to me every time I hear it. While the themes and morals of the movie are all very inspiring, the film also boasts a great deal of drama that makes me feel for the characters. There’s a really powerful moment in which Peter has this inner dream sequence of him talking with his late Uncle, and stating that he’s never going to be Spider-Man again. Moments like this get me more invested than any amount of flashy spectacle can achieve. We also have Peter Parker finally confessing to his aunt that he’s responsible for the death of his Uncle Ben from the last film, which was like an Oscar worthy moment that didn’t rely on obviously sad music, and just stuck with the solid performances from our two actors. I should also note that “Spider-Man 2” gives us our first taste of "on the nose" Jesus symbolism in a comic book movie. I’m whiling to let it slide here, but I hate how that’s become such an obvious cliché, especially in all those "Superman" movies. Also holding over from the first film is the death of the wicked Green Goblin, who was revealed to be the father of Peters best friend Harry Osborn. Now Peter has to deal with the guilt of taking his father away from his best friend. Harry himself is desperate to take his vengeance on Spider-Man. The conflicts between Harry and Peter work very well, but they never overstay their welcome either.


    Now even though “Spider-Man 2” feels less like a typical superhero movie and more like a drama, it’s still not without some great-A comic book material. Case in point, the villain Doctor Octopus is one of my all time favorite super villains I’ve ever seen in a movie. Granted he was already my favorite of Spider-Man’s foes, and it was great to see him brought to life on screen, but the movie makes all the right decisions with how to make an interesting character. Unlike the Green Goblin, this guy isn’t evil just for the sake of being evil. He’s fuelled with rage after the death of his wife and the failure of his experiments, and because of this the Doctor finds himself dominated by an evil influence to continue his work. I like that the doctors project is part of his dream to accomplish something meaningful, and it’s not just a dooms day device for the hero to destroy. Alfred Molina nails the role of Doctor Octopus in every respect, he looks the part, and channels the duality of the villain with perfection. With his four mechanical arms, and dark sarcasm, he definitely comes off as both a menacing and dominate threat, but we still feel just the right amount of sympathy for him too. One of his best moments is the hospital scene, in which his monstrous side really takes over, and the poor doctors feel the extent of his wrath. This scene was shot like a horror movie, and echoes back to the directors earlier “Evil Dead” movies. I also love the practical effects of his mechanical arms, as in many shots those arms are real props, and the CGI is only used when needed. Even the relationship between the hero and the villain was handled perfectly. I liked how the doctor was Peters professional mentor, which gave them just enough of a connection before they slip into their costumes.


    I really admire the filmmakers for taking a step back from all the special effects, and giving us a more character focused film. Both the action and special effects are used sparingly, but when they are on film, it’s some of the best the superhero genera has to offer. This movie even won the Academy Award for best special effects, and it’s always a treat when a film of this sort gets Oscar recognition.
 “Spider-Man 2” also features two of my all time favorite action scenes ever! The first is the battle at the bank, which escalates into an awesome dual on the side of a building. Seeing two super-powered characters fighting on the side of a building is something I’d only dreamed off, and seeing it come to life here was riveting. The layout, the energy, and a well placed Stan Lee cameo would have been enough to call this my all time favorite Spider-Man fight, if it weren't for what's coming up next. Obviously the greatest action scene of all is the deeply thrilling battle on the train. After all these years, this fight still gets me pumped, and I just love how creative this whole sequence gets. We have Spider-Man getting dragged on the road, balancing himself while hanging onto the side, and ducking oncoming trains and bridges. It’s just one big feast for the eyes, and definitely one of the all time greatest battles scenes from any superhero movie. I also love when his mask gets damaged, and he just pulls it off regardless of his identity. The scene ends on a high note as Spider-Man practically sacrifices his body to stop the out of control train. Now even though I love this film, I will admit it’s not the most consistently entertaining comic book movie either. It’s definitely a slower passed movie, but that’s not a negative as it all goes to developing the characters. It’s just that I have to be in the right mind set to appreciate this film.


      Now for all my praising the morals, drama and fleshed out characters, this is still a comic book movie, and it still has that cheesy, silly charm you typically get from Spider-Man. There’s some really odd moments with the supporting cast, where they deliver these over the top reactions, and it almost takes me out of the film. The montage set to the song “Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head”, shows just how silly the film can be, but it’s also quiet enjoyable if you can accept it as a directors style. Some of the comedy dose work, and I especially love the opening Pizza delivery scene. The absolute best comedy comes from the newspaper manager J. Jonah Jameson, who hates Spider-Man. He’s the kind of jerk I just love to hate, and J. K. Simmons is extraordinary in the role. To be honest, I think it’s one of the all time greatest casting choices for any comic book movie ever. That reminds me, even when watching the Spider-Man cartoon as a kid, I only paid attention to the hero, and the villains. Because of that, I have “Spider-Man 2” to thank for introducing me to all the human characters like J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, and even our heroes girl friend Mary Jane. Now Mary Jane is admittedly one of the weaker merits of the film, as I didn’t think her relation with Peter was always that interesting. They do have their great moments, but only near the end of the film. During the climax, Marry Jane is a damsel in distress again, but this time it’s absolutely warranted. After a thrilling rescue, Marry Jane finally see’s that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and it’s a deeply satisfying revelation. The past two movies have built to this moment beautifully, and it’s like this great wait has been lifted when she sees the man she loves for the hero he really is.


