So I have to level with you. This started out as a review of Amazing Spider-man 2, but it quickly devolved into a rambling session about Sony's plans for an expanded Spider-Man movie universe and how stupid the whole concept really is. I'm keeping spoilers to a minimum, but the review aspect of this entry gets a little murky at times. So... bear with me.
Like with a lot of flawed movies I watch, I didn't hate Amazing Spider-Man 2. However, as I watched that on-screen spectacle, there were these nagging thoughts that kept gnawing at me. Thoughts about how cartoonish Electro's origin was, how little time was being allotted to Harry Osborn and his transformation into Green Goblin, why this rebooted franchise is so obsessed with making Peter Parker's origin some kind of conspiracy theory and how at times Amazing Spider-Man 2 felt more like a feature length trailer for The Sinister Six.
I just want to say this right now on the oft chance that anyone from Hollywood is reading...
THE GOAL OF CREATING SEQUELS SHOULD NEVER TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER GOOD STORY-TELLING!
As I left the theater, those same nagging thoughts forced me to deconstruct what I just saw... and what I had just seen was an absolute mess that followed in the tragic footsteps of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Instead of giving us the best possible story they could, which in turn could have created new spin-off possibilities for the characters involved, we were treated to an overstuffed, flash over substance exhibition akin to throwing wet noodles at a wall to see what sticks... all to the tune hundreds of millions of dollars.
I get what's going on. Sony, like Warner Brothers and to a lesser extent Fox, has seen the incredible payload that Disney brought in from The Avengers and are salivating at the opportunity to create their own "movie universes" from the characters they hold film rights to. The problem is, Sony only has the Spider-man universe, which is actually a pretty small universe when you get right down to it. Warner Brothers, to their benefit, has film rights to all of the DC characters (though rather than take their time like Marvel Studios did, they prefer to just rush a Justice League movie right along). Fox, while only having rights to the Marvel mutants side of things, actually has an impressive amount of characters at their disposal. Given the nature of the X-men Universe, they can do tons of mutant films while never feeling the loss of web-slingers or Asgardians. But Sony doesn't have a big universe to work with.
Let's stop and think about what Sony gets with Spider-man. Obviously they get the Web-Head and all of his villains. They gets
Black Cat. They also get Venom and more than likely the other symbiotic
characters like Carnage and maybe even Toxin. But other characters often associated
with Spider-Man's world, like Daredevil, Punisher, Nova and pretty much all of
his teammates from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon are owned by Disney. So
where is this super team going to come from? Oddly, Sony thinks the answer is
The Sinister Six, a group of Spider-Man's villains who team up to take on the
Web-slinger... not exactly what I picture as an answer to The Avengers and The
Seriously, they want to make a movie where the bad guys are the protagonists. This could be a cool idea (i.e. the graphic novel of Wanted), except we've been set up to root against them already in previous Spidey flicks. Now if The Sinister Six were a penultimate Spider-Man movie where he has to fight them, and maybe get help from a few other characters (Black Cat? Venom?) it would be fine. However, every indication I have seen or read says that the movie will be about the villains, not Spider-Man. Hell, he might not even be in the movie! So... who do I root for? Who do they fight... other Spider-Man villains?
On a side note, I wonder how far the licensing to the Spider-Man film rights goes. It could be possible for Spidey to form an extremely lesser known team called The Outlaws made up of D-List Marvel characters such as Silver Sable, The Prowler and Rocket Racer. Not exactly The Avengers, but it would at least make more sense than The Sinister Six.
So getting back to Amazing Spider-Man 2, here are my overall thoughts. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were both great. I still think Garfield is the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man ever. I think Dane DeHaan made for a better Harry Osborn than James Franco did. This new brooding, paranoid and angry Harry Osborn truly seemed to be the outcome of a lifetime of bad parenting and neglect. Unfortunately, the filmmakers tried to do in a third of a movie what the previous films did over the course of a trilogy in making him the Green Goblin. Not to mention, Franco's Osborn had a far better reason for hating Spider-Man in believing the Wall-Crawler responsible for his father's death. DeHaan's Osborn's bratty reasoning, that Spider-Man refused to give him a sample of his blood, is weak sauce.
The effects for Electro were cool, coupled with Junkie XL's Dub Step soundtrack to his scenes. However, his character was stupid. Somebody pointed out that Max Dillon's origin is strikingly similar to The Riddler's from Batman Forever... a lonely man barely holding onto his sanity becomes the number one fan of a super hero until an accident makes him crazy and hell-bent on destroying the hero he once adored. But somehow they managed to make Electro more cartoony than Jim Carrey's Riddler, and considering that movie was from Joel Schumacher, that's saying something! Seriously, Max Dillon wanted to kill Spider-Man because the Web-Head forgot Max's name? At that point, couldn't Max Dillon have just been a sociopath, like evil for the sake of being evil? I could have at least bought that.
I also think it was weird how easily and quickly both Max Dillon and Harry Osborn took to brutally murdering people. It wasn't even a hard decision, nor was there a moment of regret. No other Spidey villain from the movies were straight up murderers on that level. The Lizard was a brutal monster, but Dr. Conners was no murderer himself and regretted the actions of his reptilian Mr. Hyde. In the previous trilogy, Green Goblin was an insane split personality that convinced Norman Osborn to kill. Dr. Octopus was warped by the AI of his tentacles, but still didn't set out to murder people unless only attempted to if they got in his way. Sandman was a repentant one-time killer (of Uncle Ben... ugh, I still hate that). Venom was a killer alien parasite that fed off of its host's negative thoughts, but I don't remember Eddie Brock actually killing anyone. I also don't think James Franco's Harry killed anyone. But in this movie, the meek Max Dillon immediately takes to killing people with no remorse. DeHaan's Harry Osborn is willing to kill (sending Electro to do that) to get what he wants without any development of his character to show us his capability to go that far. Yes, I know he was supposed to be dying, but it was from a disease that clearly doesn't kill you for decades! I don't see survival desperation being a sound reason for him to be willing to kill.
I also want to point out that the Rhino suit is stupid. I wanted to like it, but it's just impractical. Why would anyone make an armored combat suit that awkwardly runs on all fours? It looks terrible, its clunky and I don't see any corporation pouring money into it. An Iron Man suit? Hell yeah! But a weird, oversized rhinoceros where the occupant faces stomach down, hoping for the best while the suit charges at an opponent head-on? No thanks.
So, in closing, Amazing Spider-Man 2 was far more concerned with pumping out sequels and spin-offs than giving us a good movie with well developed characters. Like I said, I didn't hate the movie. It was entertaining enough to watch, had some cool fight sequences and some great banter from Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man. Where the franchise goes from here seems to be a Sinister Six movie and more than likely a third Spider-Man movie that will probably makes the same mistakes of the last Spider-Man 3 by forcing along the "venom" saga within a muddled plot full of other villains and Mary Jane Watson, seeing as how they cut her from this past movie due to time constraints. I had high hopes after the surprisingly good Amazing Spider-Man, but now it's clear that Sony is banking on the instant marketability of the character rather than making the best product they can.
You know, Batman is an instantly marketable character, but Chris Nolan didn't settle for 'good enough.' Instead he and Warner Brothers created The Dark Knight, an ingenius film... the only comic book adaptation I have ever seen receive four star reviews. Oh, and word of mouth kept that movie in theaters for months and placed it in the Top 5 highest grossing films of all time.
Just food for thought, Sony.