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David Poland

By David Poland

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (spoiler-free)


Neither my expectations nor my standards were lowered.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a piece of quality filmmaking with actual attention to consistent coherent (and emotionally coherent) storytelling.

It’s a weird thing, comparing movies based on the major comic book heroes (as opposed to some really interesting work inspired by niche-y graphic novels). We have certainly reached the point where there are enough of these films to constitute a standalone genre. When the first Burton Batman came out in 1989, the points of reference were Superman: The Movie (and its offspring), Sam Jones’ Flash Gordon, the Batman TV series, and car wrecks like Supergirl, Sheena, and Howard The Duck (which I like to imagine being made without the baggage today with Patton Oswalt killing it as Howard and geeks loving it). Those first 3 Superman films really told the whole story… serious, mixed serious and campy, and wildly over-the-top hambone comedy. Ultimately, the three Batman variations have also turned out to be similar… mixed serious & campy from Burton, over-the-top hambone from Schumacher, and serious (even more serious than Donner) from Nolan.

Now we have the Marvel-made camp, the individual characters at other studios each with their own voice, and over at WB, DC characters trying to find the answer (yet again). My natural inclination – and perhaps yours – is to compare ASM 2 to the recently released Captain America 2… or even Iron Man 3 or Avengers. But after giving it another thought, I am going to avoid comparisons (although, for the record, Cap 2 can’t carry Peter Parker’s Spider-jock).

Marvel’s homemade content is the current king of the hill, just as WB’s Batman series with Nolan reigned from 2005 until the showdown between Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Before and – in some part – during Nolan, it was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trio.

The first $40 million opening in history was for Batman in 1989. The first $50 million opening in history was for Batman Forever in 1995. The first $100 million opening ever was for Spider-Man in 2002. The first $150 million opening in movie history was for The Dark Knight in 2008. The first $200 million opening was for Avengers in 2012.

There are other franchises on other landmarks along the way (Jurassic, Potter, Pirates), but these big-brand comic books have been box office leaders for 25 years now.

Getting back to my original point, the foundational intentions behind a movie like ASM 2 and Cap 2 are undeniably different. Marvel has, in their in-house product, focused on building an identity for the brand more than attempting to make films with a strong, unique voice. As a result, they have hired working film directors who do not bring a strong, dominant sensibility to their films. The top half of the 9-film catalog (Iron Man, Iron Man 3, Captain America, and Avengers) show a better-defined voice that still sticks to the big plan. Robert Downey, Jr, more so than Jon Favreau defined the universal voice as Iron Man. Joe Johnston did a period one-off for Cap’s origin story. And Joss Whedon found colors in the ensemble that were light and fun and especially entertaining.

Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man films are quite unlike any of the major box office comic efforts so far. A lot of the same elements – dead parents, budding romance, identity confusion – are there. But like the old comics, Webb seems to be very interested in exploring what it would be like for an actual teenager to become a superhero. In some ways, Zack Snyder explored this more than any other filmmaker in this genre, with Man of Steel driven by a young Superman torn between the conflicting ideas of his two fathers about how to live in this world as a superhero. But there was almost no time focused on Superman as a person in that film.

Webb is also more interested in the physical properties of flying than any filmmaker since Superman: The Movie made audiences believe a man could fly. Not only does Webb manage – more so than on his first Spidey film – to draw the audience into the experience of flying around New York by web and the awkwardness and style of a skateboarding teen freed from the traditional constraints of gravity, he manages to make it feel so right that you stop being conscious of the oddity of web slinging as you watch him doing it.

Not coincidentally, there is a huge leap in webbing in this film. For the first time – aside from the comical first web experience (then biological webs) in the first Raimi film – audiences have a relationship with the webs. We can sense their weight, speed, stretch, and capability, even anticipating how they will connect and how they will respond under Spider-Man’s control during the film. The technical limitations of super powers, even with constant advances in CG, have always been there, challenging our willingness to believe what was not quite real. I noted this back on Transformers 3, when the technology finally caught up and was able to create transformers that could actually give a performance at a price (still high) that was viable.

But Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not just a technological marvel. It’s still a comic book movie. It embraces this. It never, for a moment, aspires to engage a bigger world issue than the issues of Spider-Man’s “friendly” neighborhood, his love life, his Aunt May, and whatever is going on at Oscorp. But within that world, it is as good a piece of filmmaking as we have seen in this genre and smarter, tougher, and more loyal to the darker traditions of comic books than any film outside of the Nolan trio. And dare I note that the most serious and worldly of the Nolan films. The Dark Knight Rises, was the least well received (at least in my perception).

