The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Review

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Rating 7/10

Directed by : Marc Webb. Cast: Andrew GarfieldEmma StoneJamie FoxxDane DeHaanFelicity JonesPaul GiamattiSally Field.

Let’s be honest, I’ve always been a sucker for Spiderman. So you may feel this review is a little bit biased by my love for the character. When I was a little skinny 5 years old boy I used to dress up in a Spidey costume and I remember feeling invincible (despite the fact that I looked even skinnier and more feeble than ever with those red and blue tights on).

When the first Amazing Spider-Man was released back in 2012 I was there on opening night, on the biggest IMAX screen Britain has ever seen (or so the slogan says), dragging my pregnant wife (Little Jr. inside the belly wasn’t too pleased about the loud subwoofer apparently), filled with excitement, despite fearing the worse (early trailers didn’t look that good) and hating the idea of a new reboot so soon after Raimi’s trilogy. In the end Andrew Garfiled managed to win me over and I was probably one of the few bloggers out there completely satisfied with the Marc Webb‘s reboot (You can still read my review for the first film here).

The Amazing Spiderm-man 2 swings into our screens followed by an overwhelming number of trailers and teasers. So many in fact that I walked into the theatre feeling that I had already seen most of the film. Luckily, there were enough surprises throughout to keep it all fresh, including the biggest surprise of them all which obviously I am not going to reveal (but which will be the one that you’ll be dying to talk to somebody about, after you’ve seen this film).

Well, let me tell you straight away: I loved this movie! This is my idea of a perfect Comic adaptation: a mix of humour, action, over-the-top baddies, and some emotionally charged scenes. And once again, just like in the previous instalment, this is where director Marc Webb shines: the relationship with between Andrew Garfiled and Emma Stone is almost tangible and it’s definitely one of the strong cards; credit to the director of course, but also and especially to the actors).  Garfiled, first and foremost, doesn’t just inhabits the character to perfection (Tobey Maguire is now completely gone from my memory) but he also manages to make him relatable, funny and bizarrely… real! I must confess he even managed to bring a few tears into my eyes a couple of times.

The pace, the action and the special effects, all seem to have gone up a couple of gears too. Right from the bright and energetic beginning as the camera swoops through the skyscrapers of Manhattan, this feels straight away a much more confident film than the first. There’s no more comparisons to draw with an already told story and the ghost of Raimi is nowhere to be seen despite the fact that his previous “2nd SpiderMan” is possibly known as one of the best superhero movie ever (I can hear a lot of Avengers fans screaming with rage… hahaha).

Manhattan itself takes centre stage like only the big Apple can do, while a series of perfectly cast characters enhance every moment in the film: from the forever-reliable Sally Field and the surely future Oscar winner Dane DeHaan (I don’t think you can argue with this premonition), to the deliriously over-the-top Paul Giamatti and the electrically charged Jamie Foxx who manages be sad and terrifying at the same time.

If there is one criticism to make is probably that the film tries to do too much, as it handles too many threads and character and runs for a bit too long (what film doesn’t these days?), but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy every single moment and I did not look at my watch once.

Yes, the editing is a bit choppy and the order of some of the scenes sometimes feels a bit arbitrary (clearly they must have left a fair bit in the editing room), but it’s all entertaining enough and it all runs along at a brisk pace that you hardly notice it.

Call it what you want, escapism, pop-corn film-making, Hollywood money-sucking machine… but when I go and see a movie called Spider-Man, this is exactly what I want to see.

7 Stars (out of 10)

The Avengers – Review

THE AVENGERS (2012) 

Directed by Joss Whedon. Starring Robert Downey Jr.Chris EvansMark RuffaloChris HemsworthScarlett JohanssonJeremy RennerSamuel L. JacksonGwyneth PaltrowTom Hiddleston.

