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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/19/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/11/2014
Objectivity is the hallmark of a good film critic and I try to go into every review with an open mind. As I told someone recently, "I want to like every movie, it's just doesn't work out that way." Being a life-long fan of Spider-Man however, I find it hard to not be overly-critical of any movie featuring the Web-Slinger. 2012'sThe Amazing Spider-Man did very little for me. Putting aside the fact that rebooting the franchise seemed unnecessary, the movie veered too far from many of the things which make Peter Parker and Spider-Man great characters and the film's pacing was all wrong. Director Marc Webb is back in the director's seat for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Will this sequel to a reboot be able to right the ship and show that Spider-Man has a promising future at the movies?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens not long after the events of the first film. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) are graduating from high school. (And Gwen is valedictorian!) At the end of the first film, Peter promised Gwen's dad that he would stay away from her and not put her in danger, but this is difficult, as he still has very strong feelings for her. At home, Aunt May (Sally Field) has gone to nursing school to help make ends meet. Meanwhile, Oscorp founder Norman Osborne (Chris Cooper) is on his death-bed and he's visited by his estranged son, Harry (Dale DeHaan). With his father's death, Harry learns two things -- 1) That he's now in charge of Oscorp and 2) He has the same disease which killed his father. Despite this, Harry is glad to see his old friend Peter and the two quickly re-connect and Harry describes how desperate he is to find a cure. At this same time, a mild-mannered Oscorp electrical engineer named Max (Jamie Foxx) is the victim of an industrial accident and becomes an electrically charged creature called Electro. All the while, Peter is trying to figure out why his parents abandoned him and what kind of secrets his father could have left behind.
(Does that sound like a mess? It was certainly a mess while watching it and attempting to write a cohesive synopsis only reinforces that idea.)
Those of you who have read a review of a Marvel Comics film on this site have heard me make this point before and I'm going to make it again: The Marvel catalog contains decades of great stories, so why does Hollywood insist on inventing new ones which not only don't work, but disregard a plethora of comic book lore? Spider-Man has had many, many great adventures in the comics over the years, and the story in this movie seems determined to take a little bit from many of them, thus creating a potpourri of madness. The movie seems to want to please everyone -- it's got a love story, action, and bits and pieces of minutia which are clearly there for the fanboys to gobble up and speculate over. There's a character named Felicia (played by Felicity Jones) no last name given. Is this Felicia Hardy, AKA The Black Cat? Let's jump on a chat forum and debate this? Instead of being given a coherent, linear storyline and characters with any depth, we get unnecessary things like that. At the same time, the movie goes in the opposite direction. A character appears in the third act which is clearly meant to be The Green Goblin, but he's never called that. You want us to geek out over whether or not B.J. Novak's character is going to invent the "Spider Slayers", but you can't use the words "Green Goblin"?
This may sound like an exaggeration, but it isn't: There wasn't a single scene in this film which worked for me. The Peter Parker character is still all wrong. Peter is not a brooding skateboard kid. He is a science nerd who feels freedom and exhilaration when he dons the Spider-Man mask. This freedom allows Peter to be a wise-cracking smart-ass when he's Spider-Man, but he just comes across as a jerk here. Despite the fact that they are a couple in real life, Garfield and Stone show absolutely no chemistry in their scenes together. These scenes seem to go on-and-on and are crammed with painful dialogue and what my wife referred to as "Sharknado-level acting". The movie works too hard at making Oscorp the center of the universe and we are left wondering if the company actually makes any products or if they just create super-villains. (Yet another "excite the fanboys" moment in a company vault seems to imply the latter.) The fact that Electro is so different from his comic-book counterpart aside...eels? Really? This felt like the sort of thing which was thrown out as a bad joke in the writer's room and then found its way into the script. And don't get me started on the Transformers...I mean Rhino.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is easily the most mis-guided super-hero movie sinceMan of Steel. Director Marc Webb has proven in the past that he has talent, but he was clearly handed a top-heavy script and he's delivered an incredibly unemotional movie. The finale is supposed to be heart-wrenching, but it simply left me cold. When the public realizes that maybe Spider-Man 3 wasn't that bad after all, you know that we are dealing with a disappointing film. As far as I'm concerned, Spider-Man is a national treasure and deserves to be treated as such. This movie is an insult to the character and the fans. As the franchise has now been pushed back several years, hopefully the powers-that-be will take the time to create a movie which is worth of the Spider-Man name.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't let us forget that Gwen is a scientific genius on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The picture shows off a great crispness, which lends it an impressive amount of detail and depth, even in this 2D version. The colors look fantastic, most notably the blues and reds (of course) and the image is never overly dark or bright. Overall, the movie looks very good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action scenes are a cornucopia of effects, as things move from side-to-side in the front channels, while we get nicely detailed effects in the rear channels, where we can pick out individual sounds. The scene in which Max hears the voices in his head really shows off the power of this track. The subwoofer effects provide great bass that doesn't overpower the dialogue.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extra features.
We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Writers Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinkner, Producers Matthew Tolmach and Avi Arad. The Disc contains thirteen DELETED & ALTERNATE SCENES which run about 23 minutes. This opens with a scene which was clearly meant to be the ending of the film where Peter meets his father. We also get an extended scene in which Harry explains to Peter why he needs his help and an interesting shot of Garfield perched on a ledge with his safety harness intact. "The Wages of Heroism: Making The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (104 minutes) is a six-part documentary which focuses on many aspects of the film's production in great detail. Of course, the fact that the first chapter is called "Lessons Learned" tells me that I'm not going to get a lot of good information here. The piece focuses on the pre-production process, on-location shooting, the villains, the visual effects, and the music. "The Music of Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Director Marc Webb" (8 minutes) has the filmmaker discussing specifics of the music while we the musicians at work. The final extra is a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "It's On Again" by Alicia Keys.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long