I don’t want to get into spoilers, but ASM 2 is a movie that takes its time with its more serious side. It does an infinitely better job than any “why I can’t be with you” angle I have seen in any of these films. The inevitable “what a coincidence” moments are pretty much cleared out in the case. (I was really afraid that we were going to have one when Aunt May ended up at a hospital at one point… but it didn’t turn out to be too significant.) And the central relationships felt reasonably real, not just in nice moments, but in the overall story.

I have heard some complaints about “too much story,” but I think those folks have been a little ruined by the truly simplistic A-story, small B-story nature of most of these films. The villains, who have always been a weakness in the genre, particularly in the Spider-Man films, make completely sense to me here. And they aren’t “look at the star doing something we haven’t seen” moments… which makes any comparison to the Schumacher Batman films seem complete specious to me.

Jamie Foxx gives a nice, solid performance as Max Dillon/Electro. Others could have done it, but he does well by it. And unlike most of the villains in these movies, he is not so over the top as to be unbelievable. And there is no mysterious reason why his powers ebb and flow. He makes sense… as much as a human who becomes living electricity can be.

Likewise, Harry Osborn and his eventual evil form, who is named in the credits, but not in the movie. The screenplay for this film not only gives us a truly great sequence with Chris Cooper as Harry’s dad, Norman Osborn, but has both the confidence not to give it a name and to keep it pretty brief. Did I mention how great the scene between Dane DeHaan and Chris Cooper is? Not only well written and well acted, but so beautifully directed and creatively executed… right down to the color of Norman Osborn’s eyes.

Some may feel a little fatigue as the film makes a real effort to connect all the pieces and to explain things like the science behind some ideas. But I loved all of that. The connection between Harry Osborn and Peter Parker is very real – given that it is a movie – and the film doesn’t feel compelled to over-explain. They were very close friends when they were kids under 10. No flashback. Yay. I bought it. The shared science information between Peter and Gwen… terrific… and I bought it without having to make a big leap or feeling stupid.

I am not the world’s biggest fan of Orci & Kurtzman writing these big movies. But this is one of those where I completely went with them and Jeff Pinkner, who helped drive the train on “Fringe.” I don’t know if everything I liked was theirs or not. But the speeches are good. The story is solid. And the characters are really well considered, when it would be so easy for them to be silly. The film feels a bit like it was 20 minutes longer and then pared down to just what they all felt was needed. The movie has about 5 minutes where it drags a little, but there are some big, quiet, lengthy beats that are some of the best things in the film. So, huzzah.

There is another villain, who you’ve surely seen in the ads. I don’t want to spoil his involvement, but I don’t see it as a weight on the “amount of story” in the film at all. His use makes perfect sense. And my unbridled pleasure at seeing Paul Giamatti show up with a Frankenstein-looking head and a wild accent from the start can’t be measured.

Also worth noting at this juncture is a great character performance by Marton Csokas, who has not been lucky since hitting a triple with LOTR: Return of The King, The Bourne Supremacy, and Kingdom of Heaven. Hopefully, this film, Sin City 2, and Denzel/Fuqua’s The Equalizer will bring him back to the top of casting lists.

I kinda loved The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It has the best Times Square action sequence that anyone has done. It has great character performances. I bought the villain sequencing completely. I love Webb’s soft heart and his willingness to let everyone know that family love matters. I think Andrew Garfield, who is really beginning to look his age, makes a great Spider-Man. Emma Stone remains lovely and smart and every bit her super-boyfriend’s equal. (And I can’t wait for her to get back to her real career. Seeing her in this film reminded me that she has true greatness in her reach and we need movie stars. Perhaps Cannes & Crowe will get her right back to speed this very year.)

Speaking of movie stars, I am convinced that Sarah Gadon, in a small role here, is about to blow up… big. I saw her in three different things in the last week and am now looking forward to her in the new Cronenberg at Cannes. But a short time I had interviewing her and her co-star and her director in a film a couple of years ago really convinced me as much as the performances. She has an energy and an intelligence in a room that tells me a lot. it is not unlike some of the energy I felt from Emma Stone in an Easy A sit. Or Jenn Lawrence. It’s not about attraction. It is an energy that a person can push through the camera and to the audience. Gadon has that… even in a tiny role here. Definitely in support in Belle.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will not be my favorite film of the year. It probably won’t be my favorite film in May (as Cannes will no doubt offer some true delights.) But as these kinds of films go, there is so much that I like, above and beyond others, that it stands above. The wrinkles in the back of the suit, man. That is what separates this film from all the rest. The wrinkles in the back of the suit.

As Roger Ebert said, no good movie is too long… no bad movie is short enough. I connect to the flavor, the artistry, and the detail of Marc Webb’s vision of Spider-Man. I’ll be happy to go again… and again. Hell, even the Stan Lee cameo didn’t irritate me. And special thanks for not tagging the film with a sneak peek of the next film. It’s a superhero movie that feels and thinks. Excelsior.