      On that note, let’s talk about the climax, which personally is my favorite finale of the whole series. Doctor Octopuses machine goes into meltdown, causing serious damage to the city, and our hero swings in for one final showdown with the villain. While the fight itself is riveting, I love that Spider-Man doesn’t defeat the bad guy though physical force. Instead he takes off his mask, revealing his identity and has a very deep back and forth talk with his enemy, even relaying the very same morals of sacrifice that his aunt May previously told him. This helps the Doc to regain control of his arms, and in one final move, he sacrifices both his dream and his very life to destroy the machine. It’s awesome to see Doctor Octopuses, one of Spider-Mans most lethal foes make a full reformation, and I love how just before he sacrifices his life he exchanges one silent look with our hero. With zero dialogue, every “I’m sorry for what I’ve done”, and “Thank you for bringing me back” is captured perfectly in that one look, and it’s just brilliant film-making.


      Even when all the action is said and done the movie continues to thrill as Harry gets a ghostly visit from his late father, and discovers the Green Goblins lair of weapons. It’s a great scene that upon my first viewing got me thrilled for a sequel, even though I still hadn’t seen the first film yet. Now days, cliff hangers like this only exist for the sake of setting up more sequels, but this was a natural progression of the story, and didn’t feel like added fluff. Once we get to the epilogue, it leads into the first, and only happy ending of the Spider-Man series thus far. Mary Jane refuses to go through with her marriage and chooses Peter Parker, and it's just so satisfying. Spider-Man then has one last epic swing through the city, and just before we cut to black, we get one last knowing look from Marry Jane that things aren’t going to be easy for them, which is a perfect book end to how the movie started with a close up of her face on the billboard.


     Much like its predecessor, “Spider-Man 2” has a soundtrack that’s very much a product, with the main selling song being “Ordinary” performed by Train. Its average, but I do genuinely love the song “Vindicated” performed by Dashboard Confessional. Something about this song captures a feeling of tragedy and heroism, which fits right along with the films tone. Once again we hear the 60’s Spider-Man theme song, but this time it’s a modern version performed by current talents, which this theme song really needed. On a side note, just before the premier of “Spider-Man 3”, this movie had an extended cut released on DVD called “Spider-Man 2.1”. For the common viewer, I’d just recommend sticking with the original theatrical cut, but I personally enjoy the “2.1” version a little more. The action sequences are longer, and I really like some select conversations added in. Peter and Harry have a much deeper conversation regarding how Harry wants Spider-Man dead the same way Peter wanted his Uncle Bens killer dead. I also like this one scene in which Mary Jane is hanging out with a best friend, who’s concerned if MJ is marrying a guy for the right reasons. While the friend is annoyingly direct, it’s still nice to see that Mary Jane has a social life, and the scene dose build on her arch. I will say that the new comedic and silly moments added in are really bad. There’s a shockingly goofy moment with J. K. Simmons playing around in a Spider-Man costume, and the once funny scene with Spider-Man in the elevator is now replaced with an annoying fan boy that just won’t shut up. Personally, I just ignore all that silly stuff, and still prefer the “2.1” version for its select moments and extended battle scenes.

     It goes without saying that I think “Spider-Man 2” is the best film in the web-heads theatrical film series by far, but I’d go further to call it one of the all time greatest super hero movies. It’s one of those rare comic book adaption’s that doesn’t feel like a typical superhero flick, in fact it actually feels like, well ... a real movie, one that just happens to have a superhero in it. Now of course “Spider-Man 2” still has cheesy moments to make fun of, and it’s admittedly not the most consistently entertaining superhero film, so you just have to be in the right mind set to appreciate it. If you look on any list of greatest movie sequels, you’ll commonly see “Spider-Man 2” among them. It’s kind of disappointing that after all these years, we’ve never gotten another Spider-Man movie that’s even come close to what this film accomplished. But hey, maybe the new “Spider-Man: Homecoming” series will pack a big punch, and deliver some fresh new adventures for our web-swinging hero. This concludes my series of Spider-Man movie reviews, and whether the new films deliver or not, “Spider-Man 2” still stands as one of my all time favorite comic book adaptations, as well as the template for how to make a near perfect Spider-Man movie.


I give 2004’s “Spider-Man 2” ... 5 stars out of 5.

