It’s been a long time coming now, I suppose, and for that I am sorry. However, it’s been hard to figure out how to talk about this movie, to figure out even what comics to read. And we did not see the movie until a few weeks after it was out, rather than rushing in – in part, because I was dragging my feet on reading the comics.
The comics I finally have read, to even tell you which ones, would be to spoil the movie. I was first looking at some of the origin comics for the villains: Electro, Green Goblin. The Sinister Six. However, these comics don’t give us the plot to the movie. In many ways, that seems like something they are building for themselves, in many ways. But then you have them harkening right back to the comics at times as well.
Very confusing. So this is part review, part comics-comparison as a LitFlix, for The Amazing Spider-Man 2! Spoilers to come, but first I will talk about the film and franchise a bit in a larger way before I get into the nittier-grittier bits!
Sequels and Trilogies and More, oh my!
So this is the second movie, is a sequel. As Holly pointed out, and as I think is really true, just because some of these movies end up coming out as a “trilogy” – as in three numbered movies with the same characters – does not mean they are a storytelling trilogy. Star Wars IV-VI is a trilogy. The Christopher Nolan Dark Knight movies were a trilogy. Rewatching X-Men: The Last Stand, I even realized that was kind of a trilogy.
Spider-Man 1-3 was not a trilogy. So what about these new Spider-Man films?
First off, I feel like I have to say this isn’t even going to be a trilogy. At the moment, they’ve green-lit through Amazing Spider-Man 4, as well as spin-off Sinister Six and Venom movies. So in that sense, no, this is not a trilogy, or a continuing story in a traditional storytelling sense that way. This is a franchise.
Which really, when dealing with comics, makes sense. Comics work like that. There are stories, villains, situations, they are fought through, and life continues for our heroes, with more villains, more fights. If you can keep making them, you could make them forever. Honestly, comics movies could function like James Bond movies: new actor, same character, and we just glaze over it and have fun.
But no. They feel like, over and over, they have to re-boot and give us an origin story. I’ve talked about this before. And Amazing Spider-Man was no different, in that they re-booted and gave us an origin story. However, they invented a new origin: one where Peter Parker’s parents were involved with the creation of the radioactive spiders that gave him his powers.
This deviation is one of many from the comics, or maybe I should more accurately say that the comics are being used as a rough guide. The villains, by name at least, are appearing. Many similarities in how they function. But by no means identical.
And they’re doing pretty well in creating their own, new Spider-Man story that still nods to what came before. That’s not the issue I hear when people talk about this film, and it’s not the problem I had with it. The problem with this film was that they had too much to do. Talking about those green-lit films, they had to prepare us for those. Talking about that origin story, they had to do something with that, since they left mysteries on the table from the first one. Thinking of their existing characters, they had to continue the life of Peter Parker, his Aunt May, and his girlfriend Gwen Stacy. And then, they went even further than they needed to.
It was in the last minutes of the film that I realized that they had hit the sort of moment that could have kept the storytelling arc as a trilogy. And then, they breezed right past that point, taking us through the emotional hard times at the end of the second story in a trilogy, into the resurgence of the hero that should be part of the journey in the third film. This, this right here is perfect evidence that they tried to do too much with this film, tried to set up too much of their future franchise in this film.
So there are good parts and bad parts. I, in the end, enjoyed the movie, and am looking forward to the rest. It’ll be fun. Hopefully the later ones will be more focused. But you can bet they’re going to happen. And reading We Minored in Film, I think I see why. These films are making a killing internationally, even as they flag a bit in the United States. In fact, they opened Amazing Spider-Man 2 weeks earlier internationally than they did in the U.S. – not something you usually see in a Hollywood film. So as much as we might be saying “ahh, this is too soon after the last Spider-Man movies!” the rest of the world is getting the Spider-Man movies they want, and I’m happily along for the ride.
Story Arc 1: Learning the Rest of his Origin Story
This was the weakest thread of this movie, though also interesting because it is the most imaginative and new. The movie opens with this, and it comes up, pretty randomly, throughout. What was his father up to? Why did they create the radioactive spiders? Does it matter all that much?