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47 Responses to “Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (spoiler-free)”

  1. LYT says:

    Wow. Parallel universes with this one.

    The scene between Osborn and son was the first part where the movie completely began to lose me. He has a terminal genetic disease – that turns him bright green? And gives him claws? That he couldn’t just manicure away? He started showing symptoms at the same age as Harry, yet Harry will die right now if he can’t cure it?

    As for Electro making sense – do tell where his rubber shorts go when he disembodies from the physical form.

    I do agree that a faithful-to-comic Howard the Duck reboot is due. It’d be better in animation, though.

  2. Joe says:

    Just to inform the author, although you are a certified reviewer on Rottentomatoes, you posted this review for the first Amazing Spider-Man film, not the second. Might wnat to fix that.

  3. EtGuild2 says:

    Very nice review. Though I’d quibble in that Shane Black, Edgar Wright, James Gunn and Branaugh aren’t known for having a “strong sensibility” in their films? “Iron Man 3” even had Black’s trademark Christmas references thrown in, and Marvel has slow-tracked “Ant-Man” for 7 years to allow Wright to fulfill his vision, despite the fact you’d think it would have made more sense to make than burning through the contracts with Downey, Hemsworth and Evans in a 5 year span. Thor was a hell of a lot campier in Thor 1 than 2, etc. It’s true that some of the directors (ie Taylor and Leterrier) complained about studio heavy-handedness but I think many have cast a signature stamp on their movies.

    Re: Box office. The tracking suggests that this might actually be off from the reboot, which would mean it could actually finish behind X-MEN and The Captain domestically. That’s something that, in the superhero genre, would have seemed unfathomable a few years ago.

  4. Wraith33 says:

    It figures Poland would like this train wreck of a film. It just doesn’t surprise me at all.

  5. That Guy says:

    Poland gave this piece of shit a pass because it fulfills his one true criteria: it doesn’t reject his preferred business model for superhero films, ie publishers licensing their characters out to other companies and having next to no say in the finished product.

    Poland doesn’t review films, he reviews studios. He likes Fox and Sony, dislikes Marvel and WB. Waiting breathlessly for his X-Men: Days of Future Past rave, and his Guardians of the Galaxy pan.

  6. David Poland says:

    Wow, That Guy, which of your asses did you pull that theory from?

    Thought Spider-Man 2 was wildly overrated and outright panned S-M 3. Kicked the crap out of Fantastic Four and Daredevil… didn’t even bother to see Elektra. Raved The Dark Knight Rises and while I thought TDK was overrated, was very positive. Liked Avengers, but though it overrated. Liked Iron Man 3 until the sell-out ending. Loved Captain America… except for the crap last 10 minutes. Not a biog fan of X-Men 2. Underwhelmed by X-Men: First Class. Loved Burton’s Batmans… hated Schumacher’s.

    I’m failing to see this consistent pattern you have decided to see.

    I do think that the primary theme in the Marvel Universe has been mediocrity combined with one great element… Robert Downey, Jr has come close to carrying the whole thing, really. But love Wheedon/Ruffalo Hulk. And I am fine with Captain America… but prefer when it’s not just one joke.

    Anyone with any sense can see that Marvel has mostly hired directors without a history of delivering much, but do deliver on time and on budget. It’s not exactly a murderer’s row of aesthetes.

    Wheedon was an excellent choice. He brought a greater entertainment value than anyone since Donner, Burton (who made beautiful films, even though Batman is in many ways a mess… you can tell it’s on a stage, even when it doesn’t want you to) or Raimi’s first Spidey.

    I was excited by Shane Black… but as I wrote back then, I think they held him back. And it’s when he pushes the outside corners that he excels as a storyteller.

    From here, I expect X-Men to be a mess, really. I think they are trying to hard. Singer has none of the mirth that Wheedon does. So I will be shocked if it’s great.

    And I have no idea on Guardians. I haven’t predicted its success or failure at all, because until we see the movie, no way at all to know. Right now, it’s a great song for a trailer and an all-geek push. That will expand. I would love for it to be the breakout, smart, thinking man’s comic book movie of the decade. But if the raccoon is funny and everything else isn’t, won’t be enough for me.

    Obviously, you are going to continue to take your position no matter what my truth is. So this is clarification. Life will go on.

    It’s been an interesting week for people who decide that if you feel this way or that, it can’t be because you just feel that way for legit reasons, there has to be nefarious subtext. It’s a shitty basis for debate.

    I don’t think I am anything less than wide open about giving context to my position on Marvel’s in-house films. As far as the non-in-house Marvels and DCs, I walk into every single film open to whatever is on screen. Sorry for that.

  7. David Poland says:

    Luke –

    Like I said a few times in the review, it’s a comic book movie. I don’t get into trying to figure out Hulk’s pants or how no one’s found the Batcave or whatever. I consider these things a basic part of these films’ premises.