The End 

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Review Coming Soon)


Spider-Man 3 (2007) (Movie Review)


      After ridding the high that was 2004’s “Spider-Man 2”, I was very excited to see what was going to happen in the following film. Then the poster dropped showing our hero in a black suit, which we fans know very well from the famous Spider-Man alien costume comic. Needless to say, this was one of Spider-Mans biggest arches, and to see it come to life on the big screen seemed like a dream come true. I distinctly remember counting the days in anticipation for this film, and then when it finally premiered ... well, needless to say the film hasn’t been well received. Most would rank 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” among some of the most disappointing franchise installments. As for me personally, I was also underwhelmed with this film, but I certainly don’t hate it either. This is actually a perfectly watchable superhero movie, with some great highlights, but it’s just not on par with its predecessors, and is definitely weighed down by some problems. No matter how much I try to be optimistic with “Spider-Man 3” it still remains to this day my personal least favorite of the wall-crawler’s theatrical movies. Without a doubt this is going to be a mixed movie review as there are lots of positives to discuss, but more than enough negatives to take note of.



      The movie begins with yet another outstanding opening credit sequence that recaps on the events of the past two films. Needless to say, the visuals on display in this opening are fantastic and the clip montage of the previous films gets me hyped for a final installment in a trilogy. Back in “Spider-Man 2”, our hero’s love interest Mary Jane learned that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are one in the same, and a real relationship finally takes place between the two. Unfortunately Peters former best friend Harry Osborn also learned of our hero’s real identity, and still blames Spider-Man for the death of his father, who was revealed to be the sinister Green Goblin back in the first film. Consumed with vengeance, Harry takes on the role of a second Green Goblin. On the flip side, Peter learns that a new super villain called The Sandman was originally a small time crook who was actually responsible for his late uncles death. Between both the new Goblin out for revenge, and Spider-Man out for vengeance against his uncles killer, a mysterious alien Symbiote is drawn in by all the conflict as it feeds off negative emotions. The Symbiote first attaches itself to our hero creating a new black suit in the process, which enhances Spider-Mans powers, as well as his rage. Soon Spider-Man realizes that his greatest battle isn’t against The Sandman or the new Goblin, but himself as he’s slowly giving in to his dark side.


      Not a bad premise for a Spider-Man film, and on paper it sounds fantastic. Most have complained that there were too many plot threads crammed into one movie, which I’m whiling to defend a little. I grew up watching the 90’s “Spider-Man” cartoon, and that show had several different plot threads and story arches all crammed into one season after another, and I still think it’s one of Spider-Mans best adaptations. Also, for as cluttered as the plot for “Spider-Man 3” gets, everything is at least connected in terms of theme and narrative. This is a story of revenge, and we see how vengeance takes hold of our principle characters in different ways. While the moral center of the previous “Spider-Man 2” was all about the sacrifices a hero makes, “Spider-Man 3’s” moral is all about the choices a hero makes. So there’s definitely a flowing theme and even moral quality to “Spider-Man 3”, but the problem all comes from the execution. Seriously, for all the quality material in this film, the devil is constantly present in the details.  


     My first major issue comes with our new main villain The Sandman, and how he’s now responsible for Uncle Ben’s death. Remember back in “Spider-Man 2”, we had that deeply touching scene where Peter confessed to his aunt May that he was responsible for his uncles death when he didn’t stop that thief. Well guise what, none of that matters now because this other guy was the killer the whole time. This revelation completely spoils one of the most important dramatic aspects of Spider-Mans character arch, as he was directly responsible for his Uncles demise. I understand that Spider-Man needed to be vengeful in order for the films theme to apply, but how about this, during a fight with the Sandman, he almost gets either Peters aunt or girl friend killed, and then he wants vengeance. That would have worked much better then resorting to a soup opera cliché of being his uncles killer. Also, the Sandman is given another back story in which he’s something of a “John Q” who’s committing crimes in order to save his sick doubter. This concept had a lot of great potential, but it only works as a set-up for a good character motivation. We get to a point in the movie where the Sandman just wants to kill Spider-Man, and the issue of his sick doubter is never resolved. We don’t even know if she died or if she was saved, it’s literally an issue that’s just left floating in the wind. The only thing consistent about the Sandman is that he’s very entertaining to watch as a super villain. His sand based power of shape shifting and morphing his body lead to some very creative designs, as well as terrific action set pieces. I didn’t care for the giant sand monster effect, but I loved when his sand powers were in-snick with his human form. I especially love that one effect in which Spider-Man sweeps out his legs, and the rest of the body just collapses ... that was awesome!  


