21 May 2014
The Amazing Spider-man 2
The Amazing Spider-man 2 opens, as the first did, with the events surrounding the flight of Richard and Mary Parker. This time we see things from a different viewpoint as Richard has to destroy his research, before recording a video about it then dropping young Peter off with May and Ben. This time we see why Ma and Pa Parker never return, though the secret they are protecting is not entirely lost. Then we cut to Spider-man and his present-day adventures. Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey are having an on-and-off relationship, mostly due to Peter apparently guilt-dumping her on a regular basis. Electro turns out to be a really sad-sack version of Syndrome (from the Incredibles) who goes crazy with power. Harry Osborne returns to New York in time for his father's deathbed scene, and is reunited with childhood friend Peter. Then he finds out more about his friend and the projects his dad had in the basement. The Rhino also turns up a bit.
There are mild spoilers for Amazing Spider-man 2 (and mention of Iron Man and Man of Steel, because comparisons).
I liked the character of Spidey more in these films than the Raimi ones, as I said when I reviewed The Amazing Spider-man 1. We still never really see Peter and Gwen having a normal relationship, there's clearly been, and continues to be, a fair bit of breaking up and getting back together. Saying that I really liked the way Gwen handled things in this film. She takes action to protect herself emotionally, makes advances in her scientific career, doesn't let Peter push her to one side for her own safety. In fact at one point she yells at him that it is her choice whether she endangers herself for him. Something that has been sorely lacking from traditional superheroic relationships. I also liked the uneasy relationship between Peter and Aunt May. Both are grieving for Ben, and both are keeping secrets from the other. I liked this because Aunt May clearly has her own life and her own things going on, plus she feels protective of Peter when it comes to his parents. After all she's the one who stuck around and raised him.
Ah yes, Spider-man's daddy issues. Those are back. In fact there's a plotline with Peter finding out yet more about what his father was working on and how that affects events now. Not much was done with the info discovered in this film, the focus at the end being on fighting the villains, but I feel that a picture is slowly being built across the franchise. Though as Aunt May asks, why does Peter still idolise the father who abandoned him? I concur, and have to ask, what about his mother? Mary Parker also left her son in order to help her scientist husband with his great work, but there's little sign Peter is bothered about her absence or reputation. I can't help but draw parallels with Lara-el (Superman's mother) from Man of Steel. She too endangered herself to help further her scientists husband's work, painfully giving birth to their son (which was a weird thing to in their culture) and she didn't get any holographic life-after-death like Jor-el. Still at least Supes and Spidey have mothers. Much like fellow billionaire-tech-brat Tony Stark in the MCU, Harry Osborne apparently doesn't have a mother. There's some talk between Peter and Harry about how they bonded as children in grief, suggesting Harry's unnamed mother died, which is more mention than Ma Stark has ever gotten.* The eventual fate of Harry holds up a dark mirror up to Tony Stark, and both own similar looking buildings with their names on.
There were lots of little things in the film that worked quite nicely, comedic moments and stuff that gains significance later. For example Spidey saves a small boy from bullies and later the kid's faith in Spidey makes him magically appear (OK, it doesn't, but that's kinda what it seemed like). Peter desperately offers to do laundry in order to hide the Spidey suit and Aunt May does the same to hide her nursing scrubs. Gwen slapping her hand over her mouth after shouting "Peter!" at Spidey when he races off in the middle of an argument. It's just such a natural thing for her to do. A brief email from the still-unseen JJ Jameson. I also found it amusing that when Gwen is going to an interview for Oxford University (which aparently has an embassy in New York?) Peter is entirely unable to talk normally to British people. Made all the funnier because Andrew Garfield is British.
The main issues with the film were perhaps in the villains. I could see very quickly what Electro's story-arc would be and it was predictable as it was diminishing to the character. The Goblin was alright, but like Electro he went eveil really quickly for no particularly good reason. The Rhino is introduced but little used, but at least his motives were clear and made sense. The fights looked impressive and had actual damage and weight to them, without being ridiculous slug-fests full of destruction, of course Spidey is a smaller scale hero when it comes to that sort of thing.
* For all the info the MCU gives us Tony Stark could have gestated in the thigh of his father, a la Dionysus.
What's more likely is that Howard Stark was an older father (based on the timeline I quickly figured out in my head while watching Captain America), and as all good fictional millionaires are also playboys (because reasons) it's likely that Tony's mother wasn't even a Stark. Though respectability politics will presumably disallow this too, meaning Ma Stark is conveniently gone and entirely forgotten.