    As for The Osbornes, I liked it – in part – because they don’t turn bright green… neither Norman nor Harry. Creepy. Weird. Odd hair. Etc. For me, Norman’s fingernails were a cool reference to Howard Hughes, not supervillainy. When we see The Goblin for the first time, not bright green, not particularly superhuman, etc… Same with PG’s incarnation.

    On the other hand, when everyone in Captain America 2 who isn’t wearing a villain hat can dance through machine gun fire from 20 guys and the movie is supposed to play as realistic on some level… yeah. I don’t beat it to death. James Bond has made that a part of the action genre. But every movie sets is rules and tone.

  8. movieman says:

    Chris Pratt headlines “Guardians.”

    That’s the smartest move in the Marvel universe since Downey got the “Iron Man” gig.
    Color me stoked.

  9. EtGuild2 says:

    “Anyone with any sense can see that Marvel has mostly hired directors without a history of delivering much, but do deliver on time and on budget”

    This is just dead wrong. Not only did they hire Joe Johnston, a director notorious for going over budget and time restraints, but you’re defining “not delivering much” as not having experience delivering a $170 million spectacle. So Marvel should have hired directors, down the line, in the mold of Johnston? Most other mega franchises like Potter and Star Wars, work with mainstream “big names” or in-system talent like Lawrence Kasdan, Chris Columbus or David Yates.

    Marvel has hired big budget hacks (Johnston and Leterrier), TV guys (Russos, Taylor and Whedon), cult figures (Black and Gunn), a comedian (Favreau) and geek idols (Whedon and Wright). There is no discernible pattern.

    Marc Webb, by David Poland’s definition, is known for “not delivering much” exactly as Shane Black, Jon Favreau and James Gunn are.

  10. J says:


  11. len says:

    Great review.

  12. christian says:

    Anybody who thought SPIDER-MAN 2 was overrated but this hot mess is awesome….nuff said.

  13. David Poland says:

    I have to admit, I am fascinated by the “hot mess” and “train wreck” comments. I can’t imagine they are actually motivated by the film.

    Not saying they aren’t sincere… but agree with me or disagree with me, I am not ignorant of the language of film.

  14. Ant says:

    “The wrinkles in the back of the suit” ha, so true, great review.

  15. Ped-Ant says:

    Just FYI, it’s Osborn, no ‘e’ on the end. But feel free to delete this comment if you don’t care

  16. Ray Pride says:

    Ed.: Corrected, thanks, (Ped)-ant.

  17. LYT says:

    “because they don’t turn bright green… neither Norman nor Harry.”

    What movie were you seeing?

    Because in the one where I was, Norman was bright green the first time you see him. Maybe a dark green – which might be where we differ – but a strongly inhuman one.

    It’s not comparable to the Hulk’s pants, because that’s a big wink we give so we never have to see his penis, in any medium.

    Green Goblin is supposed to be a costume. I don’t know who you mean by PG – previous goblin was WD.

  18. YancySkancy says:

    LYT: I assume PG is Paul “Rhino” Giamatti, but I haven’t seen the film, so I don’t know what parallel David is making.

  19. movieman says:

    As pleasantly surprised as I was by “Amazing Spider-Man” two years ago, I really felt left down by the sequel.
    I described the previous film as a solid revival of a classic B’way musical (you know the score by heart, but it’s still nice hearing the songs again, especially when they’re sung so well).
    “Amazing 2” feels more like the touring company of said musical that’s been on the road too long. Everybody seems to be going through their paces, minus the energy and (seeming) joy they once brought to their jobs.
    The one exception is Dane DeHaan, the only actor who brings any spark of life to the proceedings.
    It’s competently made, of course, but singularly lacking in excitement or even any real sense of “fun.”
    I was never remotely engaged, and the 2 hours 24 minutes just sort of crawled by. (I got the sense that the only reason the film was rushed into theaters– less than two years after the first “Amazing”–was to fill a gap in Sony’s calendar.)
    And because fanboys demand X number of comic book movies per annum.
    (P.S.= Is Sarah Gadon in the post-credits “extra”? For the life of me, I couldn’t spot her anywhere in the actual film.)

  20. Amblinman says:

    It’s amazing to me that we even have a sequel to that first film. Audiences are so completely on autopilot with these movies it seems nothing matters anymore. The first amazing had a few decent moments but mostly came across as what it was – a burnt out, hollow retread of a franchise that wasn’t ready to be rebooted yet. Yet here we are.

    Depressing. Bring on Godzilla and the (hopefully) real kickoff to summer.