     My biggest issue with this sequel is actually Peters relationship with Mary Jane. Now that MJ knows Peters identity, the stage is set to take their relationship to the next level, but unfortunately this film has them both take twelve steps back. Let me make a quick comparison to one of my favorite aspects of the classic 90’s Spider-Man cartoon. At the end of the fourth season, Peter revealed his identity to Mary Jane, and things only got better between them from then on. They got married, Mary Jane would help Spider-Man on the side lines, and there were just a lot of charming moments of her taking advantage of having a superhero for a husband. After “Spider-Man 2”, I was very excited to see their relationship go in a similar direction in these movies, but for no reason at all “Spider-Man 3” makes their relationship more complicated than ever. Our two leads are also surprisingly unlikable in this film. Obviously Peter will get corrupted by the black suit, but even before that he is completely oblivious to Mary Jane and all her problems. On the flip side, I think Mary Jane is way too much of a complainer in this film, and has a real bad habit of just storming off when her emotions get in the way. I admire the film for addressing that Mary Jane dose have her own problems, but everything just feels forced to me. There’s also this completely pointless blond girl thrown in the mix to make their relationship more complicated, and it’s not needed. There’s no reason for this character to be here, and the scene in which Spider-Man kisses the blond is probably the stupidest thing to put in one of these movies. Seriously, after all he’s done to be with Mary Jane, why on earth would Spider-Man kiss this other girl at a public event where he knows Mary Jane is watching?  


    Things just get worse with that stupid plot thread in which Harry Osborn blackmails Mary Jane to break up with Peter. Now obviously Harry is threatening Peters life, but Mary Jane knows that he’s Spider-Man and that he fights super villains for a living, so he can probably protect himself from Harry with ease. In fact, Peter actually beats the New Goblin severely in every one of their encounters, which makes him feel like even less of a threat. Even when Peter learns that Harry blackmailed her he doesn’t even bother talking to Mary Jane again to say “hey, threat neutralized, we can get back together”. It’s just a lazy excuse to get them right back to square one again, which we didn’t need in the first place. Another sub-plot that really needed to be worked on was Harry Osborn’s temporary amnesia. This actually had some potential to show Peter contemplating some ethical choices. He could have had a deep moment in which he asked himself, “do I continue to keep these secrets from my friend, or should I sit down with him and have a serious talk, confessing everything that’s happened”.  That would have been so much more compelling then that awful scene at the end with the butler telling Harry the truth about his father’s demise. On a side note, that butler could have saved a lot of time, and even saved lives if he had come forward with that information earlier. It’s dumb plot moments like these which have me wondering if the filmmakers ever sat down and had script meetings. 


     Aside from all the script problems, this movie is burdened with some plain stupid moments. Of course everyone complains about that moment with Spider-Man posing in front of the American flag, but I’m whiling to let that one slide as it really didn't bother me. One especially silly moment that always bugs me is that scene in which Mary Jane and Harry are dancing around the kitchen, and goofing around with food. What a waste of perfectly good screen time that could have gone to something meaningful, like actual character development. The dialogue in this film also gets really annoying. I mean the lines have been corny sense the first film, but this really pushes the cheesy lines into absurd territories. There’s also that painfully boring scene in which Aunt May recaps every single detail of when Uncle Ben first proposed to her. There are countless other scenes that can be nit-picked to death, but let’s just move on. The sound track is nice, and the new song “Signal Fire” performed by Snow Patrol isn’t that bad.  


      Despite all the silly moments and numerous problems in the script, the movie itself is at least very entertaining to watch, and there are still some fantastic individual scenes. 

The moment in which the Sandman first comes to life is one of my all time favorite scenes from any superhero movie. The music blends with the imagery beautifully, and the scene itself is a great example of visual story telling. Not a single word is spoken, yet you feel so much through the visuals and how the scene was shot and paced. While obviously not as good as the first two films, this movie is still considerably more fast paced, and features some of Spider-Mans greatest battles. The truck chase with the Sandman is personally one of my favorites. While the past two movies also featured car chases, this was the first to feature a villain, and it was just a great action set piece. The fight between Spider-Man and the Sandman in the subway was also riveting, and highlights the best moments of our hero in the black suit. I love the bare knuckle fight between Harry and Peter in the mansion sweat, as it’s completely in camera, and doesn’t feature any CGI. The first battle between Peter and the New Goblin also made for a great action set piece, but I have to admit that the CGI on display during that battle was really bad, especially when their flying through the obvious green screen back ally. I have to admit that while the action is thrilling, there is an over reliance on CGI, as opposed to the first two films that used its effects in just the right doses.


     Of course the biggest offender of all is when Peter becomes one with the black alien suit, and acts like an idiot looking for attention. Now in both the comics and the cartoon show, Peter becoming one with the alien suit was really dark and haunting stuff. The marketing for this film looked like it was in tone with the source material, but instead the movie takes the alien costume into a more comedic direction. There are at least some good moments like when Peter uses the suit to hunt down the Sandman, but that’s still not enough to compensate for all the ridiculous moments that follow. No joke, the silly moments with him in the black suit are so over the top goofy that the film honestly begins to feel like a parody, rather than an actual Spider-Man film. That dance scene in the Jazz club was unforgivable, and begs the question “What were they thinking?” On a side note, I was very annoyed that this film didn’t include the iconic dream sequence, which is personally one of my favorite moments from any of the comics. In this dream sequence, we see the evil suit battling the classic Spider-Man costume, which highlighted the war waging in Peter’s very soul between his darker half and his heroic side. What a missed opportunely, because director Sam Rami seems like the perfect visionary director to bring that scene to life in a theatrical Spider-Man movie. At least the famous scene in the bell tower with Spider-Man ripping off the alien suit was included in the film, and a terrific recreation of that moment from the source material. 