In many ways, reflecting back on this, the scenes feel like they were forced into the movie. Like the rest of the pacing and stories had to take a break to fit these in. And the reason might be that, because they had created these mysteries and secrets – ones you couldn’t even answer by reading the source material (or a Wikipedia page) – they had to work on resolving them. Or else, this section of my review would be “why didn’t they resolve the mysteries and secrets from the first movie?” They set themselves up with a lose-lose situation.
They did resolve it pretty well, though. Peter found a tape from his father, explaining why they made it, why things went wrong, and his parents went on the run. Even why the process would only work on Peter, and not anyone else – not at all canonical from the comics, but a nice nod at the thought that, hey, people would probably try to get his blood and take that power for their own. Especially in a world that doesn’t also have mutants, and other heroes, all over the place – like the world of the movie-deals-restricting movie universe this is set in.
Holly thought of a much better place for this scene, however, that would have helped with that “forced” feeling I took away from it. But I’ll return to that thought in a bit.
Story Arc 2: Origin of the Villains
This movie was the origin story for the villains. So this is their first movie, and they are going to be a major, ongoing part of the franchise as much as Spider-Man is. So this is the start of their stories, really.
I was expecting this to be even more of the movie, actually. I was prepared to read the origin story of Mysterio, Vulture, Doctor Octopus, Rhino, the Sinister Six, and even of Venom. I had no idea who they were going to sneak into the movie, or how much screen time they would have, or what. The trailers (and the first film) showed us the villains’ weapons, all of them creations of Oscorp. So whose origins did I read?
Well, I read Electro’s first appearance, Amazing Spider-Man #9. I also tried to read the Green Goblin’s origin in Amazing Spider-Man #14, but the Marvel Unlimited copy only has the first three pages, so I only got the initial bit. I wasn’t sure which other villains to hit on, so I left that determination for after the movie – not how I normally handle the LitFlix, but with as many different things as they were showing us in the previews, or that I was reading in the news about the franchise, I just didn’t know. It led to indecision and confusion on my part, and that may be the same confusion and indecision on their part making the films.
So, the Goblin. Pretty different. In the bit I could see of his origin, the green is a suit, the glider is indeed tech, and it is Norman Osborn – father of Peter’s childhood friend, Harry Osborn. In the movie, we watch Norman die of a debilitating genetic disease, the treatments for which have made him green like the Goblin. He hopes that all the science they have been doing – creating the tools of all the super-villains to come and even Spider-Man’s powers (and the Lizard’s) – will help his son Harry to not die from the disease.
To be fair, it seemed like Norman lived a pretty long time, even with the disease… Harry, as the Green Goblin, probably isn’t going to last that long.
I like how they introduced Harry as a character, however. He’s an old friend of Peter’s, but new to us in the movies – while also being an old character from both the comics or the last trilogy. So instead, they work him in emotionally both through the death of his father, and the abandonment Peter felt from his parents. Norman dies, and Harry and Peter reunite – and we find out that it was Harry who helped Peter deal with the death of his parents. Now Peter gets to return the favor to his old friend. At first it’s awkward. But then they warm to each other, as old friends do. It was pretty well done.
And there’s Electro. Much like in the comics, he gets his powers from an electrical accident. He’s more the unappreciated-genius-behind-it in the movies, whereas in the comics he was a more blue collar guy. In the comic he also leaves a man stranded until he argues for overtime to go save him – he’s not a likeable guy. In the movie, they show us someone who is completely and utterly ignored, to the point where he is sent (on overtime, I suppose) to go fix a problem – on his birthday. He is a victim, and becomes a villain more out of mental instability than out of already being a bad apple.
The mental instability! They use the music in a fascinating way to try to show his break, to show warring voices inside him. It was a new idea. I’m not sure it was as well implemented as it could have been, but it was a valiant try.
But I’m not sure how I feel about the mental illness as the villain. Although this is often the case with the Goblin – who instead is more stable, and just out for selfish reasons, to deal with his own illness with Peter’s blood. Changing the motivations like this is just a little off-putting to me, and villainizing people with mental illness is not empowering or healthy, really, especially given how many people, at some point, suffer from mental illness. Maybe they’re trying to make the point that we all could become a villain? But if they’re making that point, then the point is also that only Spider-Man can be the hero. Because his dad made the formula special to his blood.
