The security for the preview of The Amazing Spiderman 2 was intense. There was, of course, the usual mandatory confiscation of mobile telephones – Sony had no intention of allowing images of their $200 million production to leak on to the Internet before launch day.
Even the local distributors were labouring under unusual precautions with the screening itself delayed for 90 minutes while security codes for the digital copy were obtained from the United States. To their credit, Sony responded with profuse apologies and free popcorn and drinks for all. But was Spidey worth the wait?
Yes … but mainly no.
A potted plot history for the uninitiated – in the first film Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) discovers that a small bite by a genetically modified spider has given him super-strength, lightning reflexes and the ability to crawl walls. And it’s not long before he needs those super skills against a scientist-turned-lizard who works for Oscorp, his father’s former employer. In this second installment Peter bounces around the city saving New Yorkers from rampant plutonium thieves while simultaneously struggling with the danger his new job represents for girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Just as he begins to wonder what really happened to his missing dad, Oscorp starts to make its presence felt again. Maladjusted technician Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) falls into a tank of genetically altered electric eels and becomes Electro, Pete’s old pal Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) injects himself with super spider venom and mutates into The Green Goblin, and for kicks he then uses his company’s secret research division to create a number of new supervillains, including Paul Giamatti as The Rhino. Mayhem ensues … but mostly with the script.
The Amazing Spiderman franchise has always laboured under the burden of trying to re-boot a franchise only a few years out of the cinemas. Peter Parker’s on-again-off-again romance with Mary Jane was going to be hard to forget, especially with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst’s iconic upside-down kiss. Rosemary Harris and Sally Field’s Aunt May morality speeches are almost identical. And, try as he might, Dane DeHaan is never going to deliver the creepiness of Willem Dafoe’s Goblin. Add to the new film’s frantic pumping out of villains and the rumours that director Sam Raime left the original trilogy because Sony was too concerned with creating easily packaged action figures begin to gain credence.
Ten years is a long time in cinema, though, so maybe an upcoming generation won’t notice the repeats? But though they’re likely to tolerate the suspension of reality necessary for such films, savvy audiences are unlikely to tolerate common sense being sent packing altogether. Director Marc Webb has created such masterful villains that it’s hard to credit one superhero could see them all off, no matter how tough his spandex suit. Worse still, their ‘terror’ constantly relies on the stupidity of their victims: aircraft controllers who forget they’d put two planes on a collision course; mothers who let their sons watch machinegun battles in the streets. Not to mention the hero’s solutions! In case you’re wondering, Spiderman works out the best way to defeat an electrical super villain is to douse everything with water. Can’t wait to see someone copy that at home…
Is there anything worth salvaging from such mental bubble-gum? Maybe, if you listen carefully for a few key lines on hope. Several times the film asks why people celebrate Spiderman instead of just locking him up as a vigilante:
Peter: He gives people hope!
Harry: In what?
Peter: That one day things will get better.
And girlfriend Gwen concurs, suggesting that the best thing we can be for each other is hope, “… because there are certainly plenty of people who need it.” Agreed. And it must have been partially the reason why many people were attracted to Jesus, a real-life superhero. If someone can heal the sick, create food from thin air and raise the dead then you might easily believe they were the answer to all your problems. But The Amazing Spiderman 2 also shows what happens when that hope doesn’t deliver the answers we were looking for: criticism, anger and condemnation. When Spidey refuses to help Harry cure his critical disease, the future Green Goblin responds,
“You’re supposed to help people! I’m dying! You’re a fraud, Spiderman!”
– but we know Peter is denying Harry for his own good. It’s a pity those who hoped Jesus would give them endless free meals didn’t see the same thing:
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill … [But] Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Not surprisingly this was a hard teaching for many to accept and, “… many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Why? Because it was not the solution they’d been hoping to find. Hope is indeed a powerful and attractive thing but, unless we’re hoping in the right thing, that same hope will only lead to disappointment and despair. We need someone like Jesus to tell us what we really need before hope can lend us Spidey’s strength.
Release Date: April 17