Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Amazing Spider Man 2 Movie Review

You see it all in 3-D
It's your favorite foreign movie
-"Peg" Steely Dan

4/5 Stars

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Like that partner you, by some miracle, managed to hold on to for a while--The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came and went in tragic-comically predictable fashion, and made for the two most beautiful and notable hours of your young life. You knew it wouldn't last, but Oh Lord did it make you feel good and leave you wanting more. And even though you experienced its beauty from the back of Brooklyn's dingiest movie theater, it felt like you were sitting in the Taj Mahal (not, in reality, the Kent) wearing Cazal shades instead of cheap 3D lenses. 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a revelation. A marvelous breath of fresh air into a flagging brand, a flagging icon. Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is utterly charming in a way that Tobey Maguire could never achieve. And I found myself falling deeply and mysteriously in love with Emma Stone as the tragic Gwen Stacy. Their onscreen chemistry is real and cheesy and everything you secretly want for your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Dane DeHaan is a fantastically entertaining Green Goblin/Harry Osborn. He's captured as a simultaneity of doe-eyed young man-child on the cusp of his sinister inheritance. As Stan Lee has suggested, Spider-Man's greatest foe is Doctor Octopus, but Peter Parker's greatest foe is the Green Goblin. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 treats us to a fine portrait of Peter Parker qua Spider-Man and the Green Goblin as his mad nemesis. The best villains of course are those we can empathize with. Which brings me to the unexpected star of the show, Jamie Foxx as Electro.

My goodness, Electro was never an interesting villain by any stretch of the imagination. He's a relatively minor villain in the marvel universe. At least I was never interested in his gaudy approach to villainy. But Jamie Foxx was a brilliant casting choice. He stole the show. His role as Ray Charles certainly cemented his place in my pantheon of brilliant actors, but his role as Max Dillon has made him perhaps my personal favorite actor. From his first moments onscreen I was hooked by his over-the-top comic portrayal of a doomed and overworked nerd, without a clue, looking for love. And after he makes his fateful transformation into a golem of pure electricity, standing in a black hoody for the first time in front of his hero Spider-Man, all eyes on him in Times Square, when he manages to say with lightning in his teeth "I got...I got so much anger."--my eyes teared with hurt, sadness, joy, excitement, horror, anticipation. 

Jamie Foxx as Electro
Truly the character of Electro is born again. His voice was appropriately altered by the electricity, roiled by the current running through him. His character, the effulgence of his body and rage, invoked a history of American brutality (Trayvon Martin) and all of the film's poetic nuance, for this viewer, came through sight of his burned black body made white-blue with implacable rage. 

But as mentioned, the film at several points adhered to facile Hollywood predictability. When I first glimpsed the ecstatic power of Max Dillon's channeled rage I knew he would not be allowed to live. I knew there was no way he could be detained. The first, I suppose, of a handful of disappointments. The next blaring disappointment came in the character of mad German R&D scientist, Dr. Kafka. 

Like being stopped while making love to that most beautiful and fleeting of partners, I was taken out of the film for a moment and allowed to peer into its short-comings. The fact that the mad doctor experimenting on Electro was Dr. Mengele-esque made me cringe. The joy of the film so far had been the satisfyingly comical portrayal of each character, but this one went so far over the top that my fan-boy boner went immediately limp. "Dr. Kafka", a heavy handed allusion in a film that got it mostly right, would have been satisfactory with a standard American dialect. He would have been most affective as a white American male. But perhaps this would have been too political, too confusing for the audience. Dr. Kafka is in fact interrogating and torturing this black-and-blue anti-hero and a white American male at the helm of this experiment, I suppose, would have been too obvious. When the white world needs a villain they turn to...well >>> this trope of modernity. My Mother and I exchanged "wtf" glances at each other, thereafter biding the minutes until Dr. Kafka met his untimely demise.

Then too, for those of us familiar with the comic, Gwen Stacy's demise was appropriately tragic. I was so invested in their love that by the time she passed away I felt like I had lost my own lovely and singular partner. Alas, my lady is a rouquine, not a blonde. 

Predictability aside, the real joy and treat of seeing this film in 3D (an apparatus I typically despise) was having the thrill of swinging along behind the ol' Web Head. It was a fun, fast-paced ride and I didn't care where it went, because it was just my speed. The Amazing Spider-Man 2's production values are exemplary among a roster of 21st century films saturated with digital effects/CGI. It never pulled its visual punches and I, the central scrutinizer, found nothing to gawk at. The last film I wish I saw in 3D was Life of Pi, and this film rivaled it in terms of real/unreal graphical achievements. Perhaps it should have been The Spectacular Spider-Man, because it was surely spectacular. 

All in all, the film was a treat for this fan-boy. I cried several times, and even now, thinking about the heroic conclusion of this imperfect, but oh so charming comic-book movie, well...It was good while it lasted. I knew where it was going. I knew I couldn't hold on to it forever. But I'll always remember it as a damn pretty and very special film. I wanna see it again.