Story Arc 3: Peter Parker & Gwen Stacy
So while this was the start of the story arc for the villains, was their movie one, this was the second movie for Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. This is the continuation of their story. So we have the normal sort of Spider-Man angst about wanting to keep Gwen out of it, so she doesn’t get hurt. And then the normal sort of Spider-Man turning to his girlfriend, needing her help to beat the bad guys.
Despite this all feeling like it’s been done before, it’s the heart of the movie. The on-screen chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is a strong argument for this reboot existing.
Another good argument for this series is that they’ve made Spider-Man a source of a lot of the humor. In the Sam Raimi series, there was humor, but it was situational, or it was centered around J. Jonah Jameson and other characters. But Spider-Man is a jokester, he kids. Constantly. And in Amazing Spider-Man 2, I think they really hit a stride with this. He did a bit in the first film, but you can feel growth in this.
He also talks people up. He’s a hero not only in his actions, but in his words. He builds people up. Like the kid he saves early on, or then like Max, the future Electro. His eyes and ears on the ground. Okay, so it kind of backfires, but that’s the mental illness again.
So anyway, I felt growth. In Spider-Man, in Peter Parker, in Gwen Stacy. In their relationship, their lives. This is their second movie, and they needed to grow. But then, that opens the door for us to care. And opens the door for a plot right out of the comics.
I saw rumors beforehand, and almost read the comics in advance. I didn’t. And it was good: it was more effective without knowing so much. Because they tapped right into Amazing Spider-Man #121-122.
The Death of Gwen Stacy.
This is the low point for a strong second movie in a trilogy. The villains kill her, and worse, he tried and failed to save her. And even worse in the movie, it’s his friend Harry who killed her – not Harry’s father, Norman, who was easier to track down for revenge.
When I did read the comics, other than feeling so very much like what they showed in the movie – though Spider-Man is worn out from fighting Electro in the movie, rather than having a cold from being in Canada like in the comic – I noticed a scene I very much recognized. Norman Osborn’s death scene – replayed in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Having already been used in a movie, they changed this up, and that’s probably good.
This is maybe the low point the movie should have ended on. It didn’t.
Story Arc 4: Coming Out of the Funk
Peter Parker hangs up the suit once Gwen dies. He lost what he was fighting for. He lost his way. And, as it was his best friend, he didn’t seek revenge. He just shuts down instead.
They show him at the end of this process, when he perks out of it. When there is a super villain: the Rhino, suddenly finally making the appearance we were expecting from the trailers.
And from there we see Spider-Man return, save everyone, beat the villain. Everyone’s happy to see him. Not the ending to a second story in a trilogy.
Then we get lead-in, to the Goblin and Oscorp, and a character we assume is Mysterio pulling the Sinister Six together. This is a lead-in to the rest of the franchise. To the more movies. It’s a good thing those movies are already approved, or else that’s an ending like the 90’s Godzilla or more recently Vampire Academy… it’s a promise that might not ever be fulfilled.
So remember (now a long time back, sorry this post is so long!) how I said Holly thought of a better place for the Papa Parker video, explaining the whole secret origin of Spider-Man? This is it. Rather than closing the film with a franchise spin-off scene, they could have ended with this scene.
Picture it: Peter is at his lowest. Gwen is dead, he’s given up being Spider-Man. But he finds his father’s secret video. He finds out that his parents loved him, and the good that did or tried to do. And you could close with a very movie sort of moment: he could look at the closet, and there’s the Spider-Man suit, gathering dust. Scene.
However, that’s the scene that can end movie two in a trilogy – not a scene as part of a huge franchise.
So my final analysis is, this movie closed out the origin story questions. It closed out the story of Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker. It did not introduce us to Mary Jane Watson, but it did set us up for a whole handful of villains. But not for Venom, which surprised me, if they’re planning on a solo film for Venom. At the moment, I plan on seeing all of those movies, so in the end, I guess they succeeded.
Want to know whether I recommend seeing this movie, if you made it to this point without seeing it? My answer is yes, especially if you liked the first one, liked Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Made it to this point and you did see the movie? What’d you think? Let me know in the comments below!
Comics read on and comic covers from Marvel Unlimited.