    After Peter abandons the alien costume, it soon latches itself to another host that comes in the form of a guy named Eddie Brock. Together they form a new villain called Venom, who has all of Spider-Mans abilities, and can even sneak around his spider senses. Now of all the villains from Spider-Mans rogue gallery, Venom is probably the most iconic and beloved by fans, so many were annoyed that he was only in the film for 10 minutes before he got killed off. 
Obviously the film should have ended with a cliffhanger of Eddie Brock becoming Venom so he could be the main villain of his own movie, but I’m also whiling to go with a little bit of this character if he’s done well. For example, in the 2008 movie “The Dark Knight”, the villain Two Face didn’t show up until the tail end of the film, and yet he still became my favorite of any Batman villain as seen in a theatrical movie. The problem with Venom is that the build up to him was pathetic. His human form of Eddie Brock is about as annoying, whiny and obnoxious as they get. Perhaps if Eddie Brock was either more tragic or more threatening, it would have been awesome to see him become Venom, but instead we’re stuck with this silly chump taking the role of Spider-Mans most lethal adversary. Heck, even when he becomes Venom, he still acts like this whiny looser, and it’s nothing like how the character from the source material should behave. Venom from both the comics and the TV show always spoke in third person, referring to himself as “We” or “Us”, because he was both the combination of both Eddie Brock and the alien costume, and both wanted vengeance against our hero. Just to pore more salt on the wound, this movie never once addresses that his name is Venom, what’s up with that? Now with all that said, I was still very happy to see Venom in a theatrical Spider-Man film. The effects for his monster face looked fantastic, and it still felt like something of a dream come true to see Spider-Man battling his most famous adversary in live action. I even like how this movie touched up on his design. Venom from the comics and the TV show was tailor-made to look like Spider-Mans darker opposite, so I never liked that he was always three times the size of our hero. This movie actually made Venom the exact same height and build of Spider-Man, which made him look and feel more like his evil twin, and I thought that was a nice touch.  
           

    Now of course we have our big epic climax, and while it doesn’t reach the same character or story highs as the first two films, I think the battle itself is the coolest of the whole series. Of course Mary Jane is a damsel in distress again, which is painfully tired and been done, but I love everything else. Seeing Spider-Man team up with the New Goblin to defeat the combined threats of the Sandman and Venom is the highlight of “Spider-Man 3” as a whole. While the events leading up to this weren’t handled very well, it’s still very satisfying to see Peter and Harry become friends again. Also, seeing these two hero’s fight side by side gave us our first real taste of what “The Avengers” would eventually deliver. The battle itself is a big long spectacle that covers a lot of ground and is just really fun to watch, despite some corny moments with that annoying crowd of people cheering them on. I will say that the Sandman’s reformation at the end felt very forced, as honestly there was no reason established as to why he had a sudden change of heart. The ending of “Spider-Man 2” at least showed Peter in a compelling back and forth talk with the villain which gradually led into his reform. The final scene in which Harry dies in the arms of his best friends is at least a very good moment, and helps close the series on something of an emotional high note. Although I’ll admit that Tobey Maguire’s crying face comes off as unintentionally hilarious. 

  
     When all is said and done, I can at least enjoy “Spider-Man 3” on some level. It is very entertaining at times, and it at least feels like a conclusion to a set trilogy of films. With that said, it’s still a disappointing film that should have been so much better. Putting aside all those stupid moments, “Spider-Man 3” really just needed to break away from the formulaic story telling of the previous films. It didn’t need any more forced relationship problems between Peter and Mary Jane. It didn’t need to give the Sandman a back story that was all set-up with no payoff. It didn’t need to bring in an iconic villain like Venom at last minute, just to kill him off after one fight. The film really needed to take more creative risks with its story and do things we hadn’t seen before. Maybe Sony got too involved with the project, or maybe the filmmakers were too comfortable with its successful formula to break away. While “Spider-Man 3” is obviously a shallow conclusion to a great series of films, it at least felt like a complete ending to the trilogy, and could have also been so much worse. At least I was able to take some positive merits and entertainment value away from this film, which is more then I can say for other bad sequels that miss their mark all together.  


I give 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” ... 3 stars out of 5.

Up next is a review of the latest film in the series “Spider-Man: Home Coming
To Be Continued ...
    

