Not so super

The other night I watched the latest Spiderman film (The Amazing Spiderman 2), Spiderman 2.2 if you like. There was a lot to like about it on some levels: it looked fantastic, it was exciting + well paced considering the two and a half hour runtime, the lead characters (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone) were superb and had genuine chemistry. In fact I’d even go so far to say that Garfield is pitch perfect as both Peter Parker and Spiderman (especially if you are familiar with the comics). Yet despite having much in its favour, there was an awful lot “off” about it.

Spidey

1. Some scenes were far too convenient for their own good. Plausibility was beyond breaking point in the same way Silva calculated all of Bond’s moves in Skyfall (and interestingly one such scene is also set in an abandoned subway station).

2. The baddies were all under-developed (a shame as Dane DeHaan did some fine work here). Everything plotting their fall from good to evil felt rushed, incomplete and false. It appears they tried to juggle too many baddies in a single installment again, generally a recipe for disaster (even if it is isn’t anywhere near the disaster Batman and Robin or Spiderman 3 were).

3. It seems the script-writers were ticking boxes for the studio. The actors are let down by a clunky/poor script which is more interested in setting up merchandising and future installments rather than actually telling a good story (Iron Man 2 syndrome)!

4. The core problem (which ties in with the other points): it was really two movies masquerading as one. So instead of having two good movies with genuine punch/pay-off we end up with a frustrating mess of a movie.

5. Inappropriate music. Songs are shoe-horned in but they don’t fit the tone of the film (the end-credits in particular). Hans Zimmer (the “new” Danny Elfman?) turns in another bland super-hero score – the “wub-wub” stylings trying too hard to be edgy and cool (no – it’s like every other damn action trailer I’ve seen in the past two years). Shouldn’t it be “ELECTRO” rather than “DUBSTEP” anyway? The score feels a mixed bag (much like the film itself) despite a nice rousing brassy-blast for Spidey’s theme and suitably sinister motif for Osborn (which is itself ripping off Inception and Inside Man). Personally I like more consistency in my scores. The last three Spidey films in the franchise have all had different composers/themes, time to give Mr Elfman a call again!

Ultimately what is my real problem? I’m suffering Franchise fatigue towards Superhero films (which seem to be all that play in cinemas these days – thanks very much Marvel!). The initial blame could perhaps be leveled at The Dark Knight. Now we have Marvel setting up The Avengers universe and releasing a new film each year, DC trying to get in on the action with Superman/Batman/Justice League. X-men has already had spin-offs with Wolverine, there is a new X-men film out this summer. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Mystique film in the near future. Now there is Spiderman setting up The Sinister Six. The Spiderman franchise was already rebooted in its relative infancy and everything still feels a retread of the Raimi films. I’ve just read that Daredevil will be the next to get the reboot treatment. Great, we all want that one!

To be perfectly blunt – this genre is becoming dull and clichéd. Even the marketing falls into cliché: the director of the current installment always announced in advance as being the director of future installments (ala Captain America 2/3, Man of Steel/Superman vs Batman/Justice League, X-men, The Amazing Spiderman 2/3) as if to create a false sense of spectacle. Of course the next installment will always be bigger better etc. and will end in yet another destruction of some city. And please remember to stay for the end-credits if it’s a Marvel film (This new Spiderman film features perhaps the most bizarre “Easter Eggs” ending of all – completely unrelated to the franchise). I’d love to see this genre take a sabbatical and come back when it has something which is fresh and new to say. Sadly this doesn’t appear to be the case and it looks like we are going to endure many more years of spin-offs and “the same old”. Hmm – perhaps Batman and Robin wasn’t so bad after-all!

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2 responses to “Not so super

  1. In general, I very much enjoy superhero movies (apart from anything else, my sons are completely obsessed with them and we all go and see them together), but I do agree with the general gist of your post. Certainly, it is depressing to see them taking up so many cinema screens. I enjoy superhero movies as much as the next person, but I also like a balanced cinematic diet, which means these days I spend about as much time in the arts centre as the multiplex (which ironically was originally conceived to provide more choice).

    To the main point at issue, I would say that for a superhero movie to be good (or any franchise movie for that matter), it needs to follow one simple rule: it must be satisfying in it’s own right. This is true of the best Marvel pics (the recent Captain America for instance), and is also true of, say, Batman Begins. It was also true – over thirty years ago – for The Empire Strikes Back. Even though it was obviously “to be continued”, the climax was such a corker it felt complete in its own right somehow.

    What it is emphatically NOT true for is the recent Spiderman reboots (unlike the first two Sam Raimi Spidey pics, which were both terrific). As you say, there are good things about them (the leads, for instance), and clearly we’re not talking Batman and Robin bad, but there is a cynical undercurrent of franchise building throughout, culminating in, as you point out, that ridiculous plug for X-Men in the credits. Unless Spidey turns up in that film in some way, shape, or form, there is no excuse for what is essentially advertising; a kind of cinematic equivalent of TV’s abominable shrink-the-credits-down-and-talk- obtrusively-over-the-music culture.

  2. Pingback: Super Hero Themes | Ferny films

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