The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2Released: May 2, 2014. Directed by: Marc Webb. Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx. Runtime: 142 min.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 proves you can only have as many as three villains in a film to have the narrative still remain coherent. The tightly packed narrative makes the film have minor pacing issues – but this is still a heck of a lot of fun and a great follow-up to a solid introduction. It’s at least not Spider-Man 3 all over again, because at least we’re spared from unlikable stretches with the main character – but a difference is Garfield will still be mildly tolerable. I think Marc Webb is too smart to do that all over again.

The film finds Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) in his most personal battle yet. He’s still trying to find out why his parents had to leave, which is a good mystery that fits well into the narrative but packs it tighter. He sees Gwen Stacy’s (Emma Stone) father everywhere he goes, unable to shake his promise he made to stay away from Gwen to keep her out of danger. The super villain of this film is a cool villain called Electro (Jamie Foxx). His battles become more personal when Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) comes back into town after the death of his father. Peter comes to realize that a lot of things that happen in his life and that affect him enemy-wise revolve around one thing: Oscorp.

A personal battle for the characters on-screen, this is also more painful and personal for audience members, more-so fans of the franchise. The urgency audience members will feel for some character’s safety adds intensity to the film. The narrative does well with foreshadowing. Peter’s love for Gwen gives him a layer of vulnerability; you’d think he’d protect her better as Spider-Man by disguising his voice like Batman does. Andrew Garfield plays to his strengths as his character, and he gets a lot more laughs than the last film – losing himself in a Marvel-like and comedic atmosphere. (This is one of Marvel’s funnier films.) His chemistry with Emma Stone is just so easy to love. It’s a great and natural chemistry that makes you tell that the characters work better when they’re in each other’s lives. They’re allowed to play to their emotional strengths as actors, as well; Stone notably in a lovely graduation speech which is very inspiring. Sally Field also has a great scene where she shows her strengths as a dramatic actress.

One part that interests me about the plot is that Parker’s involvement with the Daily Bugle is played down; only mentioned as an income for Peter, and he only e-mails J. Jonah Jameson and never actually goes into the Bugle. I think it’s smart that Webb doesn’t cast a Jameson, because J.K. Simmons is such a great actor to portray the character. Since Peter only e-mails Jameson, which is an arc that makes sense in the digital age, it saves probably saves five minutes that would have just added to the already lengthy 142 minutes that doesn’t need anything more. I don’t like that Spider-Man is so controversial in this film; a lot of people think he should just let the cops do their jobs. He saves a lot more people than the cops ever could; and I think the controversy aspect would be better suited for the titular hero in Kick-Ass. I think the R-rated crime fighting would be a more realistic subject to criticism inside the film.

Anyway, Spidey learns the hard way that he shouldn’t save everyone by saving Max Dillon (Foxx), who later becomes Electro in a freak accident, which is the origins story based more on the one from the classic Marvel universe. I think Max’s motivations are very human, as well – he’s a mild-mannered, insecure guy who wants some attention and to be needed. Foxx gives a cool performance as Electro, with some awesome electric vocal styles. Hans Zimmer also has a lot of fun with the score, making voices in Electro’s head an electric song in its own – most notably during a critical introduction of the villain. He delivers yet another great score, but we rarely expect anything less from him.

Dane DeHaan is great as Harry Osborn. His arc in this reboot is different than the one in the original trilogy – and his human motivation of his own survival is easy to understand and well-written. DeHaan is magnetic as the character, funny at times and chilling at the end; where he receives a make-up job which makes this a physically demanding role. I’ve really liked him as an actor ever since 2012’s Chronicle, particularly his his apex predator monologue. Chris Cooper is disappointingly under-utilized as Norman Osborn, where we only see him in one measly scene on his death bed.

The film has another talented star as a villain, Paul Giamatti – but his limited role is really just a preview for the next film. I’m patient enough to see more development for him next time around, as he works perfectly as a bridge to the next film. Giamatti sports an over-the-top Russian accent and has a lot of fun as Aleksei Sytsevich. It’s funny that, in the beginning, Marc Webb decides to include two introductory action sequences. One with Peter’s father on a plane action sequence; and then it skips to the present day to a car chase with Giamatti’s Russian terrorist. I liked the performances from the antagonists in this film more than Marvel’s last outing Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I think the villain’s motivations are more realistic and easier to understand. Something that also really works for the film is its stunning CGI visual effects, beautifully filmed action sequences and a phenomenal finale in a clock tower. Those memorable scenes, and the film’s humour, make this a ride well worth taking.

Score: 83/100

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RoboCop (2014)

RoboCop (2014)Released: February 12, 2014. Directed by: José Padilha. Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Abbie Cornish. Runtime: 117 min.

In a time where remakes are a dime a dozen, MGM comes out with a remake of the 1987 cult-classic “RoboCop,” which isn’t nearly as good as the original, but who would expect it would be? I just can’t understand the notion why someone (José Padilha, in his Hollywood directorial debut) would want to remake a near-perfect film. At least this isn’t a poor film. Like the original, it follows police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman); a loving husband and father, and a good cop – something that seems to be hard to find in the corrupted 2028 version of Detroit. When he has a lead on the main villain of the film – Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow) – his car gets blown up. OmniCorp, a leading force in robotic technology, sees Murphy’s condition as the perfect chance to make the so-called RoboCop – half-man, half-machine.

The most refreshing thing about this remake is to see the new versions of the ED-209, where the advancements in filming technology is able to create some great robots; while the movement of the ED-209 in the original in film is just laughably bad. This also takes some liberties in altering the original source. In the original, Murphy is actually brain-dead, if memory serves me correctly. In this one, Murphy is kept alive, only receiving bad burns from the explosion. This way, it helps the film become a question of who’s control in the robot suit; the robot or the man? That aspect of the film isn’t that compelling. It’s okay at first, but it’s not entertaining as it can be when Alex’s control instincts are altered to be quicker in combat; bringing about the theme of freewill. One other part some might not like about the film is when Alex isn’t all there, and he experiences a shift in personality. From this, themes of consciousness come about.When Murphy becomes unlikeable for a stretch, it’s reminiscent of that stretch in “Spider-Man 3” when Peter becomes distinctly unlikeable because he’s been overpowered by the venemous substance.

Since the wife and child are present characters in this film, one would think the filmmakers would want Murphy to communicate with them; but for a fair deal of the film, that enjoyable aspect is taken away from this feature. This stretch is poor because Murphy doesn’t feel like a layered character anymore, he is simply RoboCop. Viewers can tell they are trying to make RoboCop more human this time around; because of the fact that Murphy’s face is shown largely throughout the film, and his guard mask only comes down in combat as protection. For me, I believe that if Clara (Abbie Cornish), the wife, and David (John Paul Ruttan), the son, are present – they should be there to communicate with Alex, build each other as characters, as well as being used to show Murphy’s humanity. Alex’s family is his drive to keep going. Joel Kinnaman portrays him believably; but he’s often too depressed in parts, too robotic and vacant in other parts, and by the time he says a classic line, the delivery feels so forced that the film might be better without it. Abbie Cornish also portrays a character affected by the whole situation, and her performance is enjoyable.

Some other positive aspects of this film are the visual effects, the explosive action and the suit design; the black is nice. The film is pretty entertaining even if some plot components feel a bit empty (particularly when Murphy is too robotic). One thing I do miss is the gore of the original. A lot of the times there is a gunshot and a random henchy just goes down for the count. Lame. There is some gore, but it’s not that enjoyable – it takes place in a hospital room, where we see what is left of Alex – his lungs, throat and head. It’s oddly compelling, but in a sickening way. The story isn’t nearly as engaging as the original, either, because the originals’ villains are much stronger. Who can forget Kurtwood Smith as one of the meanest cats around town? Also, what happens to Murphy to be put into the suit is more underwhelming because the motive for the hit is to just get him off the main criminal’s tail; I think, like in the original, no motivation to kill Murphy (unless you count sheer meanness as a motivation) is a much more terrifying idea.

Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley, Gary Oldman occupy supporting roles on the OmniCorp team. Keaton is Raymond Sellars, the mastermind behind OmniCorp; Gary Oldman is Norton, Murphy’s doctor; and Haley seems to be a weapons expert who makes sure everything is in tip-top-shape with the robots. Michael K. Williams portrays Murphy’s partner; I couldn’t help but wonder at some points what it would be like to see a black man in the RoboCop suit. Well, not just any black man, him in particular; because I find myself to be impressed by his acting capabilities, and I just can’t wait to see him in a leading role. Sam L. Jackson is another supporting character, portraying a TV personality who is present from time to time with developments on the Dreyfuss Act, which doesn’t let robots on American soil. At the story’s heart, this is really about how robots might be able to better an intensely corrupt Detroit, and, to a greater extent, the rest of the world if this test deems successful. It would decrease crime levels, but with robots occupying spots on the police force, one has to wonder how many jobs will be lost. How would the police officers make a living? Would there be a job waiting for them at OmniCorp? Just some food for thought, there, to finish off the review.

Score65/100

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man

Release Date: July 3, 2012

Director: Marc Webb

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

Runtime: 136 min

Tagline: His past was kept from him. His search for answers has just begun.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) finds a clue that might help him understand why his parents disappeared when he was young. His path puts him on a collision course with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father’s former partner.

While inferior to Spider-Man 2 of the Sam Raimi trilogy, it’s vastly superior to Spider-Man 3, but it’s a little better than the first Spider-Man. It doesn’t have too many villains, and Marc Webb is a worthy enough director to reboot the great super hero. It doesn’t really ever reach amazing, as Raimi set the bar pretty high, but it is pretty awesome. Granted, The Pretty Awesome Spider-Man doesn’t have a good ring to it.

Peter has to deal with a few situations throughout the feature: some relationship problems, deaths within the family, a police captain, and of course, the Lizard.

Peter is having a few relationship problems with his new girlfriend Gwen Stacy, because he wants to keep her safe. Of course, super heroes are going to have villains. Also, one other relationship problem could arise because he’s never vibrantly exciting. He tells a few jokes, and he has that charming smile he’s always flashing, but that’s about it. Nothing else is virtually off about him, but there aren’t any other notable things about him. No one can forget the great Tobey Maguire, and comparisons between the two are inevitable. Garfield is pretty bland compared to Maguire. Gwen Stacy is a great love choice for Spider-Man. Garfield may be bland when he’s without Stacy (portrayed by Emma Stone), but when the two are together, they’re a pretty fine team. I really like Gwen Stacy, maybe even more than Mary Jane Watson.

Any of you who have seen the original Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, or are generally familiar with the story of Peter Parker, will know which family member of his gets killed off fairly early in the story.  The death of this character brings on solid character development to Peter, as it fills him with a need for vengeance, a trait one would not think of when they hear the word: super hero; but that is one of the primary traits of Parker after this time. Parker’s search for this character’s killer is actually realistic. He goes through a countless number of thugs in search of a man with a star tattoo on his left wrist. This ultimately puts him in the path of a New York police Captain, and that said Police Captain thinks Parker is a vigilant menace, mirroring the character of J. Jonah Jameson.

Compared to Raimi’s first Spider-Man, there are some things this does better, and things it does worse. The introduction to Peter’s new found powers is better, and funnier. Sometimes, the things he does are cooler. Although, no one can forget those “Go go spider web!” or “Up, up and away! ” lines that Maguire uttered in the original Spider-Man. The search for his relative’s killer is more realistic in this, because he just doesn’t find the killer off the bat. Though, if he did find the killer off the bat, it would bring closure much earlier in the story, and Spidey wouldn’t be haunted by that unholy ghost called vengeance.

That whole sub-plot goes on in the first bit of the film, and the actual super villain (in the full Lizard state) doesn’t get fully introduced until after the one-hour mark. Dr. Curt Connors has motivations that are quite easy to understand. He only has one arm, so he has a raging jealousy of lizards because they can regrow limbs. His motivations are easy to understand, but his master plan… not so much. He wants to turn everyone into lizards. Sure, we’ll be stronger and faster, but everyone’s more content being human… We’ll have scaly skin, and even a year supply of hand and skin lotions can’t cure that.

While it probably won’t enter the reboot series status of something like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, it still makes the sequels look promising. There are some great action sequences, dramatic scenes and plot development, and it’s a great introduction to a new Spider-Man series. Garfield may make for an often unfunny Spider-Man, as all the jokes are given to Police Captain Stacy, Gwen, Uncle Ben and Aunt May; but maybe the writers will give him a little more flare and heart in the sequels.

75/100

Spider-Man 3 — A film review by Daniel Prinn – Sometimes, the third time really isn’t the charm.

Spider-Man 3

Release Date: May 4, 2007

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Topher Grace

Runtime: 139 min

Tagline: How long can any man fight the darkness… before he finds it in himself?

Sometimes, the third time really isn’t the charm; and apparently Parker’s charm just had to flee, too.

Peter Parker is still your always friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, well… kind of. When a mysterious black entity bonds with Peter, he must deal with relationships, numerous villains, temptations, a huge ego and revenge.

Some of the film is entertaining, but this is forgettable. It sucks that they made the worst (it isn’t retched, or anything, though) of the trilogy the longest. It’s the darkest of the series, but it doesn’t work well.

The numerous antagonists, and some subplots of revenge, make the film very crowded. There’s Harry, the New Goblin, who’s still bent on avenging his father’s death; there’s Flint Marko, Sandman, who is actually an unknown part of Peter’s past which starts yet another subplot of revenge; there’s Eddie Brock (Venom), a photographer who starts a feud with Parker at the Daily Bugle, and who eventually swears revenge on Parker (I don’t know why, but I’m just getting this odd vibe [maybe my spidey senses are tingling] that revenge plays a huge role in this film); and there’s also the usual relationship problems between Peter and M.J., and Gwen Stacy now seems to be  throwing some moves in on Spidey. [Phew!]

Peter, Peter, Peter, where in the world did your charisma go? All of the charisma of this film went to the freaking maître d’ (a cameo from Bruce Campbell, star of the Evil Dead trilogy); I know the film isn’t supposed to be very charismatic, it’s supposed to be dark, which it is, but some of it doesn’t work. The unbearable part of the film where Parker is taken completely over by the dark entity is just so annoying, it taints my view of the overall movie. I’m not usually one for cockiness or a huge ego in the first place, and Parker isn’t even good at being cocky. Whenever, or if ever, I re-watch this, I’m going to use the fast forward button with pleasure through those scenes.

The positives are fairly limited. The film has entertaining sequences, and many solid performances. Whilst the sub-plots crowd the movie, they are, admittedly, interesting. Venom is the best villain of the series, but Grace doesn’t give the best villain performance of the franchise. (Who could beat Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin?) Venom is my favourite Spider-Man villain, and while I usually enjoy Topher Grace as an actor, he doesn’t work in this dark role. The villain does add some entertainment value to the movie.

Overall, it’s an entertaining ride with a crowded script. It’s a film that isn’t all bad, and the bad and good aspects balance out. It’s an average film, that is by no means horrid. Check it out if you like super hero films. 

60/100