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) (Movie Review)


      2014 was a colossal year for comic book movies, with the debuts of hit films like “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. All three have a solid place among the greatest comic book movies ever made, which made that years “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” seem like a drop in the water by comparison. This sequel to 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” both underperformed at the box office and generated more negative reviews then any of the previous films in the web-heads series. The result was the cancellation of any future Amazing Spider-Man movies, and thus ending the series without any real payoff. It seems that everyone hates this movie, and heck, even “Spider-Man 3” didn’t generate this much of a negative reaction. However, like all my posts, I never review movies based on what the vast majority thinks of it, I’m reviewing this film based solely on how I feel, and what I took away from it. To be perfectly honest ... I liked “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. It’s not a great movie, it most definitely has problems that I’ll be addressing, and the criticisms aimed at the movie have been perfectly valid. Never the less, there are still several things I love about this film, to a point where I just don’t care about the obvious problems. Let me put it this way, the classic 2002 “Spider-Man” movie is obviously a more well constructed film, but I’d still rather watch “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” instead as the stuff I love in the film stick with me more. So let’s see what either works or doesn’t in Spider-Man’s most tangled web of a sequel.


       Following after the events of the last film, Spider-Man is now fully embraced as the cities hero, with both fire fighters and police officers in his support. However, the unsolved mysteries of his parents and sudden abandonment as a child are still eating away at him. Also holding over from the last film is the sudden death of police Captain Stacy and his final words to say away from his daughter, which is keeping our hero from pursuing a relationship with the girl he loves. Shortly after, Peter's best friend Harry Osborn has returned to town only to discover that his father is dead, he now has the responsibility of a billion dollar company thrown on his shoulders and worse yet, he’s coming down with the same case of “death” his late father had. The last piece of the puzzle comes in form on an over obsessive fan boy, crazy about Spider-Man who suddenly gets into an accident, and emerges as a super villain with lightning powers. That’s just the norm of living in a comic book world where the smallest of accidents can suddenly turn you into either a super hero or villain, and sense this is a franchise with only one hero, your only option is the ladder. So, much like “Spider-Man 3”, this film juggles multiple plot lines at once, but there are some merits that keep things afloat, at least for me. First of all, the multiple plot lines in this film are at least connected by one central theme, that of abandonment, and how it’s shaped our four principle characters. We have Peter Parker feeling abandoned by his parents, Gwen Stacy feeling abandoned by the man she loves, the vileness Electro feeling abandoned by his idled hero, and Harry Osborn feeling abandoned by the entire world. Second, for as cluttered as the film gets, everything remains bearable to watch, unlike “Spider-Man 3” which got down right painful at times with its stupidity.   

  
     The cast once again is outstanding, and I think Spider-Man himself is represented best in this film than any of the previous movies. The visual effect of our hero web-swinging is perfect, the costume looks much better, and I love the added features of his spider senses, as we actually see every detail of what Spider-Man needs to accomplish before a sudden action take place. Aside from all the technical details, the characterization of Spider-Man himself is flawless. For as great as some of the earlier movies got, I always felt that Spider-Man’s relation with the people he rescued was very distant. In this movie, Spider-Man makes both the viewer and the people of his city feel great. He treats everyone like friends or pears instead of anonymous save targets in a video game. I love this one moment when Spider-Man protects a little boy from some bullies, then he has a pleasant little conversation with him while making sure he gets home safely, and that was a charm that I just never got from the early films. I also love that whenever a new villain is on the scene, Spider-Man will actually try to talk and reason with them before resorting to fighting, which is fantastic, and it just makes me cheer for him all the more. Naturally our hero’s relationship with Gwen Stacy is another big highlight. Both Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are the engines pulling this train and the two just have perfect chemistry with one another. Not only is their relationship sweet, but I love seeing them work together, and solve problems together. In fact, Spider-Man would have never defeated the villain without her assistance. This does a great job making her feel like a real character, as opposed to someone cute that just needs to be rescued all the time. Even without Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy would still be a compelling lead.  


     Now of all the villains from Spider-Man’s rouges gallery, Electro would probably be the last one I’d choose as the main antagonist for a feature film. I never found him that interesting to begin with, and he just had the dumbest looking costume. So I had no expectations for him in this movie, and just hoped he could entertain me on some level. In this regard, Electro actually surpassed my expectations. I loved his re-design with transparent blue skin, and Jamie Foxx did a fine job supplying the character with menace. I surprisingly loved his dub-step theme, which should be stupid, but I honestly think it works. No other Spider-Man villain from the movies had their own music score, and I thought this track gave the character more of a presence. I love how the music builds whenever the action heats up between him and our hero. Once again, the special effects of his lighting powers, and how he becomes one with electricity is fantastic. Unfortunately, Electro still doesn’t qualify as a good villain, in fact he feels tacked on, like he’s just their so the movie can have a super villain. His transition from fan boy to bad guy wasn’t handled very smoothly, and the script has no idea what to do with him as a player. Once he gets his electrical powers he’s immediately knocked out, held prisoner by some cartoony mad doctor, and then freed to fight in the finally. So as I predicted, Electro wasn't a very good villain, but credit where it's due, he was far more entertaining to watch then he had any right to be.