  21. Geoff says:

    I really don’t understand where a lot of these critics are coming from….it’s as if they’re being more critical of the efforts behind the scenes of this movie than the actual product. Yes the movie is a bit overstuffed with plot and characters and yes it’s obvious that a lot of the narrative is part of a studio effort towards setting up spin-off films about villains. However despite that, the movie still WORKS and is very effective….the cast work really hard and bring genuine emotion to the story, especially Garfield, Stone, and Sally Field. The action scenes are very well done…..the way this character spins his web has never looked more exciting. And I just found the film a strong mix of entertainment with action, comedy, suspense, and heartfelt drama – I don’t care what any one else says, there IS a very strong character arc in this movie. And no doubt, it’s the last 15 minutes of this film that really make it work….regardless of how cheesy the screenplay can be, the writers really did a nice job of taking this character through a genuine journey – there’s a scene towards the end that recalls Tiannamen Square AND Batkid and even though I could tell I was being manipulated, damn if it did not work regardless! And for all of the talk about studio interference and franchise plans (it doesn’t help that Sony has been hyping the spin-off projects for pretty much a year leading up to this – their hyper-aggressive marketing efforts are probably a big reason behind the critical backlash against this film), this film is no less geared towards setting up other franchises than any recent Marvel Cinematic Universe film. I enjoyed both the recent Captain America and Thor films, but it was always obvious watching those movies that there was as much empathis on keeping the cinematic universe going than advancing the story…..I’m not just talking about post-credit scenes, but even story decisions relating to characters. SPOILER ALERT: Let’s face it, the folks behind these Marvel/Disney movies are obviously afraid to kill ANY major characters out of fear that they can’t use them in future movies. That is NOT the case with Amazing Spiderman 2….it took some balls to do what they did with this film and I applaud them for it. Trying to keep it a bit vague with this movie but if you don’t ever feel like any major character is ever in genuine danger and any one who dies (Loki, Pepper Potts, Agent Colson, Nick Fury) is just going to magically come back to life by the end of the film, it becomes tiresome and drains the suspense. Back to this film, it is a fantastic entertainment and I would even say it could be better than Spiderman 2 which is a film I really enjoyed. Hans Zimmer once again delivers a rousing score and I have to say that I even enjoyed how the main villain was presented – Jamie Foxx is kind of underused since he’s really just hidden behind make-up and tons of effects, but Electro is still a pretty unique and effective villain. I have a feeling that this film will get clobbered by the other big blockbusters out there over the next few weeks and will likely underperform, but that blame should go to the marketing folks at Sony who have REALLY been putting the cart before the horse when it comes to promoting this film: way too many trailers and commercials pretty much throwing every story element out there and WAY too much emphasis on actually promoting the next films after this. (Ok we get it….something “Sinister” is coming!) It could backfire on them, but it has nothing do with the quality of the movie. Marc Webb has directed one of the best superhero films of recent years.

  22. storymark says:

    ” I don’t care what any one else says,”

    Works both ways…

  23. Martin s says:

    Not sure what’s going to match Godzilla, but Tranny’s is going to look silly upon release. G lives up to the anticipation.

    And I don’t believe it’s staying at WB unless the option lies with WB and not Legendary. Tull would be crazy not to move it to Uni, especially if he’s throwing money into the parks.

    You could tell ASM2 was becoming a muddle when the focus shifted off of Foxx and onto Golbin, Rhino, etc…still something “off” about the Webb movies.

  24. David Poland says:

    what’s becoming clearer… especially with Manohla’s review… is that ASM2 is getting picked apart and having all the issues that critics have with CG superhero movies in general put in its doorstep. Manohla even manages to get ticked off by the treatment of Gwen Stacey, who contributes ideas that actually matter, while embracing Raimi’s Mary Jane, who was never more than the object of desire.

    Some days, I just can’t figure people out…

  25. SamLowry says:

    Paragraph breaks are nice…that is, if there’s more than one idea in that wall of text. (Man, I hated those old-timey books where you could go several pages without finding a paragraph break.)

    But THREE villains? That’s pathetic. It’s practically an admission that no one has any confidence in the story.

  26. Stella's Boy says:

    Is it maybe some superhero fatigue (the middling reviews)? The reviews are meaningless to me. I’m just not interested in another superhero movie. Bring on Godzilla.

  27. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Manohla even manages to get ticked off by the treatment of Gwen Stacey, who contributes ideas that actually matter, while embracing Raimi’s Mary Jane, who was never more than the object of desire.

    Man, I can’t disagree with this more. Let me ask you some questions:

    What aspirational goals does Mary Jane have for her career?
    Is she satisfied with her current life status?
    Does this impact her relationships with the people around her?

    Now, for Gwen Stacy:

    What aspirational goals does Gwen Stacy have apart from “being smart” and “being in love with Peter”?

    I’m not saying that Dunst’s MJ is a better character than Stone’s Gwen (I personally prefer Stone as an actress), but Gwen is quintessentially defined by her relationship with Peter (famously for 1 scene, in pretty much all media). MJ, on the other hand, is a more rounded character with clear goals and motivations outside of being an object of desire.

