Monday Morning Critic – Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Spoilers), Gwen Stacy And Christopher Nolan’s Impact

MMC

One of the more interesting things about this weekend’s big film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, wasn’t its fairly solid (but not amazing) performance at the box office. Travis broke it down and the film’s under nine figure opening mark domestically is likely to get crushed sometime soon as the 2014 box office season is underway. It nearly hit $300 million internationally, though, so it’s on track for a third film sometime in the near future. International grosses are propping up a lot of films that are underperforming domestically. But it’s not a good opening, though, despite it being the 2nd best of the series so far on a pure dollar for dollar basis.

Marc Webb’s take on the series has the perk of being released in 3D, which is inflating its grosses from the non-3D Sam Raimi series.

It’s a shame, really, because what Webb is doing on another level from what Raimi did with the same character and franchise. He also has the vantage point of being the second man through the breach, as Raimi and that era of film-making in the genre established the boundaries of the genre early when no one knew what to expect from a comic book film. Webb is in a much different world, with, with much different expectations, than Raimi ever had.

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I’m not a fan of Raimi outside of Army of Darkness but I’ll give him credit; he had a much more difficult task to start out with than Webb did. Webb got handed a prime franchise in the middle of the true golden age of the comic book film as a genre both commercially and critically. His task was basically to not screw it up and so far he’s done that. The Amazing Spider-Man was absolutely brilliant, I thought, and the sequel was fairly perfunctory. This was perfectly acceptable film-making, nothing more, and Travis pretty much nailed it right here.

I’d argue it was a bit better but not by much. I adored the opening sequence, which was Webb doing the one thing few film-makers have managed to do outside of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder in the genre; distill the essence of the character into an easy to inhale form. We understand Peter Parker’s development into a full-fledged superhero, from the end of the first film to the begging of the second, in one beautiful opening sequence that may be the best opening act of the year. But the one thing about his take on it was Webb’s willingness to do something no Marvel franchise has done so far.

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Webb went straight gangster and killed off Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), love interest of Peter Parker, after killing her father (Dennis Leary) in the first film. He had to, for story purposes, kill Peter’s Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) as well. I’m not a comic donk but from what I’ve been told the same manner Stacy dies in the film is like super similar to the way she died in the comics. It’s another huge death and it’s telling that Webb has no problem killing off characters that could be interesting storylines, at a minimum, in future films. We don’t know the end game yet of Webb’s Spider-Man arc but there’s one thing he’s doing that you rarely see in comic book films.

Gwen Stacy was probably going to die at some point in the series … but to do it in the second film was something wholly unexpected. Being Gwen Stacy in a Spider-Man film is like being Uncle Ben; death’s kind of waiting for you. But he didn’t have to, not at this point. That’s why it was interesting, especially with the setup of Peter looking to his future with her and no introduction to the traditional Peter Parker love interest in Mary Jane Watson as of yet.

Gwen’s death meant something in the series … and it wasn’t to turn Peter into Spider-Man like Uncle Ben’s was.

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Webb had an interesting vibe going, of Gwen being Peter’s sidekick in a silly sort of way, and it made you think that he envisioned them as a teenage version of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts from the Iron Man franchise. They had that sort of vibe … and yet Webb opted to kill off a character of note (with a rising star playing her, nonetheless) for what I imagine is some sort of greater good.

I call it the Chris Nolan Impact … and it’s something you don’t see a whole lot of in comic book films as a whole. It’s the willingness to kill off a main character that doesn’t have to die for a character to come into existence. Bruce Wayne’s parents necessarily have to die for him to become Batman, of course, but if Nolan let Alfred Pennyworth get strung up by the Joker and hung to death it’d be something of note. Alfred’s death would mean something because Alfred doesn’t have to die in a Batman film. He could, though, which makes the stakes higher.

Nolan killing off Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in The Dark Knight meant something because he didn’t have to. It turned up the voltage for the rest of the film because now everyone’s in play to die, potentially. It’s the one thing that Marvel has been a bit squeamish on.

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It’s why The Avengers was fairly dull, especially during the big action sequence to the end, as far as I’m concerned. Everyone had films to make afterwards, thus everyone who isn’t disposable or an extra is going to make it. There was no drama because everyone was going to be in sequels the next summer. If Loki had cut Scarlett Johansson’s head off with his scepter early on the final big action sequence would have some heft to it. A big character dying out of the blue would’ve made that big finale all that much more dramatic and tension filled.

It’s why Webb and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 could wind up being the start of something interesting. For all its flaws, and this was a really flawed film, Webb pulled off something I didn’t think was left in Spider-Man. He made it interesting and gave a sense of mortality to the series. A major character died at a pivotal point for the character that didn’t necessarily have to.

It goes in line with the comic but many comic book films take liberties with them and this could’ve been one of them. And any Hollywood executive wouldn’t have agreed to it if there wasn’t an end game to it. And that end game is infinitely more interesting because Marc Webb isn’t willing to maintain a status quo.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

Travis knocked out a pair of movie reviews, here and here.

The Nut Job was kind of … eh. My DVD review here.

And now on MMC … we see Raymond Daniels knocking some dude out in insane fashion

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This week’s DVD – World’s Greatest Dad

Losing a child is probably the hardest thing any person can go through. I wouldn’t know, as I don’t have any of my own, but I can only imagine that losing someone you brought into this world is one of the hardest things a person can do. Now imagine your kid was kind of a scumbag and died pulling a Keith Carradine.

Lance (Robin Williams) is that dad and his son (Daryl Sabara) has just killed himself that way. He was also a bit of a sex crazed imbecile, disliked by most of his classmates, and Lance wants to give his son a nobler exit. That’s where it starts for an exceptionally black comedy from Bobcat Goldthwait, which he also wrote.

This is about as black a comedy as it gets as Lance has to live a lie he’s told that keeps bigger and bigger. It’s exceptionally dark and is not easy to view. Williams is money, though, and it’s a film that’ll bring out the “laugh at things you shouldn’t be laughing at” person inside you.

Recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return – An animated sequel to the Wizard of Oz.

Skip it – Odds are it’ll be better than James Franco’s Oz project. That’s not a compliment.

Mom’s Night Out – A couple of soccer moms take a night out … shenanigans happen.

Skip it – Yawn … you can double it up with Single Moms Club I suppose.

Neighbors – Seth Rogen and Zac Efron engage in neighbor shenanigans.

See it – So far it looks the least awful of this weekend’s big releases. NOT A COMPLIMENT.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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