        If there was any other villain I was looking forward to seeing less in a theatrical Spider-Man movie other then Electro, it would definitely be the Rhino. In both the comics and the cartoon show, the Rhino was just a physical threat with no real character or motivations to speak of. Plus, with Paul Giamatti over acting the hell out of this performance, I really didn't want to see him as a main villain. Thankfully that is not the case, the Rhino barely has more than a cameo, which is both merciful and a nice touch. I always pictured the Spider-Man universe as one where villains can spike-up randomly from anywhere, some minor and some major. By giving the Rhino this little role, it made Spider-Mans universe feel much larger, and it's just great to know that not every super villain has to be a main threat. Although, the Rhino's re-design from muscle suite to robot is still pretty silly. One other minor character that took me by surprise was Felicia Hardy, played by Felicity Jones from "Rouge One: A Star Wars Story". Aside from featuring a wonderful actress, Felicia has always been my favorite girl friend character from Spider-Man's love interest roster. In both the comics and the TV show she became our hero's partner in fighting crime called the Black Cat. While she's still just a throw away character in this film, it was still cool too see her at all.  


         The last character to address is Peter Parkers best friend Harry Osborn played by Dane DeHaan. His father is briefly seen played by Chris Cooper, and his death gave me the great satisfaction that I wouldn’t have to put up with the Green Goblin again. Of course Harry becomes a new Green Goblin of sorts, which is fine, I prefer that to strait forward rehash of the same Green Goblin from the original. I really liked that this movie spent more time focusing on Harry Osborn as both a friend and a victim long before he becomes a villain of any sort. Many have complained that it was rushed, but I thought his transformation was handled fairly well. Unlike Electro who just went evil for no reason, we see the progression of Harry Osborn going downhill. We also see his best efforts to do good before taking desperate actions, and that was another detail I really appreciated. While we don’t get the buildup lasting over several films like we did in the original trilogy, this still worked for me. I bought the friendship between both Harry and Peter, and I just felt more sympathy for the guy. Also, I really didn’t care that this Goblin had limited screen time, after all we’ve seen these Green Goblin’s in two previous movies already, so I'm done with them, lets move on.    


                Okay, now it’s time to address the absolute worst aspect of the movie by far, which is Peter’s quest to discover more about his mysterious parents. Oh boy, this was mildly interesting in the first film, but it really should have been resolved in that movie. Leaving it open to continue in this film was just plain stupid ... and boring a hell in this film. This was based on the comic series of Spider-Man’s parents, in which they were revealed to be traders to their nation, and it just has no business being here. Whenever the movie is building some momentum with either the unveiling of a new villain, or interesting character relations, it all comes to a screeching halt whenever the issues of Peter’s parents come up again. There is at least one very emotional scene between Peter and Aunt May as they discuss the whole family situation, but it’s still not enough. We have this long, boring opening in which we see every single detail of what happens to his parents, and thus spoiling any potential surprises down the road. Then the movies waists a good deal of time just watching Peter go on a scavenger hunt of sorts until he finally finds a video from his dad, telling him exactly what we already saw in the opening. So what the heck, why is this in the movie? Personally, I think it should have gone like this... That whole prologue should have been part of an opening credit sequence, complete with a music score and no dialogue, minus the fathers message which is heard throughout. Then as the credits continue we see Peter discover the message. When the message ends, the credits are wrapped up, cut to black, big title screen comes up and then we continue with the rest of the movie.


      For me, it’s the middle act of the movie that suffers the most. The first act actually dose a reasonable job setting up characters and plot threads, and the third act in my opinion is about as perfect as Spider-Man movies get. Unfortunately, that middle act does bring the film down hard, as the script has no idea how to organize the various plots or balance the pacing. There’s just this lack of focus on what the movie is about and it just feels like a boring mess at times. It should be noted that, even though the multiple plots weren’t organized very well, this movie at least put its characters and their arches before action and spectacle. Actually, if you ignore both the opening prologue with Peters parents, and the epilogue with the Rhino, there are only three action scenes in the film. We have the opening car chase, the attack on Time Square in the middle, and the final showdown at the power plant. By spending more time with the characters, I honestly felt more invested in the battles. The action has also gotten much bigger, with Spider-Man fighting in larger areas, yet it still has the same sharp choreography and style of its predecessor.