  28. chris says:

    Studying medicine? Going to Oxford? These don’t count for you, foamy squirrel? For crying out loud, Peter talks about moving with her so she can pursue her “aspirational goals?”

  29. leahnz says:

    as a point of difference and retro touch harkening back to its roots, it would have been cool if they’d titled this new one ‘GOJIRA’ instead of using the same ol’ same ol’ boring ‘godzilla’ english bastardisation

  30. Foamy Squirrel says:

    No, I don’t count “going to college” as a key defining characteristic of a standard movie high school kid. Cmon!

    What’s her motivation for going to college other than “being smart”? Why is she studying medicine, as opposed to any other discipline, other than it’s a discipline for “smart people”. Why not biochemistry or genetics, since that seems to be what she spent the entire first movie doing instead of prescribing 2 aspirin and call me in the morning?

  31. Ray Pride says:

    There may be a GOJIRA hiding in one shot.

  32. Pete B. says:

    Maybe they didn’t want to confuse people with thinking it was Gojira, the French metal band.

  33. leahnz says:

    ha who knew there was a ‘gojira’ metal band (i kinda like it – that song in the link – and the cosmic insemination vid)

    Ray i didn’t get your “There may be a GOJIRA hiding in one shot” comment…(have you seen it? i’ve heard it’s pretty bitchin’. weirdly it’s the one big flick i’m super keen to see — ever since i was a kid i’ve had a weird thing for the idea of super giant monsters destroying shit and wreaking havoc, that terror just hoping they don’t see you down on the ground like a little speck and step on you, and i keep hoping someone is going to make a movie that captures that delicious nightmare feeling… the gaping-maw cloverfield monster hinted at it a little but the story and humans were so fucking dumb and annoying i just wanted them all to die horribly and that obviously defeats the purpose, so here’s hoping Edwards can do a whole lot better and give me the massive monster horrors i’ve been waiting for my whole life)

  34. David Poland says:

    Uh, Foamy… Gwen is actually working/interning at Oscorp from the start of the first movie. Now she has a full-time job there. She is as smart or smarter than Peter. She is challenged to make choices about the relationship with fill knowledge of Peter being Spider-Man. She has been an active participant in Spidey winning the day in both films.

    Raimi’s Mary Jane aspired to be became an actress. But she doesn’t exist in any of those films outside of Peter and Harry’s gaze. She is repeatedly acted upon, not a character of action.

    Seriously… what the hell are you seeing that I am not seeing? Please be specific because I’d love to know.

  35. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I am seeing motivation. I am seeing that MJ has severe self-esteem issues stemming from her dad. I am seeing she feels that she will never be worthy of Harry, or even Peter – but when Peter acts like a douche she will stand up for herself. I see that she is horrified that the people she loves will find out that she is failing miserably in her dream of becoming an actress so she lies to them. I see that she has hopes and dreams that make tangible impacts on her relationships throughout the movies.

    I see that Gwen is smart and nothing else. I know nothing about why she loves science. I know nothing about why she is choosing medicine because it’s got nothing to do with her job. I know nothing about what she’s good at apart from “science” which is the broadest most bullshit answer ever. I know nothing about why she’s choosing Oxford. Her role in saving the day in ASM1 was Peter telling her “stick this in the computer”.

    She exists for two purposes – to carry around a big sign saying “I AM SMART”, and to die. I like that she’s a more active participant (although still dictated by Peter) – I agree with you 100% there. But she is solely defined by Peter, and I don’t understand anything of her internal motivations… and for however much MJ was a damsel in distress, at least she had a character arc.

  36. Triple Option says:

    Did Spidey 3 have 3 villains? There was more than one + an alter ego, right? None of them interesting or menacing. This one, Amaze Spide 2, had three, not counting the development execs and creative team, and none of them could muster any more conflict than getting that call from your great aunt when you’re trying to prepare for a hot date. You can predict every aching joint she’s going to talk about. Only, you can’t rush her off, period. No matter how many times you say “gotta go, Auntie, love you” she just hangs on and talks even slower or can’t remember names or sets the phone down to look for something. You don’t want to be remotely rude cuz she’s like 93 and you don’t want your last words to her to be the ol’ “oh, I think I’m breaking up” or “I didn’t charge my phone” lie. But she’s the villain. She’s the one pushing you closer and closer to your own senility. And yet, the longer film goes on/the conversation goes on, with your life draining out of you, you keep wondering will they do anything new? No. Show anything different? Nope. Examine a part of ourselves that maybe we’ve been collectively trying to avoid? ‘fraid not. You just get to have this gloom hang over you as you leave your pad for what will inevitably be a bland, one & done, date. Or in this case, leave the theater, seriously wondering will any movie be any good this summer or will it be a series of great letdowns ahead.

