It’s pretty obvious why The Amazing Spider-Man franchise isn’t working out the way that Sony Pictures are hoping.
The Amazing Spider-Man 3 shuffles in its release date like someone who’s messed the bed and talk of Venom and Sinister Six movies are coming through increasingly gritted teeth while the studio hemorrhages cash through After Earth-shaped tears in its flanks.
It’s not because they’re bad films, or because 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man and 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came so hot on the heels of Sam Raimi’s much loved three-film set – at least not in the way people think – it’s because the character just doesn’t have that much to offer cinema in the first place.
Uniquely in the world of superheroes, Spidey was nailed on his first go.
Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s initial run defined the character, his challenges and aspirations, his villains, his tropes and his world in a way that, for example, Lee and Kirby didn’t with the X-Men (whose movies owe more to Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, Chris Claremont and Cockrum, Claremont and John Bryne et al), Thor (Walt Simonson and JM Straczynski) or Captain America (Steve Englehart, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting).
Over on DC its heroes have the same record – perhaps an even bigger and more compelx. Look at Batman, whose cowl is blurred with the finger prints of Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil, Frank Miller and so on, so endlessly on. All of this does, however, leave moviemakers with an incredible buffet of ideas and inspiration to draw on.
All a new Spider-Man reboot can offer is comic-book frosting, which is why all fans have to talk about is the size of his eyes and whether or not his webshooters are organic.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a triumph of frosting.
Sam Raimi had created a bold and bright world – one superhero movies had been leery of since the Golden Age of Richard Donner – with 2002’s Spider-Man but it was ultimately contrived to fit the real world expectations held by an audience still largely wary of comic-book content.
In glorious contrast, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is one of the most comic-book comic-book movies ever made. It practically smells of yellowing paper.
Its villains are incorrigible scenery chewers, who were obviously wrong ‘uns well before their terrible accidents with narrative contrivance.
Its dialogue is either a quality quip, a piece of necessary exposition, or a heart-in-mouth emotional statement designed to give you a quick crying break in between the action set-pieces.
Its arcs are tightly wound three-act jobs where characters are introduced, characters are challenged, and then finally characters are set up for their final confrontation with the story itself, which shakes off subplots inherited from the first film like a man emerging from a dustbin..
Amid the compression, the cast are sublime.
They’re the greatest Spider-Man cast ever assembled, in fact – Andrew Garfield dances between melodrama, exhilaration and unease at a rate that sets the head spinning, Dane DeHaan goes from slimy brat to full-blown Gollum with fascinating intensity, and Jamie Foxx defies type with a transformation that owes far more to acting chops than the copious CG he wears like a halo.
It’s comic-book dumb too. Osborn (DeHaan) gets his Goblin Glider just because he happens to be right next to it when he starts tripping balls, Max Dillon (Foxx) feels figuratively “powerless” before he becomes Electro and wants to steal all the literal power, while Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) foreshadows her fate so heavily in every second scene, that the ghost of Captain George Stacy seems to exist only to keep Denis Leary in work. Also, Marton Csokas’ accent.
If you don’t like it then the problem is simple: you don’t like comics.
Unfortunately for the game Marc Webb, unfortunately for the charismatic Andrew Garfield and the captivating Dane DeHaan, and especially unfortunately for the increasingly troubled Sony Pictures, in dire need of a franchise that’ll pile-drive the box-office the way Guardians Of The Galaxy is doing, people who like comics are minute in comparison to the rest of the movie-going population.
The people who are buying the tickets don’t have the tools – the knowledge of How Comics Work that we as geeks take for granted – to be able to decode these subtle differences between Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films and Marc Webb’s. And the differences that aren’t subtle are just meaningless and stupid without the correct context.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is only The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to people who like comics. For everyone else it’s Spider-Man 5 and the fatigue has set in.
The X-Men went into the Seventies AND the future! Batman is FIGHTING SUPERMAN! Guardians Of The Galaxy has a RACCOON AND A TREE!
What do you have?
As Spidey slams a drain lid into the side of the Rhino, Alicia Keys and Kendrick Lamar helpfully answer:
“I’ll simply say it’s on again, it’s on again/The world don’t stop, it’s on again, it’s on again.”
It’s a Spider-Man film, again.
It’s on again, it’s on again.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is available to pre-order now on DVD for £10 and Blu-ray for £15 from Amazon.co.uk. Find out more about the comics that inspired the film with new digital magazine Uncanny Comics. Thwip thwip.