Tag Archives: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

What’s so tough about movie No. 2?

Quicksilver was awesome, briefly ... all too briefly.

Quicksilver was awesome, briefly – all too briefly – in “Days of Future Past.”

Unwieldy. Slow. And worst of all, boring.

I was really looking forward to Days of Future Past. I thought the X-Men relaunch was terrific, the mix of actors, going back to the 1960s. It was note perfect, a way to keep the familiar characters of the previous three X-Men films while charting a new course for the re-launch.

I felt the same way about The Incredible Spider-Man. The movie wasn’t quite as awesome as the X-Men relaunch, but the Andrew Garfield-Emma Stone chemistry was terrific, and the film really set itself apart from the disappointing/overrated Sam Raimi trilogy.

Then I watched the second movie in each of these series. This was the question in my mind the entire time I viewed both: What the hell happened?

With The Incredible Spider-Man 2, some of it was greed. They tried to jam too much in, mostly hoping to set up a Sinister Six spin-off. Apparently movie execs have short memories, forgetting that too many villains didn’t work in Spider-Man 3 and contributed to the need to reboot the franchise in the first place. Plus, the whole Peter probing into his parents past thing dragged … actually, I’m not even sure “dragged” is harsh enough to describe how slow and dull that slog was. A great ending tied it all together, but it wasn’t enough to save the film.

Watching X-Men: Days of Future Past last night, all I could wonder was “why”? Why is there a need to tie the new franchise to the old? To me, that was the brilliance of the re-boot. If the franchise just stayed in the 1960s and 1970s, that would have been a lot of fun. But I’m not sure why anyone behind the film thought that everything had to be tied together from the two different eras. We were introduced to a number of characters – Bishop and Blink, to name two – who we didn’t get to know at all, just flat, cardboard mutant soldiers to feed to the Sentinels. Then a great character is introduced – Quicksilver – who subsequently disappears for the latter two-thirds of the movie. We get Kitty Pride spending the entire movie with her hands on either side of Wolverine’s temple, plus Iceman, Professor X and Magneto standing there watching her do it. Plus, the interplay of Charles, Erik and Raven – which was the centering relationship in the first film – is portrayed as fractured but in reality is nearly non-existent in the sequel. Days of Future Past somehow managed to accomplish the feat of doing way too much while not accomplishing nearly enough.

This isn’t just to pick on these two movies. The Matrix, The Hangover, Dumb and Dumber, Jaws … the list of overwhelming follow-ups is overwhelming. It’s not that it can’t be done – Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight and Halloween II, to name a few – but that second film is the true creative test, and too many flunk. Can you extend this story? Is there enough there to merit moving ahead? How can you challenge familiar characters in new ways? Maybe I’m naive to think any of this matters when compared to the profit motive of the companies financing the films, but it should matter. A good story doesn’t just make for a quality film, it also sells. A bad story sells some, but it damages the opportunities down the road.

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Superheroes, less-than-super teens and good deaths

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It ain’t easy being one of 100 teens raised in a space station, then dropped to post-nuclear apocalyptic Earth.

In the DVD commentary for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot, Joss Whedon (known now for helming The Avengers as well as planning for the entire non-Sony Marvel-verse) talked about how much he wanted to kill a main character in the very early going. So much so, in fact, that he considered putting Eric Balfour – the actor playing Jesse, best friend of Xander – in the opening credits of the show despite the fact that he doesn’t make it past episode two of the series. Whedon’s point was that by killing a “main” character early, the creator was setting the stage for some serious uneasiness by fans concerning the fate of all of the characters. It’s a red, blinking sign that says “No one is safe.”

That’s part of the reason I admire The 100, a new series on the CW. The basic premise is that 100 kids who have grown up on a now-dying space station are launched to a post-nuclear war Earth in hopes of saving what’s left of humanity floating around the planet. Brilliantly, The 100 makes it seem as if they kill a main character off in the pilot, when Jasper, played by Devon Bostik (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), takes an enormous spear to the chest. It’s a red herring, as Jasper survives to fight another day.

However, in episode three, The 100 shows us what it’s made of. Wells Jaha (Eli Goree, pictured above) is the best pal of the main character Clarke. Wells is also the son of the political leader of the space station, Chancellor Jaha. He is earnest, interested in what’s best for Clarke, a bright mind who can help lead the rag-tag group. But, in an extremely gripping scene, Wells is murdered, tragically, quietly, away from prying eyes. Wells had all the traits of a main character expected to be there for the bulk of the show, if not the entire run. It’s a brilliant example of what Whedon talked about on the Buffy commentary: Don’t let the viewers feel safe, and put doubt in their minds about the safety of their favorite characters.

On the big screen, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 went where I wasn’t expecting, allowing Gwen Stacey to fall to her death before Spidey can save her. Spider-Man 2 is a long, slow movie, decent but bogged down in the middle by plot meant to explain much and set up more. But the payoff was brilliant. Peter Parker lives haunted by the fact that he didn’t act during a bodega robbery, followed by said robber killing his uncle. Here, Peter is marred by the fact that he did act, he did stop the bad guy, he did save hundreds and maybe thousands of lives by battling and defeating Electro. Yet he still failed, setting up Gwen to die a pre-mature death because he both failed in his promise to her father and because with great power comes great responsibility. Peter abdicated his responsibility to Gwen’s dad, and the predictable happened. Peter loved Gwen and would do anything to protect her except that one thing that really would protect her: Walking away.

It’s satisfying to see franchises with much to lose – Spider-Man, a global movie juggernaut, and The 100, trying to find its footing and an audience – willing to make such difficult choices. It might hurt them in the short run, but the payoff is a fan base prepared for anything and on edge about what that anything might mean for their favorite characters.

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