    Even though the title said spoiler free, I wanted to avoid reading this until after seeing the film myself. I had kinda forgotten about the thread even existing but when logged on, mainly to check boxoffice, I saw the thread had been updated and read what was said. As I was scrolling down, I was totally thinking, “Holy cow, you know what?? I betcha Poland actually liked this lukewarm dog turd on the front rug movie…” Ding-Ding-Ding-Ding-Ding-Ding-Ding!!

    I figured he’d give a glowing review, that I knew. What I wasn’t sure about is if he really did like it or was going to give it a thumbs up to quiet the haters who say he bashes everything superhero. Sorta like rock critics back in the day who praised Hammer’s follow up album to 2 Legit 2 Quit after getting called out for panning (if they reviewed them at all) Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy and The D.O.C. It’s like “uh, no, this one actually is a snooze. But thanks for letting us know you have absolutely zero credibility it in area. Saves us some trouble.”

    So, for the ones who called it before I got here, thanks for the big laugh to get me going!! (Nothing personal, David.) Love the site and appreciate your hard work. I just saw this one coming. Too bad, this could’ve been your smoking gun for what’ll likely be the Ouroboros demise of the subgenre too.

  37. Triple Option says:

    PS – I’m totally feeling Foamy. MJ was far more developed than Gwen. As much as I love Emma Stone, it kinda pains me to say I didn’t remember Gwen being “that smart” in the first. Not sure I bought it here, really. Seemed like a bit of a coincidence that she just happened to be the valedictorian of her class. At first it seemed like a convenient way for her to give a speech. So what she’s interning at a big corp?? I interned at some pretty impressive places and I went to a state school. They didn’t really have her do much. She even seemed to have moved on from events in the previous film more so than Spidey so that angle is lost. Not that I thought he was lying but when Peter Parker tells her that he’d move to England to be w/her it seemed like one of those last ditch efforts guys tell their woman to by them some time. “Honey, I swear, I’m throwing out the bong and registering for trade tech Monday morning. Please, let’s just stay together for a few weeks until after my cousin’s wedding so I don’t have to explain to my parents why we’re not together. The family will care more about you and won’t leave you alone so actually what I’m doing for you is no small favor.” I mean, seriously, had he done anything besides get shown in long, wide angle shots emoting to lead us to believe she was “the one?” Did you get the sense Gwen would make it through Oxford to get a post-doc or would she bail to Saint-Tropez with some old money, French industrialist come her first holiday beyond the Thames?

    We saw two lives MJ had. One w/Peter and what one could actually be w/out him, which had a really decent trajectory. What would’ve happened had Peter committed to Gwen? It pretty much seemed like Oxford was her backup plan and staying in to spell Aunt May from separating Peter’s whites and bright colors.

    I generally find Kurtzman and Orci’s script work to be rather middling to forgettable. This one may actually be bad. Won’t go into spoilers but there was one exchange between Peter and Gwen that I don’t think Emma or Andrew irl would be old enough to have that conversation, much less what a couple of essentially high schoolers would say.

  38. Bulldog68 says:

    I’m still wondering why Paul Giamatti was even hired. Talk about a complete waste of talent. Even his Sideways costar Thomas Haden Church had a story in Spidey 3.

  39. David Poland says:


    Bulldog… I think the Giamatti carping is one of the most silly elements of Spidey 2 hate out there.

    The opening gag and closing gag is one of the oldest dramatic devices on the planet. Rhino is not meant to be – and clearly is not – a major villain in this film. He has no motives and no story other than being a crook. It is a comic book bookend… enter fighting, exit fighting… (He will connect, I suspect, ASM 2 to ASM 3.)

    Are people confused by this simple piece of old fashioned movie showmanship because they hired Giamatti, causing people to expect more than is there? (Can’t wait to see how the same writers bitching about this deal with the much worse bait & switch in an upcoming movie with a beloved actor and a geek cream concept.)

    And again, when Marvel overcasts and gives the Richard Jenkins role to Robert Redford in Cap 2, it’s genius. Here, it’s a shocking mistake.

  40. David Poland says:

    Triple Option… so what is your standard for a good comic book movie?

    Does it have to be broad enough to be completely without logic or attempts at humanity so you can excuse the silliness of it all? Or does it have to take itself completely seriously?

    And I take no offense at your laugh… so long as you take none at my ability to see all the negativity coming from as far a distance, if not further.

  41. LexG says:

    ASM2 is easily the best Spider-Man movie, and one of the five best superhero movies ever. It is a near-classic of the genre. There is no point debating this. Poland is right about the movie.

  42. Bulldog68 says:

    Seems like you’re bending over backward to defend this movie Dave. A badly written, poorly executed, noisy nuisance of a bookend, should not be credited as showmanship.

