I wish I could devote more time to reviews, but it’s crunch-time in Rhuboland, so here’s a whistle-stop tour of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, good and bad.
They beefed up Gwen’s (Emma Stone) role and gave her interests outside of her bf. They also showed her thinking about how kind of self-centred he can be and how she’s not content to wait around for him.
Plus, Gwen had some agency and some role in saving the day.
The character, Max (Jamie Foxx), is initially interesting, as a black guy getting to play something other than the tough guy, the guy presented as animalistic in some way. Although I wonder if the black nerdy, socially inept scientist is getting to be another stereotype. I was reminded strongly of Lem from Better off Ted, but I’m aware that I may be blinded by my own privilege in trying to assess what makes for a stereotypical black male character.
Max also gets to voice legitimate concerns of vanishing identity and feeling invisible, which can affect people of colour who are not recognised and rewarded for their achievements in the way that white men tend to be. Both Max and Harry cut sympathetic figures, at first.
The CGI is fucking fantastic. Second to none. And worth seeing in 3D, if that doesn’t affect you negatively.*
Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield shine, instantly lifting both the acting and (one feels) the script in any scene in which they are in.
Hopefully it isn’t too much of a spoiler to say that things do not go well for Max. And whilst they toy initially with making him a human dude who doesn’t want to do bad things when he first gets his (basically very destructive) powers, he rapidly descends into the violent revenge trope and becomes a basic monster figure with almost nothing of his original character left. Fear of the Other. Terror of the Black Man (complete with hoodie, argh). It’s just all the worst stereotypes.
And they make him blue. Instantly cutting in half the number of obviously PoC characters I noticed in the film (the other being an anonymous cop).
And he cedes Chief Monster Spot extremely quickly to the spoiled rich white guy, swiftly assuming a Henchman role.
Prior to that he had been Comic Relief, aspiring to be Side-kick (but not actually cool enough for that). It’s basically a race ‘You wanted a “You Tried” sticker, but you really don’t deserve it’.
I think the moment where Random Unnamed Woman Secretary-I-Don’t-Know-What-Her-Role-Was-Meant-To-Be-That’s-Not-How-Oxbridge-Interviews-Work told Gwen she could go in for her interview was meant to make this film pass the Bechdel Test. But, honey, no, that’s not good enough. She could have easily been a professor, btw, but she wasn’t.
Peter Parker stalks Gwen and she finds this romantic. PETER PARKER STALKS GWEN AND SHE FINDS THIS ROMANTIC. NO, Hollywood! Stop putting this crap in our mouths. You want to have your hero stalk a lady, represent it as every bit as creepy as it is, and not ‘poignant’. NO, NO, NO.
Mental illness = evil. Illness that alters conventional beauty generates mental illness. People who get sick have cooties. White able-bodied men are better than everyone.
All the people in any position of power, from the unnamed people in dealing with a potential air crash in the powercut, to Harry Osborn (Dane DeHann), were white men. Harry delegates some power to Felicia (his father’s assistant, played by Felicity Jones) on a whim, but even if she is capable, her power is 100% derived from him and, as far as we are given any reason to believe, given to her because she is pretty and not currently trying to seize power from him.
And, last, but only so you can skip it if you don’t want spoilers…
The fridging. I knew (because people tell you these things) that Gwen Stacey was not slated to live that long, but this still pissed me off. I don’t care that that’s how it happened in the comics. I know fridging happens in comics, that’s how come we have a name for it. We are living in the 21st century, and if you are remaking something, you can make it BETTER and MORE SUITED to the world we now live in. The whole movie I was sitting there, trying to work out if it was going to go somewhere sexist or not. And I guess the moment Peter says he’ll go with her to England so that she can follow her dream (a totally legit thing to do that needn’t compromise his dreams in any way, as they discuss) she was doomed. Allow a woman too much agency, and she has to die to fuel the mangst. And we were treated to a longish epilogue to that effect. Not to mention the fact that Peter, for no apparent reason than just because he likes to be in control, never loses an opportunity to deny her agency. Webbing her hand to a car because she (rightly) points out that she knows more about how to solve the issue at hand than he does, is perhaps just the most painfully obvious of these.
Also, the pacing was really patchy, and the (exquisitely CGI’d and very impressive looking in terms of FX) fight scenes were too long and not punchy enough. Again, I felt like the Multiple Villain Factor was a problem – why not let Electro at least be head villain? Green Goblin is totally up to fronting another movie.
So, there it is. I really wanted to like this. I did enjoy parts of it quite a lot. But it had a LOT of problems. And I’m kind of done making excuses for studios unthinkingly churning out this shit anymore. I’m done with saying ‘Maybe the next one will be less ableist/sexist/racist’. It’s not good enough. It doesn’t make the mark.
But do stay after the movie for the mid-credit Marvel Thang. Mistique kicking arse is a wonderful palate cleanser.
*On that note: please also be aware that this film contains strobing effects.