Sometimes when I walk out of a theater I know exactly what I want to say about the movie I just watched. Not today. It's about 12 hours since the press screening of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and I'm still sorting it out. Parts of the superhero flick seemed fresh, while other parts were by-the-numbers and a chore to watch. At least we didn't have to sit through Spider-Man's origin story again.
That's not to say director Marc Webb and company are through with it yet. Amazing 2 snatches a few precious minutes out of my life for a flashback with Peter Parker's parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) on a plane, desperately trying to transfer information on a computer before the bad guys kill them. Man, is there anything more exciting that repeated close-ups of a laptop screen showing what percentage of the files have been transferred? Golly! Many years later that information will fall into Peter's hands and ... wait, I don't care.
Cut to NYC, where Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) swings exuberantly through the skyscrapers: fighting crime, rescuing people and flinging wisecracks all over the place. This part of the movie is the most fun. It also most closely resembles the Spider-Man comics I read as a kid. His chronic jabbering during action scenes bugged me back then, but I found it more amusing than annoying today.
Spider-Man in action — entertaining. Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) — entertaining. Aunt May (Sally Field) — also entertaining, though what's up with the scene where she tries to force her way into Peter's bedroom while he keeps shouting to her that he's naked and she needs to stay out? Good Lord, woman, don't you understand that when a teenager begs to be left alone it probably means he's ... trying to change out of his superhero suit.
It just occurred to me that some of you might think this film is a remake of the widely acclaimed original trilogy's Spider-Man 2 from way back in ... 2004. It isn't. Director Webb, the man behind the indie favorite (500) Days of Summer, opts to focus more on interpersonal relationships than big action scenes. That would be fine, but the relationships have been covered so thoroughly that it's hard to wring more emotion from them. Thank goodness Garfield and Stone have such a nice chemistry.
No need to do a long plot description. Suffice to say that anything connected to Oscorp Industries is bad news. Amazing 2 focuses on Oscorp employee Max Dillon (a restrained Jamie Foxx), an emotionally disturbed fellow fixated on the notion that he has been overlooked. After a bizarre accident at Oscorp involving electric eels (somebody needs to contact OSHA about this company), Max becomes Electro, a supervillain made of living electricity. He attacks New York, because everyone in Spider-Man movies attacks New York. Oscorp big-wig Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) — Peter's old pal — turns into a villain as well. And Paul Giamatti also plays a baddy, though he gets far less screen time than I expected.
It all adds up to another superhero extravaganza. That used to be enough, but there's a steady stream of superhero extravaganzas these days (we've already had a Captain America movie this year, and the X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy will hit the screens this summer). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 certainly has its moments, but for the most part it's just middle-of-the-pack blockbuster fare. Good cast, tired story. You'll be pleased to know there are no bonus scenes at the end, so when the closing credits roll, you can haul it out of the theater with no fear of missing anything.
Jodorowsky's Dune ★★★★ Fascinating documentary about an epic film that almost was. Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, the man behind El Topo and The Holy Mountain, set out to put Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic Dune on the big screen. Jodorowsky's son would star in the grand saga, which would incorporate the talents of Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine and Salvador Dali, with music by Pink Floyd and art by pre-Alien H.R. Giger as well as Jean "Moebius" Giraud. Holy cow, what a line-up! The film didn't happen, of course, but how great it is to have the whole story laid out for us with style to spare. The visuals are also a treat, but the main attraction is the 84-year-old Jodorowsky, still full of passion.
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