    There is also no comparison between this and the Robert Redford role. He was a pivotal part of the movie.

    And I seem to recall you making the most noise when Cpt America ended the movie to directly set up The Avengers. Why was that worthy of your wrath and but this be called movie showmanship?

    ASM2 was an empty movie because they were so busy setting up future movies it’s like they completely forgot that something needs to happen in this one.

  43. SamLowry says:

    So it turns out the particulars of Gwen’s departure were determined by test audiences:

    “Did You See Amazing Spider-Man 2? Read About the Weirdest Debate in Spider-Man History”.

    Sayeth Webb: “But, what was interesting was people, when they watched that, the web represents salvation to people. They did not understand or believe or were not willing to accept [redacted] — which is how it was done in the comics. So, we had to add [redacted]. And then people understood what it meant.”

  44. Pete B. says:

    Gotta agree with Bulldog. Someone like Redford was needed to play Pierce just to counterbalance Sam Jackson. I mean this is who Fury reports to, so there had to be some gravitas and heft. Going back a ways, it reminds me of Charlton Heston showing up in True Lies. When asked about the casting, Cameron said something to the effect of “who else could yell at Schwarzenegger and give him orders?”

  45. Martin s says:

    That Business-Week Marvel article is fckin embarrassingly bad. It’s a handjob in text.

    I love the irony that a puff piece blows the lid on the Fiege’s non-fanboy background when Marvel has sold otherwise for years, and a business mag glosses over the real business.

    Why didn’t this get “curated” on the MCN front? Because Deadline became apart of the story?

  46. Ray Pride says:

    I posted the cover story the week it came out:

    Is there another one? Plus: there’s no bar on Deadline or Deadline-related stuff.

  47. Triple Option says:

    I’m not sure I have any set criteria for defining a good superhero movie that would be exclusive to the genre. I don’t think that they have to take themselves so seriously, as a rule, but will admit I don’t know if I was ever really ga ga over a superhero movie prior to the early ’00s, when they started taking themselves more seriously. I never felt like I wasted my money seeing Keeton as Batman but I never pined for a Superman movie. Now that I think about it, the coolest superhero thing I saw was the animated Disney show, Gargoyles, which I don’t even know if that qualifies, but I suppose that did take itself seriously.

    What I’d say makes an exceptional superhero film are intrigue, originality and engaging characters. For three films I would say fit that category I’d list Spidey2, X2 and Batman Begins. Some will say the villain is really important, and I won’t exactly argue that but in those three films, the inner turmoil and heroes being personally conflicted were probably the strong battles they had to win or at least subdue.

    Spidey2 had to battle who he knew he was verse what he personally desired and longed for. It was really a love story first with copious amounts of action. I get as depressed as the next guy when I hear the words Merchant-Ivy when it comes to movie night but what Tobey McGuire and Kirsten Dunst pulled off was pretty amazing. In the first installment of the reboots, I thought Andrew and Emma seemed like to people who really dug each other and that was all fine but it was the same movie (duh, re-boot) as I saw 10 years ago. Thereby eliminating intrigue from the mix. This was what this second Amazing Spide really lacked. I didn’t care at all. It wasn’t saved with a spectacular villains. Electro seems like it could’ve been a really devious and seemingly unstoppable character. Nope. I didn’t even have a problem with them using so many villains this last go around if any of them carried any heft. It’s like watching the Florida Marlins after the trade deadline and all the pups get called up Durham.
    Oh, THEME, is also a biggie. Batman Begins plays that out exceptionally well. “Why do we fall, Bruce”? X-Men and not feeling ashamed because you’re different, very compelling. XMen 3 sorta whiffed on that. X-Men First Class had some of its strongest moments in dialog between characters who weren’t “in costume.”

    The visuals of the aforementioned three were pretty astonishing. Superman Returns had cool cg but it’s attempt of theme was misplaced. There was nothing exciting about it. It seemed to try to fit the mold of other films that had come out. Thus, it’s lack of originality may’ve sealed it fate worse than anything. When I was watching X2, Batman Begins and Spidey 2, (admittedly I had not read the comics), I had no idea what was coming next. X2’s opener was a harrowing as any Bond film. Visually, I liked the universe created for them all.

    The Avengers I would put way up there as well. I can’t remember theme so much. Visually it was fine but I don’t remember feeling blown away. It didn’t take itself as seriously but I didn’t feel like I had to check my brain either. While it can be said that no superhero movie makes logical sense but I didn’t feel I was in like sort of a parallel world where Spiderman exists in this last installment. That’s a problem. The characters really didn’t do anything. Despite how talented I think the cast is as individuals, I just didn’t care. Caring I think is the essence of any of superhero films that turns out great. If they have action, awesome villains, amazing stunts, that adds to it but really, they can be a great film w/out that.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon