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 Amazing Spider-Man – Review

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)  4.0_MG_SMALL

Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew GarfieldEmma StoneRhys IfansDenis LearyMartin SheenSally FieldIrrfan Khan.

When the news of a reboot for the Raimi-Maguire Spiderman was first announced (and not just a reboot, but another ‘origin’ story, only 10 years after the first one), the obvious question on anybody’s lips was “Why on earth?”. What followed was a sort of anti-campaign from fans and critics alike: we all seemed to have decided we were going to hate this film, at all costs. When eventually first teaser was released in 2011, with all that badly CGIed, cartoony, extended point of view shot, looking more like a video-game than anything resembling a real film, we had already made up our minds that new incarnation of Spiderman was going to be not just redundant, but the final nail in the coffin for possibly the most beloved superhero of them all.

Well, I am happy to eat all my words back and say that I could not have been more wrong: The Amazing Spider-man is possibly the best Spiderman movie we’ve ever seen (I would have to watch the second one by Raimi again to really work out which one is now my favourite), but more importantly Andrew Garfield is the absolute ultimate Spiderman.

The line that everybody has been saying over and over again to describe this film is that it is a more realistic version of Spiderman (if you can call realistic the story of a man in spandex swinging through the skyscrapers of New York); what director Mark Webb has managed to infuse in it, is not the usual gritty and dark realism we’ve come to expect from those Nolan-directed Batman movies, but one steeped in real characters and real feelings, where people can be hurt both in a physical and emotional sense. And if you thought the Raimi-directed films were love stories first and foremost, and ain’t seen nothing yet!

The comparison with the previous incarnation of your friendly neighbour,  given the fact that we are meant to buy into another origin story so soon after the first one, it’s not just unavoidable but also quite fair. The ghost of Raimi is constantly behind the corner, but cleverly Mark Webb (who has obviously studied his source deeply and intensely) has manage to avoid most of the obvious comparison by giving the story a completely new spin (you will forgive me the pun), steering away from anything which could give us any sense of Déjà vu, making the story and the characters different enough at each opportunity, giving us a new baddie and a new girlfriend too.

While I was watching it, the only thing I felt I was missing from this version, was that sense of wonder and excitement that came with the first one, when Peter was swinging across NY for the first time. But having now seen it all, I am willing to admit that the film is keeping all that for the end and I was just waiting for it because of my knowledge of the 2002 version.

And of course on this one we get the added dimension given by the 3D technology, which seems to be have been created for this kind of films: I’m not your number 1 fan of 3D, but seeing this in an IMAX Theatre, I have have to tell you I found myself flinching from time to time and having a sense of vertigo that I am sure it would not have been so strong if it had been in 2D. So for once, kudos to the gimmick!

The final result is a film that manages to be just as fresh and exiting as if it was a completely new story, and it still manages to keep us guessing, thrilled and entertained throughout.

Somebody may argue that, clocking at around 136 minutes, it is all probably too long, but not me. Never once I felt anything was superfluous or in need of a trim. Andrew Garfield is so good and likeable in the main role and the chemistry with his co-star Emma Stone so sweet and believable (Yes, I know those 2 are together in real life too, and it shows) that I was just happy to be in their company. And even if Mark Webb took his time before the new Spidey costume made its first appearance, I would have been absolutely fine without seeing it for even longer. And if the film works as it does it’s because we do actually spend some proper time with these characters. It’s crucial that those scenes don’t feel rushed.

Rhys Ifans as the one-armed scientist/lizard, has enough screen-time  to flesh out his character into not just your stereotypical baddie, but a proper two-dimentional persona, making that extra twist at the end even more believable  (and giving Alfred Molina from Spiderman2 a run for his money for the top spot on Spidey’s best enemy list).

One the downside, James Horner‘s music, while one one hand was nicely judged on some of the more intimate and poignant moments, felt too saccharin and sweepy in what should have been much quieter scenes, but more crucially, it seemed to lack that Hero-theme which this type of films require. The kind of theme you can still hum by the time you leave the theatre, just like in Superman or Indiana Jones or even Harry Potter  (God, is John Williams really the only composer who’s able to do that?).

I’m also in two minds about the costume itself (I know, now we are on geeky-territory, but what do you expect from a moviegeek writing on his blog?!): though it look cool from far away and even on the poster, more often than not it seemed to fit awkwardly on Garfield’s body, creating strange creases and looking more like plastic than anything else…

The CGI work though has still a few cartoony moments is pretty good, and certainly the best we’ve seen so far in any Spiderman movie. I was pleased to see how little of that video-game-like point of view from that first trailer was actually left into the film. It must have been a case of listening to what the fans had to say and acting consequently.

Three editors are officially credited in the film and that’s always a sign of a film going that’s gone through several permutations. As someone very close to the art of editing I could see that despite those 136 minutes some of the transitions were a tiny bit too quick: the explanation of how Parker was able to make his web seems to be the sequence that suffered more than any other.

But I know, I am really picking needles here! It might not be the most original story you’ve ever seen (well, it not!), but it’s a thrilling romp and thoroughly enjoyable. And yet, despite all the action, the spinning, the spectacle (and the film has a lot of that!) what really shines at the heart of The Amazing Spiderman it’s the relationship between Garfield and Stone: it might be just marketing campaign to draw in the female audience as well as the the comic fans and the geeks, but it also gave the film such an emotional depth that I completely won me over. In fact in a way it’s the simplicity of the story itself that makes this such a pleasure to watch (I did enjoy the Avengers, but I still have trouble at explaining some of that story…).

