Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Ghoul Versus The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Part 1)

Previously on The Amazing Spider-Man...

One of the most underwhelming Spider-Man origin stories EVER was unleashed upon the world, as the entire film went through the motions of the story without really putting work into any of it. No, that's not quite accurate as they put a lot of work into making his origin as overly complex as possible. He wasn't just bitten by a radioactive spider, now it's a genetically engineered spider his dad helped create as part of a human/animal cross-genetics program and you know what, I don't even care. It was WEAKSAUCE.

It wasn't all bad though, as it at least had some very good acting and a very strong female lead that wasn't just some generic badass like we usually get in these kind of movies. Writer James Vanderbilt kept his past tendencies in check and delivered a pretty coherent tale outside of how Peter got his powers, which was a very nice breath of fresh air.

HOWEVER, in this day and age of bloated films was ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE to Fox. They let Vanderbilt write the sequel but his script must have been too simple so they brought in Hollywood's Golden Boys Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci to rewrite it and make it up to par for today's Hollywood.  You remember them, don't you? With them behind the helm, this ought to be interesting.  And by interesting I mean painful.  Fire up some Hans Zimmer dubstep (!) and get ready for A Ghoul Versus The Amazing Spider-Man 2!

The film opens with Oscorp scientist Richard Parker in his lab destroying all of his work, or at least attempting to until a security lock down begins. This segues into the beginning of the first movie, where young Peter alerts him to the fact his office has been trashed. They replay the footage of the Parkers dropping off Peter with his Aunt and Uncle, only this time we get to see where they went after doing so.  They board a plane heading out of the country, Richard uploading his files to “Roosevelt” just in case they get killed. What a coincidence, as here's a hitman to kill them. A violent fight breaks out, Richard's wife getting shot and killed. Am I watching a Spider-Man movie or a James Bond movie right now? Richard is able to upload his work before the hitman can stop him as the plane crashes and kills everyone. SPIDER-MAN!

We now return to your regularly scheduled Amazing Spider-Man movie, sorry for the confusion there. Peter is trying to stop an Oscorp truck full of plutonium from being jacked by Aleksei Sytsevich, played by Paul “Didn't I Used To Be A Big Name Or Am I Just Imagining That?” Giamatti. We quickly see WHY Giamatti isn't headlining movies anymore as his performance here could be described as... let's go with THE WORST THING EVER. The freaking Russians from Rocky and Bullwinkle are more nuanced and less stereotypical than the accent he's rocking here.

Peter, choosing to make fun of Aleksei instead of trying to stop him while he SMASHES HIS TRUCK INTO INNOCENT PEDESTRIANS, takes a quick break from this bit to save an innocent bystander from getting splattered by the truck, who just happens to be an electrical engineer for Oscorp named Max Dillon. The drivers of at least three other cars get ANNIHILATED in the process, but hey it's not like they were going to go on to become the villains of the movie or anything so fuck 'em.  If you're a comic book fan you'll recognize both of these names, as Aleksei is the alter ego of the Rhino and Max is better known as Electro. So far the movie is pretty loyal to both characters as the Rhino started off as a stupid thug for hire and Max was an engineer, although he didn't work for Oscorp and wasn't a dork with the worst hairstyle EVER.

As the chase (which is extremely well done as it's almost all done through stunts instead of CGI) continues, Peter gets a call from Gwen who reminds him he's missing their graduation ceremony. As he talks to her he sees... Captain Stacy in one of the cop cars looking at him disapprovingly. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, this is revealed as a hallucination Peter was having and not the introduction of Ghost Cop. I am disappoint.

Gwen, the valedictorian, stands up to give her speech about the preciousness of life versus how short it is. This is contrasted against Peter capturing Aleksei, and if I didn't know any better I'd almost say her speech is FORESHADOWING SOMETHING. Nah... Peter rushes off to the graduation, which is also attended by Stan “The Man” Lee in his Marvel Mandated cameo. This might be the earliest one yet! After the ceremony Peter sees Ghost Cop again, as the film flashes back to Stacy's last words to remind us of Peter's promise to stay away from Gwen. I think at this point the film is 50/50 on recycled footage, they must be saving a fortune of having to shoot new scenes.

Later that night at dinner Peter confesses all of this to Gwen, agonizing over breaking his promise in a scene that feels VERY Twilightesque. Apparently this has been going on for awhile since the last movie, because Gwen mentions he's done this “again and again” so SHE breaks up with his whiny ass. YOU GO GIRL! I love they got this out of the way in the first act rather than going for the dreaded second act breakup as seen in pretty much every movie ever.

A montage of Spider-Man doing good deeds around the city follows, cut with a radio show of various New Yorkers giving their opinion on his actions. Max is one of the callers, as we learn he's a tad not there as he declares he and Spider-Man became best friends after the truck heist. One day Peter is stalking- er, watching Gwen from above as she walks down the street. As the last movie established, Gwen's own Spider-Sense goes off and she looks up but he swings away before she can spot him. That was pointless and predictable, back to Max.

We see Max in his apartment getting ready for work. Well, I call it apartment but really it's a Room Full of Crazy with Spider-Man images posted EVERYWHERE. Whimsical music plays as he pretends Spider-Man is there visiting him for his birthday, and YIKES this is a weird way to go with such an iconic villain. Max Dillon was a pretty ruthless killer, not some daydreaming nerd with an unhealthy obsession for Spider-Man.

Captain Psycho heads to work, where we learn Oscorp has created some kind of new power grid that'll revolutionize electricity or whatever bullshit plot device they're trying to make us believe to create Electro. Enough of that though, it's time to meet the next character in our little story. We're introduced to young Harry Osborn, played by Dane DeHaan of Chronicle fame, and his rockin' haircut of Emo Hipster DOOM.  He's in New York to visit his father, who was one of the many forgotten subplots in the first film. You remember Norman, don't you? The enigmatic head of Oscorp who was knocking on death's door and was the driving force for Curt Connors to inject himself with the serum that turned him into a shitty looking CGI lizard man? Well apparently he managed to hang on another year of so, despite the film telling us multiple times he was in the process of dying.

Norman is dying of retroviral hyperplasia, which is a completely made up disease for the movie. Harry doesn't really care as his father was very neglectful of him his entire life, but when Norman reveals it's genetic and that Harry is in the early stages of it, he suddenly becomes very attentive. Norman gives his son a storage device with all of his work on it, hoping Harry can find a cure before it's too late.  A while later Peter is watching the news where he sees a report that Norman has died. Spider-Man's greatest villain never even appeared on camera in the first movie, and then had a quick three minute scene in this movie before kicking the bucket. Nice one movie! Although it was all off screen and there's no body, so that probably means we'll see him return in the inevitable stinger after the movie credits.

Back at Oscorp Tower, Max is working to fix an issue in the electric lab which we see is powered by... electric eels. Wow, this might be the first time in history a movie has come up with a plot device stupider than the fifty year old comic book idea it was based on. The eels are being used for “bioelectrogenesis” studies, but I prefer to call it “plot contrivance” studies. Especially early when an Oscorp executive went out of his way to mention they'd destroyed all their animal experimentation after the Lizard fiasco, but you know... don't pay attention and you'll enjoy it kids!

I don't even have to say what happens next. Yes, Max falls into a vat of eels and yes they turn him into Electro because... science. For some hilarious reason, this process fixes the gap he had in his teeth as well because... science yet again. Peter goes to visit Harry to offer his condolences over the loss of his father, as they were friends eight years ago before Harry got shipped off to boarding school. They catch up on old times, or whatever approximates to what old times would be when you were preteens.  Max wakes up in the morgue, where he now has glowing blue skin to go along with his perfect teeth. All the lights and electrical devices start going crazy around him. But enough of that because Gwen has called Peter to come see her. I get a really bad feeling this film is going to go overboard on their relationship since the first film paced it WAY too well for a superhero movie.

Now it's time for Peter and Gwen to catch up on their lives, as Gwen tells Peter she might be moving to England for a scholarship. Before anything can come of this, Peter's Spider-Sense detects Max in Times Square, where he's sucking up the electricity from cables on the ground. This draws the attention of the cops pretty quickly, who surround him with their guns drawn.  This only serves in agitating him, as he unleashes a blast of lightning that sends everyone flying. Peter arrives on the scene and talks him down, but then a police sniper takes a shot at Max and everything goes to hell. Max gets it in his head Peter was setting him up, so he unleashes a torrent of lightning at the crowd. Through the use of Spider-Bullet Time that he must have learned while he was in the Matrix, Peter is able to save everyone.

Max, who with his blue skin now bears more than a passing resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Batman and Robin, channels his predecessor and cracks an oh so funny one liner: “It's my birthday. Now it's time for me to light my candles!” as he attacks Peter directly.  This is topped off with what is quite possibly the most bizarre song in film history, “My Enemy” by Hans Zimmer which is a poor man's dubstep song. Yes, Hans Zimmer is doing dubstep now. We are NOT going to look back at this decade fondly. Check out Jamie Foxx's “lyrics” to this musical masterpiece:

They lied to me
They shot at me
They hate on me
They're dead to me
And now they're all my enemy!

I don't even know how this got off the drawing board, this is a very weird movie is all I can say. Peter takes Max out with a fire hose, which shorts him out and allows for him to be taken into custody. But the electric eels weren't bothered by the water, why would he- sigh. Also, I'm really sure the New York jails will be equipped for a man with control over electricity.  Peter heads home to mull over losing Gwen... again, when he decides to go through his father's briefcase from the first movie... again. Why? Uh... I guess so they can have an excuse to play Phillip Phillips' “Gone, Gone, Gone” so this movie can be even longer. Oh, but THIS TIME he finds a note about Roosevelt which he somehow missed the first go around. How weird he didn't notice that before!

