Today is free comic book day. It’s the chance to go down to your local comic book store and grab a free comic book and gain entrance to the secret world previously unknown to you but one that is slowly taking over the universe: FanBoys (and Girls). Let’s face it, nearly our entire popular culture is driven now by the comic book culture, from the most popular television shows (Big Bang Theory and Walking Dead) to the most popular social/pop culture annual gathering (ComiCon) to nearly every major Hollywood summer movie. Makes me almost embarrassed to admit the only comic books I read as a kid were Tintin and Archie. I feel so un-cool.
So when I innocently stand in line and buy my ticket for a movie in the summer, wholly aware I am out of my element, I do so with a few things in mind. One, I expect to really not have much of an idea of what’s going on—the “mythology” or the “inner life” of the superhero character I know will be lost on me because I am not especially immersed in the history of the story (unless it’s Superman—thanks, Chris Reeve). Two, I will need to check my critical eye at the door because I know nobody involved in the movie was trying to make the next Citizen Kane. [The goal, generally, of these big, Hollywood superhero movies is to collect records, not awards. This means high octane, overseas-market-friendly, family-ready, action-filled spectacle, loaded with what makes Hollywood movies soar: special effects. Which, in turn, generates the only reviews studio executives care about this time of year: $$$$.] And lastly, I aim merely to be entertained. It’s been a long, dark winter and spring with nothing at the theatre worth seeing and I am dying to be back at the movies: just make it fun and I’ll be happy. I really don’t have high standards in May. I had zero standards in February, March and April, so who am I to complain.
Maybe this is why I’m one of the few people who actually liked The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), the reboot of the Spider Man franchise, starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Even though the reviews weren’t so grand, right on track here comes the sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, with Garfield and Stone reprising their roles as Peter Parker/Spider Man and his love interest Gwen Stacey, along with director Marc Webb also returning.
Short and sweet (which this movie isn’t, clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has its moments of really idiotic action sequences and (of course) a ridiculous villain, but, for the most part, when it’s quiet, the movie is completely worthwhile and entertaining. Garfield and Stone, as well as relative newcomer Dane DeHaan (stepping into James Franco’s role from the Tobey Maguire Spider Man movies) make the movie worth watching, as they are so charismatic, they make you forget you are watching a superhero movie. Until, that is, the unfortunate action scenes begin and then you’re back into Bombastville, where it’s stupid-is-as-stupid-does.
The only good thing about the CGI action sequences in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is that director Marc Webb and his probably brilliant special effects team went to great effort to make it feel like you are watching a comic book come to life. Unlike recent disaster The Man of Steel, which was all glower and seriousness, the big save-the-city sequences here have a real sense of fun and child-like spin to them, with camera tricks, slo-mo and angles that pop, just like comic book panels come to life. It really is an effective use of the medium that I loved.
The story itself gets bogged down though, as usual, with silly villians and weighed down plot and blah blah blah. All I cared about, all I can imagine anyone cares about, is the relationship between Peter and Gwen and that’s what saves this movie. And Garfield and Stone rocked it. They are both such strong actors and even stronger together, it makes every scene they have together light as air. Thankfully, there are many.
I was dreading Jamie Foxx and I was right. Sally Field walks in with her two Oscars and does her thing. Campbell Scott shines in his brief scenes. Really, why doesn’t he work more?
But, overall, if you are paying for a ticket to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2, you know what you are paying for—and you get it. What you don’t know is that the movie will actually give you just a little bit more, in terms of cheekiness, inventiveness, heart and entertainment. Just try to ignore all the really, really stupid parts.
And if you are a newly-minted FanBoy (or Girl) and are officially offended by this review, I officially apologize. Besides, tomorrow is Star Wars Day and very happy, you will be.