Amazing Spider-Man 2: Review by Barry Pearl

This is a review from a student of comics, mostly from 1961-1977, who will not discuss spoilers, but will try to place this within the frame of the Marvel Movie Universe. For a regular review you can go to Rotten Tomatoes. This is also a review of the features of the disc.

Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet Combo Pack)

Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not the worst superhero movie of this modern era. The Spirit was. This doesn’t really even come close to being that bad, but it does rival Superman Returns, and in my opinion, Man of Steel. And like Man of Steel, they have changed the title character so much I don’t recognize him. This is just not a good movie. If you haven’t seen it in the theater and you’re compelled to see it wait till it comes on cable.

I realize that continuity after 50 years is a very difficult and unfair burden for writers to have to endure. I bought Amazing Fantasy #15 on the stands all those years ago. And I bought the next 175 issues of Amaazing Spider-Man. I certainly don’t expect the character to be quite the same. But while the first Spider-Man series got things basically right, the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man completely eradicated all the things that I had enjoyed about Spider-Man.

Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-Man, always got it right. He developed, or re-developed, Iron Man and the Hulk when they were not very successful. He was able to see, keep and build on the essence of the character. He recognized the essential things about their personality that we felt were compelling, and developed fresh new worlds around them. He introduced new supporting characters and emphasized their motivations. And he created situations where the characters would conflict or bond and sometimes both! Somehow you felt he kept intact their inner qualities that had made the characters interesting and compelling.

Not so here. The first thing that strikes me here is that we have people 30 years old playing 18-year olds. Their look, actions and dialogue don’t fit. The opening scene is Peter Parker graduating high school. But here, Gwen Stacy is the valedictorian, not Peter. Peter should have been the valedictorian–that was part of the structure. By the way, Peter actually met Gwen in college. Instead of being shy and aloof, he is an overconfident show off who has none of the reserve or the doubts of the original Peter. He has none of the qualities that I related to. Change the environment, add new characters, but keep the original person! Here, in high school he already has a permanent great relationship with a gorgeous woman. In any age, 1964 or 2014, Parker should be having trouble dealing with woman.

Aunt May should be older. So much of what makes up Peter Parker is his guilt over Uncle’s Ben’s death (forgotten here, by the way) and motivation for helping his aunt. With the death of his uncle, the Parkers were destined to live near poverty. Not so here, they have a much better house than shown in the first three movies. Here, a younger Sally Fields is working to help him, which allows the character to be cavalier about money…and responsibility.

Electro is the major villain (one of three) in the piece. But they dehumanize him so much that you cannot relate to him whatsoever. Spider-Man was not Superman or the Fantastic Four. He fought down to earth super-villains and gangsters, not larger-than-life bad guys.

Speaking of being overdone, they bring back the Green Goblin and he, too, is a character so much larger than life you cannot relate to him. The original Goblin was not a super-villain, but a gangster who had incredible gadgets. Not so here.

The Goblin does the most famous (infamous?) act in Spider-Man’s history and that is so overdone and stretched out. In fact, Gwen was so annoying at the end I was looking forward to it. Gwen, at age 18, can operate the entire electrical grid of New York City and no one else can. Oh, and Harry takes over Oscorp at age twenty.

The movie is 2 hours and 20 minutes; they have added an additional 5 minutes to the DVDs. They used very quick editing to add to the tension, but it destroyed any chance of characterization, zipping around so fast. I was actually bored after 10 minutes.

So the movie was completely empty. Sally Field playing Aunt May is completely miscast or underused. The director in his commentary says that he wanted her to be Peter’s mentor; but they don’t give her the opportunity to do that.

The special effects were wonderful and almost always look great. There were times when Spider-Man did look animated. The Blu-ray disc has great images and a powerful soundtrack. There is a 100-minute behind the scenes feature which divided into seven chapters. There is nothing really new here; you’ve seen this sort of thing before. There are 25 minutes of outtakes. There’s a scene with Peter Parker meeting his now dead father, which is an alternative ending to the movie. Here the father gets to say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The rest of the deleted scenes are narrated by the director who tells why they were not used.

Those who buy the DVD will be a little bit shortchanged. The “Behind the Scenes” is not on the disk, and instead of having 25 minutes of outtakes there are only 9 minutes. While the visuals on the DVD are excellent, the Dolby Digital soundtrack is not very good. The DTS soundtrack on the Blu-ray is so much better.

2 thoughts on “Amazing Spider-Man 2: Review by Barry Pearl”

  1. I think I liked the last movie better than you did, so I’m not quite as down on this one, but I was also disappointed with certain things. The biggest flaw for me was forcing Gwen’s death story onto the plot prematurely and having the Goblin die in the same scene, which removed Spider-Man’s original quest to revenge himself against Norman, making the end of the movie very anti-climactic compared to ASM #125. Some other items: I didn’t like the new tank-sized Rhino and would prefer the regular version. I thought the ret-conned Electro was less like Electro than he was like the movie version of Sandman (who was far too powerful compared to the comic-book Sandman), and I agree with your point that Spidey generally should fight less world-class villains than FF or Avengers or such. For the Goblin, I initally questioned the casting of Frankie Muniz because I’m so used to his comedic role from Malcolm in the Middle, and I didn’t like the initial press release pics of the costume, but I thought Muniz did a good acting job; however, the changed backstory for the Goblin and his powers gave it a very different feel from the original and lacked the same emotional impact. Overall I’d rate the film as better than Spider-Man 3 but not as good as The Amazing Spider-Man.

  2. Before the year 2000….While the original Superman and Batman movies of years ago were big hits, I always felt that Hollywood and its writers never understood and didn’t read the comics they were bringing to the screen. (Actually this holds true for Superman II).

    Roy, enjoyed reading your comments as always.

    That is they look through the comics saw the costumes, locations and the characters but never read the actual text. So they didn’t know the characters they were developing or writing about. Be it Dick Tracy or Supergirl, Batman and Robin or those dumb Captain America movies, they mimicked the look of the comic, but never the content. It’s as if they decided that the writing, the character development were for kids and can be ignored. So the characters on screen were underdeveloped, or even silly. And they never had real human motivations, reactions or emotions.

    Spider-Man I and II were a refreshing change from that. They understood the characters and brought them to the screen. Not just the costumes and the powers, but the personalities. I thought the first X-Men movies did the same, as well as most of the new Marvel movies. And the Black Knight.

    Amazing Spider-Man is a step back. They didn’t use the depth of the comics, just the characters and the colors. Note that every Spider-man movie since Spider-Man 2 has attendance decrease by at least ten percent. They don’’t get it.

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