Another internet research montage leads him to turn his bedroom into a Room Full of Crazy clippings and notes, complete with red lines connecting all of them. Seriously, what the fuck is going on right now?! Over an HOUR has gone by already and there's not even a plot budding yet. Characters are just drifting aimlessly around with absolutely no direction or point whatsoever.  Case in point, here's Harry going through his father's files and finding information about Richard Parker's experiments with spider DNA as a way to possibly heal Norman. Harry drifts away for another Peter research montage, this one scored to Kid Cudi's “Pursuit of Happiness”. Peter is trying to develop new webshooters that are resistant to electricity, as his battle with Max fried one of his.

Does this mean he's just assuming Max is going to escape and they're going to battle more? Why isn't he using that Super Science Genius Brain of his to help the police contain Max permanently? WHERE IS MAX RIGHT NOW, anyway?  The next morning Harry calls Peter over Oscorp to look at Norman's files, revealing his theory that Spider-Man was created by one of the genetically engineered spiders that Richard made. He tells Peter he needs Spider-Man's blood, as he's positive that will heal his genetic condition. Harry is convinced Peter knows Spider-Man based off the pictures he takes of him (because the film mentioned for a second Peter sells pictures to the never seen Daily Bugle), so he asks him to arrange a meeting between the two. Peter says he'll try, leaving Harry's office and bumping into Gwen.

Gwen has her own subplot going on, as she recognized Max from an earlier meeting and tried to look him up in the Oscorp database. This drew the attention of Shady Nameless Executives, who are trying to keep Max's accident a secret so it doesn't make the news, so they send security guards after her. The two hide in the closet, Gwen telling Peter everything she knows about Max. Peter pretty much doesn't care, telling her about Harry and then kissing her. He runs interference so Gwen can escape from security, where she runs into Harry on an elevator where he goes into full on Creeper Mode.

We cut to the Ravencroft Institute, which TOTALLY ISN'T a ripoff of Batman's Arkham Asylum so shut up! This is where Max is being kept, in some kind of crazy ass contraption that they in no way, shape, or form should have had already invented unless they're psychic and knew one day they'd be holding an electricity man.  Dr. Kafka, the most offensive German stereotype this side of Hogan's Heroes, tells Max he is going to study him and figure out what he is through the power of SCIENCE! This whole scene could have honestly been ripped out of some lame serial from the 1950s as the entire movie is dangerously close to falling off the rails at this point. An hour and sixteen minutes in and almost NOTHING has happened! If I didn't know any better, I'd say this entire script was something Kurtzman and Orci recycled from an unused draft of one of their Transformers movies.

Peter comes home to find Aunt May in his room looking at his Wall of Crazy. Oh hey, May is still in this movie! Once again I forgot. This goes absolutely nowhere and even the movie is aware of it, so it jumps ahead to Spider-Man meeting with Harry. Harry's elation quickly turns to rage as Spider-Man says he won't give him his blood and leaves. Wow, way to look like the biggest asshole in the world there Peter. Why couldn't you just tell Harry you couldn't FIND Spider-Man? Unless maybe Peter knew pissing off Harry was the only way to make him turn into the Green Goblin so he could have another villain to fight since all superhero movies need a least two villains these days. I think it's high time I start pretending this IS actually a Transformers movie so I can stop expecting anyone's actions to make a lick of sense.

After a pointless and stammering scene with Gwen, Peter heads home and trashes his Wall of Crazy out of frustration, likely over the fact this movie is still going on and he has to be part of it. He smashes his dad's old calculator, finding it full of subway tokens. THAT'S ultra convenient.  Using ANOTHER FUCKING internet research montage he looks up the Roosevelt Subway and finds mention of a hidden subway tunnel. If this movie was made twenty years ago Spider-Man would have literally NO ABILITY to learn anything.  Talking with his assistant Felicia, Harry learns the spider venom from the BioCable project is still hidden somewhere in Oscorp Tower. He starts his own research, learning about Max and Ravencroft but before he can act the Shady Executives burst in and have HIM fired for trying to cover up Max's death.

Peter easily finds the Roosevelt section of the subway, where he uncovers his dad's secret lab. He finds the data that his dad downloaded from the airplane, detailing Norman's plan to turn his research into biological weapons because OF COURSE he did. Richard goes on to reveal that the human DNA he implanted in the spiders was his own and without it Oscorp will never be able to duplicate his experiments. What is this accomplishing? What does this have to do with ANYTHING?

Click here for Part 2!