Arts and Entertainment

What a tedious web he weaves

  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2, an unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary reboot, while boasting some great visual effects and a solid cast, is so busy with multiple mediocre storylines that it never really comes together
- Preena Shrestha
What a tedious web he weaves

May 14, 2014-

Let me just come right out and say it: I’ve had it up to here with Spider-Man films. It wasn’t always like this; there was a time when new installments actually comprised something to look forward to, advancing as each did—albeit with varying degrees of success—the web-slinger’s remarkable story. We watched him grapple with and adapt to his arachnid-derived powers, use them to wipe out a slew of big-time baddies and bring hope to the people of his city, while simultaneously dealing with the inevitable complexities his double-life introduces into his relationships and general existence. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire—which kicked off in 2002 and ended in 2007—might not have been perfect adaptations of the comic book sensation, but coming at a time when the endless possibilities of CGI were just becoming apparent and superhero films not quite as prolific as they are today, they were memorable. The series had risen to a peak with Part 2—still one of the most exciting films the genre has served up till date—although dribbling into something of a mess by the last installment. Regardless, we can agree that Raimi’s efforts were more than respectable overall; Christopher Nolan though he may not have proved, he was able to create a palatable enough combination of visual thrills and human drama that justified the big-budget foray into the big screen.

One can’t really say the same about the hasty reboot of the series that came a mere five years after Raimi closed it off, though. Deciding that viewers—with their pitifully short attention spans already being tested by the barrage of action franchises coming out recently—needed periodic reminders lest they forget about good ol’ Spidey, Sony Entertainment thought it was time for a series comeback, with a self-aggrandising

twist to the title. And so, before we’d had a chance to even miss him all that much, The AMAZING Spider-Man was on our screens, with a new cast and under new direction, but little else that was new, or for that matter, amazing, to offer.

Instead of Maguire’s wide-eyed baby-faced geek-next door, we now had the younger, more strategically jittery and awkward Andrew Garfield—basically a hipper nerd—taking up the suit in the new series directed by Marc Webb. Ladyloves too were swapped, with Emma Stone’s blond Gwen Stacy in place of Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane. Garfield and Stone, a couple in real-life, and who are very much a natural fit on screen as well, were brought on seemingly to make the Spider-Man story more relatable to a younger audience, a new generation. But that’s still a very tall order in a span of five years—aside from tighter pants, a penchant for indie-rock, and I suppose Googling skills—Garfield’s Peter Parker really isn’t that far removed from that of Maguire’s, and their worlds in general aren’t all that different. Neither did the writers try anything revolutionary with the story; it was much the same, or very similar—Uncle Ben’s iconic line about power and responsibility from the first Spider-Man, for instance, was simply paraphrased in the new film.

The franchise’s merit then, already stretched to capacity, has just dipped to new lows with the recently released The Amazing Spider-Man 2, an unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary reboot. The visual effects are, as expected, pretty spectacular; as our hero navigates the streets of New York on his web-lines, we swing and dive with him. And to their credit, and probably as a way of placating audiences who aren’t necessarily fan-boys, Webb and writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci do try to complement the action with some intimate interactions between characters. But while it’s a noble endeavour—and certainly within the capabilities of a cast this solid—it’s also futile, because the script is so busy with things to tick off that there just isn’t enough time to really focus on characters or the connections between them.

Several storylines are playing out here, occasionally intersecting, and even then, very perfunctorily. In the first, Peter and Gwen are going back and forth on commitment; she wants him to be with her, he’s trying to honour a promise he made to her dead father (Denis Leary) about staying away from her so as to keep her safe from the dangers inherent in a life of fighting crime. Secondly, Peter is more intent than ever on finding out why his parents had to leave him with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) when he was a little boy, and he makes substantial headway in that regard by the end of the film. Thirdly, childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan)—heir to that monument to greed, corruption and general bad-stuff that is Oscorp—is back in town, but the bromance slides downhill when Harry develops a rather ridiculous aversion towards Spider-Man. And fourthly, there’s a new villain on the loose: A small-time Oscorp employee (Jamie Foxx) has just met with a freak accident and been turned into a blue-tinted, electrically charged entity, essentially a poor man’s Dr Manhattan with a kill list, which includes, you guessed it, our spandexed spinner. Oh, and Paul Giamatti makes a heavy-handed appearance as an East European thug too, but it’s largely limited to setting things up for the next film.

Yep, wouldn’t you know it, there’s going to be another one. And another one. And very possibly a renewal of the series with new actors soon after that, and so on. But who can really blame studios for wanting to mine a vein that just keeps on giving? Considering the growing market all over the world for CGI-heavy action flicks, and the kind of appetite filmgoers seem to have for spectacle—give or take substance—there’s really no stopping the piling up of sequel after sequel, reboot after reboot of these franchises. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is, in that regard, just one of the cogs within what is very well a giant, practically self-sustaining contraption that is immune to bad press at this point. Still, one can’t help but think Spidey deserves better.

Published: 14-05-2014 08:44

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