    Now I never thought I’d say this because while I loved Danny Elfman’s score from the original trilogy ... I honestly like Hans Zimmer’s new music score a little more. It may not be as grand, but it fits with Spider-Man very well. This music just has this triumphant, yet “fun” feel which reflects off the character wonderfully. I really want to give director Mark Web some serious credit, because he’s clearly putting his best efforts into the overall emotion and look of the film. On that note, I think this is the best looking Spider-Man movie by far. It’s bright, colorful, and looks like a comic book brought to life on the big screen. I will admit that the comedy, while very funny at times, tends to overstay it’s welcome. For example, there’s a running joke with Peter keeping his identity secret from Aunt May, which is very amusing at first, but then it just keeps going. Even the cute banter between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy goes a little too long. Jami Fox certainly has his annoying quirks, and then there are some downright silly moments. One little detail that just amuses me to no end comes during the opening car chase, in which we see at least 30 cop cars chasing down a single armed truck. It’s like something out of “The Blues Brothers”, because there all crashing into each other, and it’s just so silly.


     Now let’s talk about the ending, because in my opinion, this is the best finally of the whole series. I love the buildup, as we see our hero swinging through the city while chasing this electrical trail left by the villain, the music builds, and I just get chills all over. As the battle begins Electro and Spider-Man fight in this colorful electrical plant, which is a cool design, and it’s a lot of fun watching our hero leap all over the pillars while the villain relentlessly blast him with electricity. Some of the best moments once again are Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy working together to defeat their foe. Once Electro is beaten the new Green Goblin makes his attack, which leads into a deeply thrilling fight in a clock tower. There’s a real sense of dread as the fight builds, and as Spider-Man does his best to keep Gwen safe, we the audience are terrified knowing what’s about to happen. Obviously this ending was inspired by the classic Spider-Man comic in which Gwen Stacy dies, and for the most part, there are some great improvements on its source material. First of all, Gwen is conscious throughout the whole battle, so we have this nervous hope that she might make it out okay. Also the clock tower setting in my opinion is a huge improvement over the clichéd bridge setting, because the clock is literally and figuratively ticking away to her demise. Finally, the death is hauntingly tragic, as not only did we loose one of our favorite characters, but Spider-Man lost Gwen just as he was saving her. The whole scene was just shot beautifully, and the emotion of this lose really hits home. It was thanks to Gwen being there that Spider-Man was able to save the city from Electro, but he just couldn’t keep her safe in the end, making this a hollow victory. The only thing the comic did better was that Gwens death came at the hands of Spider-Man’s arch nemesis, and that’s just not what happened here. 


      Now we segue into the films epilogue, which dose start on an emotional high note. We see Peter attending Gwens funeral, and he stays there at her grave for many, many months. No dialogue, no overly sympathetic music score, just Peter standing there over a passage of time, and everything going on in his mind is left for us to interpret. If only the film had just ended right then and there, it would have been one of the most powerful endings to any superhero movie I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately the film still goes on, and on. We see Harry Osborn in prison and for absolutely no reason at all he wants to organize a team of super villains. Just to push this stupid cliff hanger even further, we have that mysterious man in the coat walking around a room fool of villain product placements. We see the Vulture’s wings, Doctor Octopuses mechanical arms, and it’s all setting up for a potential Sinister Six movie. Yeah, remember that outstanding cliffhanger at the end of “Spider-Man 2”, when Harry Osborn’s reflection became his late father and then he discovered the Green Goblins lab ... that was downright chilling. Not just as a set up for another film, but as a natural, exciting progression of the story. This Sinister Six set-up is just there for the sake of marketing and fan serves. I will say that, because of the franchises cancellation, I’m glad we have an ending in which Spider-Man returns to crime fighting after his tragic lose. This actually gave the ending a sense of tragedy and triumph all at once.


     Is this a perfect ending for the Amazing Spider-Man series ... no, not even close, and there’s still several plot threads unresolved. However, I think this film is still more satisfying than not. I certainly hated all the obvious set-up for future films that never came to be, and the scrip had no clear narrative focus. With all that said, I still find this to be a perfectly good Spider-Man outing. This is still one of Spider-Mans best portrayals on film to date, the cast once again make it worthwhile, the battles are genuinely thrilling, the effects are top notch, and that tragic finally still gives me chills whenever I watch it. I know this isn’t a very common opinion, but I think there’s far more good here then bad. Thanks to a stellar ending, and other merits throughout, this is still one of my more favorable Spider-Man films. I completely understand why many fans didn’t like it, and it’s no surprise that the Amazing Spider-Man series was canceled afterwards. It’s all very average, but perfectly enjoyable, cluttered and messy, but not without some high entertainment value. I’d much rather watch this then 2007’s “Spider-Man 3”, and while this still isn’t a great sequel, I don’t think it’s by any means a terrible one either. As for The Amazing Spider-Man series as a whole, it dose feel very pointless, especially when sandwiched between the classic trilogy and the Spider-Man featured in Marvels cinematic universe. It mostly retreaded familiar ground, favored set-up over story and both films just felt like products rather than movies. Even with that said, I can still watch and enjoy both "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" as neither are without some merits and even some improvements over previous films. Lets just hope the new "Homecomingseries plays out better.    




I give “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” ... 3 ½ stars out of 5.

"Spider-Man 3" Review Coming Next ...

To Be Continued ...