If you add to all this, Andrew Garfield‘s spotless performance (in fact in a couple of moment really Oscar-worthy! If only Hollywood was brave enough to allow those types of performances in the Oscar race…) the perfectly balanced and well calibrated direction, and some wonderful supporting cast (Martin Sheen, I love you!) and some thrilling visuals, what you get is one my favourite superhero movie ever.

4 Stars (out of 5)

Green Lantern – Review

Green Lantern (2011) 

Directed by Martin Campbell. Starring Ryan ReynoldsBlake LivelyPeter Sarsgaard.

I should probably start by stating few facts about my position with Green Lantern and superheroes in general.

First of all my only little knowledge of Green Lantern came actually from an episode of “The Big Bang Theory“, other than that, I didn’t even know there was such a comic until I read that Martin Campbell was going to make a movie. In other words, I wasn’t really a fan (and let me spoil you the surprise: I’m still not one!!).

However,  I always try to be as open-minded as possible, in fact I was quite excited to learn something new about a new superhero. The fact that I hardly knew the existence of Green Lantern had nothing to do with me not liking the film: I wasn’t a fan of Thor either, and yet I did manage to enjoy the film for what it was (here’s my Thor review) and as far as the X-Men I knew next to nothing when the first Bryan Singer movie got released and still liked it. Finally, I should also point out that I have nothing against comic superheros either (in fact I still consider Spiderman 2 one of the best action movies of the last few years!).

Green Lantern opens with a very confusing prologue, visually unoriginal and heavy in exposition, characters and soulless CGI. And as it got louder and louder, more and more frantic the whole thing got even more confusing.  I must confess, the film lost me right from the word “go”,  but I decided that it didn’t really  matter: “It’s a comic! How hard can it be?” I said to myself. Thankfully I was right and when finally the action cuts to planet Earth I was able find my bearings again, though the feeling of boredom stayed with me throughout.

Once we are finally introduced to our hero, played by Ryan Reynolds,  I realise that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t really know how to take this film. Reynolds seems to be just as confused as he plays the character sometimes with a complete straight face and sometimes with a smirk irony as if he knew that the whole thing is just preposterous. He’s likable enough, but sadly lacks of any emotional depth. The only thing left to marvel at, is his perfect body which only made me even more annoyed and jealous: in fact it distracted me even more as my mind started to wonder “when was the last time I actually went to the gym?”

Director Campbell, never really seems to be in control of what’s going on and instead he decides to cram the film with as much noise as possible  hoping it might distract his audience from thinking that this is actually all a bit of a mess… The result is that sometimes even some of the dialogue gets lost (though I’m prepared to bet that despite those 4 writer being credited, I didn’t really miss much). Campbell clearly feels uneasy with this universe and doesn’t quite know what to make of it. The whole philosophical side is just ridiculous, the action scenes are too messy, the special effects underwhelming and the love story is so flat that it becomes redundant.

The pace is completely off and for a film of this kind which lasts just under two hours, I found myself looking at my watch way too often.
The editing is just as uncertain just like the rest of the film, as Stuart Baird seems to be randomly cutting to wide shots and close-ups, irrespective of what the action would require and not taking into account that a film in 3D should really hold its shots for much longer, otherwise the 3D effect is lost on its audience. But then again, who cares about 3D! This is another of those films that’s been converted into 3D after it was filmed (and my God, it shows!!) and I suspect will have a very short life in this form: many people will probably watch it on DVD or on TV anyway, so why bother cutting it for the 3D format. Those action scenes, particularly at the beginning, are so fast that you really have no idea what’s going on.

It doesn’t really help the fact that there are way too many characters, obviously introduced to us because of a possible sequel (clearly set up in the end credits with a silly plot twist): after all today it’s all about franchises, isn’t it? (Bloody hell, Warner, aren’t you happy with your 8 Harry Potter films and your never-ending Batman?! Do you really want to embark into another franchise? ).

Peter Sarsgaard plays a sleazy over-the-top baddie without a proper script to allow him to actually be one of those really good baddieMark Strong is pretty much wasted, not to mention Tim Robbins in what is possibly his most forgettable role in years. Angela Bassett plays is as if she’s been told “you’re not allowed to show any emotion, in fact deliver those lines thinking of something else…”. Even Geoffrey Rush who probably had a couple of hours spare in his schedule was just happened to pass by the film set, lends his voice for one of the character sounding pretty much like one of those Owl from that film by Zack Snyder.

Finally James Newton Howard‘s film soundtrack (who I usually really like) is as derivative as all the rest. Not bad, but certainly unremarkable, just like the film itself.

In the end, this is probably out there with some of the most disappointing comic book movies of all times (Elektra, Daredevil, Spawn, The Avengers, the 1998  versions, just to mention a few…). Its main crime is that it thinks is a lot better than it is… and that it must have cost a lot of money too!!

One positive note: I did like the costume…

4.5/10

If you enjoyed this Review you might like the ones on THOR, HARRY POTTER 7.1, INCEPTION, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, TRON: LEGACY

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