As with when I (sort of) reviewed Captain America: Winter Soldier this is not quite a review either as it was the result of an impromptu cinema trip where I didn’t have my notebook with me and did not watch with the eye of a reviewer. So although I am unable to post a review, I still wanted to note some observations.
SPOILERS AHEAD!!! #
I’ve never been a massive Spider-Man fan but so far I’ve enjoyed the movies as a bit of popcorn entertainment. The Toby Maguire run had its strengths and weaknesses (sometimes more one than the other). Andrew Garfield’s first outing was fun and watchable but it did have some glaring flaws that were hard to ignore. Although this volume has a bit more gravitas, I was expecting some light entertainment at the least, and if you go in not expecting too much you might be pleasantly entertained, which makes its flaws all the more disappointing.
We ended up watching this movie on a whim – it was basically between this and Noah – and I’m glad I decided to go with this, despite the fact that the trailer completely put me off. There were some endearing funny moments that gave insight into the humour that is required for anything Spider-Man, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I don’t know if it was the way it was framed, but the trailer not only didn’t grab me, it really did alienate me though I can’t put my finger on why.
It is definitely the fantastic casting that makes this movie, a (mostly) good supporting cast and stellar leads whose rapport is delightfully entertaining. Ahead of everyone is Andrew Garfield who continues to deliver a great performance as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, with possibly the best portrayal to date of the character. He’s followed closely by a fantastic performance from Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. Together they are great, and their real life chemistry is obvious. It isn’t too far a stretch to say that if not for the great casting, this movie wouldn’t be anywhere near half as watchable.
That Gwen Stacy Scene!
Despite not having much interest in the movie initially, Hubster and I were as curious as the next nerd to see how they dealt with Gwen’s death. Although I have never really been into Spider-Man, the gut wrenching and devastating death of Gwen Stacy is common nerd-knowledge. The whole sequence leading up to her death – from Spider-Man declaring his love for her on the bridge to the moment Goblin descends – is well paced and tension building. When she dies, Spider-Man’s grief is palpable. Overall, I think it was handled incredibly well and with the right level of consideration and sensitivity. Here’s to hoping they hold off on introducing MJ as a love interest in the next instalment – I think we could do with some cooling off time.
Luckily this movie seems to have learned from the mistakes of its predecessor Spider-Man 3. Although we were expecting Green Goblin, Electro and Rhino, they were delivered just right and to me it didn’t feel overstuffed. What was also refreshing, especially compared to previous Spider-Man movies, was that the interactions and collaboration between Electro and Goblin did not feel forced and made logical sense. The set up for the Sinister Six at the end was nicely done.
Although Jamie Foxx is good, the role of Max Dillon/Electro sometimes feels like it falls a little short of being completely fleshed out, and often comes across as a series of unoriginal tropes – this would seem to be down to writing and producing rather than Foxx’s acting. He essentially starts off as Jerry Lewis at the beginning of The Nutty Professor, before his obsession takes him into Jim Carrey as the Riddler territory. I think his obsession with Spider-Man and desire to no longer be a nobody is well done and feels like a genuine driving force for his villainy, it would have just been nicer to have seen it handled with a bit more originality and less stereotyping.
It feels like the reason this movie isn’t as good as it could potentially be, given the pluses on it’s side, is a question of tone. It strives for the same tone as some of the more recent lighter superhero movies like those in the Avengers series, but often blunders into Superman III territory in it’s comic representations – the portrayal of Max Dillon being an example. Another would be the introduction of the Green Goblin, his over the top makeup unintentionally injecting silliness into a sombre situation. The audience audibly laughed when he came on screen, which was a weird blip in the final moments of Gwen Stacy.
Race and Gender
For a Marvel movie, especially considering some of their recent films (albeit by a different studio), the gender and racial representations here are poor.
Although both amazing actors and strong characters, Gwen and (arguably) Aunt May are the only two women in the main cast, and I’m doubtful whether this outing came anywhere near passing the Bechdel Test.
In terms of racial representations – the only black speaking part is that of Max/Electro, a race swap from the previously white incarnation of the character. However, it is a bit of a shame that the main representation of POC in this movie is just the bad guy. It’s a bit depressing to think that if they hadn’t swapped the race of this one role then there would have been no POC representation in the main cast. There are anonymous cops in a few scenes, but even they are thin on the ground and none have lines – New York has rarely looked whiter. There is the exception of young Jorge, who Spidey befriends after rescuing him from bullies, but am I the only one that kind of wishes they’d gone with a Hispanic-African American called Miles Morales?
So overall, I enjoyed this movie. It wasn’t until thinking about it afterwards that the flaws started to bother me. Consider it a popcorn movie with appropriate gravitas in places (ignore the accidental comedy), but a shocking lack of women and POC.
Winner of the most disappointing cameo from Stan Lee (sorry Generalissimo)
Stay tuned at the end – despite not being one of the 20th Century Fox Marvel movies, there is a short clip featuring Mystique scene in the credits.