At the time I’m writing this, just 2 weeks after its release, the Avengers (or as it is, stupidly, known in the UK, Avengers Assembled) has already broken all the possible records at the box office (biggest opening, biggest week-end, biggest poster, longest end-credits and so on) and it’s fast and steadily climbing along the list of the top grossing movies in history. So basically no matter what I think or say (read as “bugger off moviegeek!”), this movie is a massive success anyway! To be anti-Avengers would mean being pretty much against anyone who’d be interested in reading this blog… So going into the theatre I had a certain trepidation and fear at the same time… What if I don’t like it? Will I be able to tell my friends… and readers?

Well, you know what? We can all relax, because I actually found the Avengers (I’m sorry, but I refuse to call it with the UK title), not just entertaining, but actually among the best movie about superheros I’ve seen in a while. It is certainly up there with both Spiderman 2 (my favourite from the Spiderman-Raimi trilogy… but then again I have a Spidey soft spot), and, might not be as stylish those first two Nolan-directed Batman movies, but it’s certainly a lot more fun.

If you’re going to see a superhero movie, this is exactly as it should be! And if you’re going to see a movie where lots of superheroes get together, this is exactly as it should be done!

Hats off to Marvel and Joss Whedon, whose gamble seems to have really paid off!

We’ve been teased by tantalising snippets, trailers and film clips for years and the expectations seemed to be just a little bit too grand to be gracefully met… and yet the Avengers is everything it should have been and probably a bit more than that.

It understands exactly what comics are and the kind of wide range audience they are speaking to: for a start it is all very light and tongue-in-cheek the way it should be (after all this is a make-believe-world where people fly, turn green and travel from space), it is very funny (I surprised myself a couple of times laughing out-loud as I had not done in a long time in an action film. There a couple of moments involving the Hulk which caused the biggest and most spontaneous laugh from an audience I can remember since Indiana Jones shot the sword-man in Raiders of the lost Ark). But aside from this, however far-fetched and silly it all is, the action is done skilfully, the story is told with conviction and characters are rooted in enough reality to make it all much more enjoyable, so that even though you know exactly that no superhero is ever going to die, you are still sitting on the edge of your seat trying to work out how on earth they’re all going to come out alive.

The film is beautifully balanced, filmed and crafted with meticulous attention by a studio and a director who clearly care and they are not just going for the big explosions a-la Transformers (though, you do get those too!). Whedon has created a something for the hard-core fans, the geeks and nerds but also the freshman, the first-timer and the novice. He gives each character the right amount screen-time and whoever you’re a fan of, you won’t feel shortchanged. He created the perfect baddie, he orchestrated the smoothest actions scenes, fast and yet always clear. He even answered the ultimate geeky questions like “Who’s stronger Thor or Captain America? Iron Man or the Hulk?”, but on the other hand he was always aware of his newcomers and gives them enough information to be able to enjoy the film and follow the story without resorting to boring expositions.

Clocking at around 2 hours and a half the Avengers rarely looses its steam (it has a bit of a dip just before the last battle, but it picks up straight away and it’s hardly noticeable): yes you may argue both the two great action set-pieces go on for a little too long, but there are so many characters to follow, that it’s a weakness I’m willing to forgive.

The Special Effects are pretty seamless and the music is well judged throughout: you get the hero theme, but also you get the silence when there should be some. Even the 3D wasn’t as annoying as it usually is and the retro-fitting was very well done too.

Of course, it’s ludicrous, but hey, it’s the Avengers, it’s not a arty-French drama!  To be honest I had not had so much fun watching an action movie in a long time! Only one suggestion: try to watch it in a packed cinema with an audience of fans and just go with it!

Does it deserve to be the third top grossing movie in history? Certainly not, but as long as it knocks down Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest I’m happy.

7.5/10

CHECK OUT MY OTHER REVIEWS OF SUPERHEROES:

Thor

Captain America

Green Lantern

Captain America – Review

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) 

Directed by Joe Johnston. With Chris Evans, Hayley AtwellTommy Lee JonesHugo WeavingStanley TucciToby Jones

If you are an average viewer with at least half a brain,with close-to-no-interest-whatsoever in comic books, or simply just exhausted by the overload of comic heroes out there at the moment, you might be asking yourself “Do we really need yet another movie adapted  from a comic, and more importantly, can we possibly care less about a film that flashes out that all-American gun-ho/patriotic spirit  right from the word go and proudly shows it even in its title? A spirit which is so out-of-date these days, in a post-9/11-Bush-and-economic-crisis era, like the one we’re all living today. Probably the answer to both questions will be a resounding “No, please!”.

Surprisingly “Captain America” might just be one of the best of its kind and certainly the best comic adaptation of the year (yes, I’d say better than Thor, which actually wasn’t too bad either and 100% better than that shameful Green Lantern).

The film-makers are obviously very aware of the cynical eyes of today’s audience towards jingoism and that slight anti-American feeling that is slowly creeping in beyond their own country. A misstep too far in bringing this latest superhero to the screen might not only jeopardize their international box office takings, but also (and more important) their long-awaited spin-off “The Avengers” (due to be released next year) of which “Captain America” was the last crucial missing link.

So instead of falling into the traps of the obvious patriotic gush and just updating the story for the modern audience, into a modern setting, director Joe Johnston decided to stay true to the origins of his hero and kept the story rooted in 194os, during World War II, deciding to concentrate more on the old-fashion moral decency of the characters than their “let’s kick some ass” type of mentality:  in fact in a few scenes they even make fun of that as Captain America performs in front of live audiences around America, looking more like a clown than a superhero. Of course it’s still propaganda, but of a slightly different kind and certainly less insulting.

The period atmosphere is perfectly recreated (reminiscent of another superhero film the Rocketeer, which interestingly was made  by the same director in 1991) through the sepia tones of the photography, the muted colours of the costumes but also a type of film-making itself calling back to the way the best action films used to be made, before a certain Bruckheimer decided that it was all going to be about one liners, big explosion, idiotic plot-lines, fast editing (so fast that you can’t quite tell how bad it all is!) and sex exploitation (yes, I am not a fan of Transformers, you might have gathered that). This is as much about humanity and characters than it is about big action set-pieces and special effects, because in the end those are only important as long as we care about the people involved in them (I know, this is no news to anyone, but it’s good to remind people about it once in a while).

Yes, of course, it’s all preposterous and plainly silly, but so is a radioactive spider,  a man who can fly, a giant hammer, and a silly mask that only covers your eyes and yet when you wear it nobody seems to recognise you . We are talking about Superheroes after all!! But as long as you can suspend your disbelief, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.

To help it all there’s a splendid array of  supporting characters from Stanley Tucci, to Toby Jones, to Tommy Lee-Jones and even an-over-the-top Hugo Weaver who’s clearly having a lot of fun in this film (putting on a close-to-parody German accent!). And of course Chris Evans in the lead who embodies the physical strength of the hero and yet at the same time he brings enough charisma, warmth and dignity to make you actually care about him and feel for his pain whenever somebody close to him dies. It obviously helps that in the first 40 minutes of the film we get to know him as a frail and skinny men and somehow all that makes him even more sympatetic (with the aid of some truly stunning and seamless Benjamin-Button-Style-Special-FX… If only they had put so much effort into the 3D conversion which was actually rather bland, a part from a few shields flying towards us).

Ironically for an action film, the actual action scenes are rather unimpressive: of course they’re not bad, as I said this is a very competent film (aside from some bad CGI around the train sequence), but in the end they’re not what this film might be remembered for. In fact Captain America runs slightly out of steam in the last part and it feels more and more a collection of set pieces which are not necessarily flowing into each other, and it slowly risks to become an almost by-the-number type of affair, until of course the final coda, which is brings us a step closer to the Avengers… (though at the same time rather sad that it will mean the end of the period setting, which I rather liked).

As popcorn movies go, this is a lot better than you might expect (especially considering the blandness of the original character from the comics) and more enjoyable than most of the stuff that Hollywood tends to rigurgitate over us during summer holidays.

7.0/10

OTHER REVIEWS: 

thor

Green Lantern 

Tron: Legacy

The Avengers

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