"I love Spider-Man, but I love Peter Parker more."
Spidey's back in action, once again under the direction of once promising rising talent director Marc Webb, who has traded in quirky rom-com cliche riddled films for all the 'splosions and cgi you can stomach. 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man wasn't a bad movie, it was just a wholly unnecessary one in a summer that saw two of the best comic book films of all time released. Something about Spider-Man just doesn't work on the big screen, as ridiculous as that sounds, and I'll get into the reasons why in a moment, but hell if they aren't just going to keep on trying.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) loves being Spider-Man. He says so himself right at the onset of the film, so you don't have to go figuring it out for yourself. Perhaps the only thing he loves more than Spider-Man is his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), whose father he more or less caused the death of in the first film. Peter and Gwen are cute together, and enjoy their time making goo goo eyes at one another and bantering in a playfully flirty kind of way that will get Spider fans all tingly in their testes.
Meanwhile some guy named Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is a nerdy stereotype that works for Oscorp, the company that Peter's best friend Harry (Dane DeHaan)'s dad Norman (Chris Cooper) owns, and Norman dies too. Max is a big Spider-Man aficionado, but when an industrial accident involving a tank full of electric eels (not making any of this up) causes Max to gain electric powers (still not making any of this up), he teams up with Harry to take down Spidey because Spidey won't give Harry the radioactive blood that he needs to stop a disease from killing him. Oh, and Paul Giamatti is Rhino for four minutes.
Exhausting is the only apt adjective one can use to describe this mess of a film. It's not unlike, and I say this as a parent, listening to a child describe a Spider-Man story. It's all over the god damned map, yet somehow scripted in such a way that it jams close to two film's worth of material in for good measure. It fluctuates madly between prolonged sequences of Peter and Gwen talking and being in love, which in retrospect were the best scenes in the film if only by default, and scenes that have to cram ten minutes worth of information into five minutes of screen time so they can move on to the next action beat.
There is no cohesion to the film whatsoever. Everyone feels like they're in a different movie, with the notable exception of Garfield and Stone, who have an undeniable chemistry when they're together. It certainly doesn't help that Foxx feels as if he was either refusing to take direction or simply did whatever he wanted and Webb didn't reign him in. His scenery chewing shenanigans seem to come from another film altogether, and wouldn't feel out of place in a Schumacher Batman film. Which is interesting considering that his entire character arc is more or less beat for beat the same as Jim Carrey's Riddler in Batman Forever. Note to future comic book filmmakers out there… Batman Forever is not a film you want to crib from, no matter how liberally.
Beware Spoilers in the next paragraph
As I've already mentioned, Garfield and Stone are the two biggest assets the film has going for it. They are incredibly comfortable in these roles and with one another, making their scenes together the most enjoyable. Foxx is a nightmare of epic proportions, delighting in giving us not one but two horrendously over-the-top characters, neither of which land because they're such absurd caricatures. De Haan doesn't fare much better, chucking subtlety and nuance out the window in favor of glaring, devious glances and melodramatic line readings. He's been better in other things, so we'll just have to chalk this up to him not having solid direction.
Marc Webb is not a good enough director to be helming films like this. All of the best superhero movies were made by veteran directors that can handle multiple storylines and characters. It's no surprise that the scenes between Gwen & Peter are the best because it's the only thing he knows how to do. It's not unlike when Iñárritu made Babel, and the best scenes were the ones with Gael Garcia Bernal and the brilliant Adriana Barraza. That was a filmmaker in his comfort zone, and it's the same case here. Webb flounders when he has to do anything else, and the franchise as a whole will be better when he, Orci, and Kurtzman all move on.
As bad as the film is, it's nowhere near the catastrophe that the part-musical Spider-Man 3 was. That's not exactly high praise, but it's about as far as anyone needs to go in commending the film in any way. After wading through two hours and twenty minutes of this migraine inducing nonsense, one can only think of Macbeth's immortal line, "it is a tale told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing."
[Photos via BoxOfficeMojo]