The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Is it his greatest battle? I'm not sure.
"His greatest battle begins."

Hi everyone, welcome back to The Tagline! It was a sunny warm weekend, which was just terrible for me, you know how much I just HATE that, but on the upside I finally saw The AMAZING SPIDER-MAN TWOOO with returning star Andrew Garfield once again donning the Spideysuit to protect New York from crime in whatever form it chooses to take. Also returning as his smarter than him girlfriend is Emma Stone, as the always awesome Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are an item in real life, and I think their natural chemistry really carries through to the screen). In this particular outing Spiderman faces off against Electro, who if you couldn't deduce from his name is made out of electricity (well he's actually just like a living capacitor, but he is FULL OF electricity). Originally an overlooked and forgettable nerd who was downtrodden and abused at Oscorp, Max Dillon becomes a force of nature after a horrific incident involving some power lines and electric eels or something. Dillon is portrayed by Jamie Foxx, who does a credible job as an awkward weirdo power nerd, instead of a gunslinging badass. Added into this already complex situation (especially because of Peter Parker's conflicting emotions relating to how he promised Gwen's dead dad he'd leave her out of his shit, and then PROMPTLY DIDN'T) is Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, remember when he kissed Harry Potter, or when he was an insane proto-super villain?) who was Peter Parker's best bud, but now is rapidly spiraling down into crazy land because of a terminal condition he inherited from his asshole dad, who everyone hates anyway so let's all celebrate now that he's dead. As you may have already guessed if you're familiar with the comics, Harry is about to go goblin.

So the stage is set, let's talk about the movie itself. Following up on the previous Spiderman movie, which already received a tepid reception from a lot of movie-goers (I think that's unfortunate, and I reacted rather irritably to it at the time) ASM2 is past the origin story, and deals with Peter Parker having to follow through with the decisions he made when he became Spiderman. As you might suspect, and as is so important for him as a character, Pete ends up falling a little bit short in a few departments, and that ends up having very significant consequences for him, and for everyone around him. Knowing that, if nothing else there would be Electro AND Green Goblin appearing in this movie, I was more than a little bit worried that we could be putting the ball on the tee for another Spiderman 3 situation, with too many villains and not enough story. That thankfully was not the case here (though I will talk a little bit about why the movie sort of gets a mulligan in terms of set up) though I confess that this movie does take a little while to find its stride. While the greatest criticism that you could leverage at the previous iteration was that it was shackled to covering the origin story, this movie suffers from uneven pacing, especially during the first act. You can see that it is setting itself up for something pretty big in the second half of the movie, but this doesn't entirely absolve the movie of guilt for taking so long to get there. When the action really starts to dial in though, this movie is every bit as good as the last one was. It's also a bit easier to take cliffhanger or open ended resolutions to superhero movies in an era where the sequel is virtually guaranteed. The way that superhero movies are made now is something that I don't think has ever really happened previously, and it means that you're almost 100% going to get the continuation to the story, instead of just a really awkward ending to a movie that will never see a sequel.

I'm pretty sure when you get electrocuted you just die.
I think what really sells this though are the performances given by the main cast (and really the supporting cast too). Andrew Garfield is still just a fantastic fit for the awkward, wise-cracking, but still conflicted Peter Parker, and Emma Stone is an inspirational driven and assertive Gwen Stacy, who just makes for such an interesting and fantastic love interest/wow actually a relevant character to the plot. She is Peter's equal in every way except for the super-power one, and really is frequently demonstrated as being smarter than him. She acts as his anchor, as well as his actual support, and we need to acknowledge that without her help he would currently be 0-2 in terms of defeating the villains he's faced in these movies. I'm going to now talk about some things that will spoil the end of the movie, so if you haven't seen it and also aren't familiar with Spiderman, then stop reading here.

I've seen a lot of different reactions to the climax of the film, especially in regards to the death of Gwen Stacy during the final moments of conflict between the Green Goblin and Spiderman. People were understandably upset, because Emma Stone's Stacy is a fantastic character, and I can really also understand doubt about the movies being able to fill the considerable void left by her character. I am also not one of those people who believes it HAD to happen just because it did in the comics. I agree that Stacy in these movies has been a much more interesting character, and that killing her in the comics was a means of removing an uninteresting plot liability, but I think that doing so in this movie served a different but still very relevant purpose. Harry at one point in the movie remarks to Gwen that she helps Peter know what decisions to make, and I think that is very true of her character. It might seem weird to say given that she is his pretty blond girlfriend, but Gwen Stacy serves in the movies almost like Peter Parker's Dumbledore. Which is to say it feels like things won't ever get too bad so long as she's still alive. She helps Peter to stay centered, keeps him pointed in the right direction, and her being safe lets him fling himself into danger full speed, knowing that by doing so he puts a formidable obstacle between her and danger. Removing her takes away Spiderman's confidence, it takes part of his purpose, and leaves him utterly alone (as she was also his sole confidant). Now he doesn't just have to be Spiderman, he has to do it completely alone (and his enemies are not exactly getting less numerous as the movie closes) The dynamic between him and Green Goblin is also very different in this movie (not the least because it is not the "original" green goblin). Harry felt betrayed by Peter, and so lashed out at him in the worst way he could think of. In doing so, we see both his origin story and no doubt an origination of what will be an ongoing conflict between him and Peter. I can see how it feels rushed that Green Goblin was included at all, but I think that it actually worked out pretty well. It is questionable as to whether they'll be able to fill the big shoes left by Emma Stone, but I can understand why they made the decision.

We'll always have high school.
I think that while this film ended up with more emotional gravitas than I expected it to, that with the death of Gwen Stacy the fate of future installments is left very much in question. I want to see them keep succeeding, but I'm not sure they'll be able to pull it off. I also need to mention as a final note that the biggest turn off for me about this movie was the still obtrusive THREE DEE MOMENTS that were interspersed throughout. Can't we just move beyond all that crap already? No one needs to see Spiderman dodge bullets in slow motion as they streak towards the screen. No one. While I'm at it, three cheers for leaving Shailene Woodley out of this movie (she was originally supposed to appear as Mary Jane Watson, so far along that they even shot the scenes)

That's it for today! Join me again on Thursday, I'm not exactly sure where I'm going to take us, but it could be to the frozen Alaskan wilderness.

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