REVIEW: ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’ And The Trouble With Outline Filmmaking

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
is a perfect example of what happens when a movie is no longer just a movie, but a small component of some cross-platform media franchise strategy. I imagine it’s hard to write a coherent script when your every creative decision has a synergistic butterfly effect, where a twinkle in Spider-Man’s codpiece in Amazing Spider-Man 2 can become a full solar eclipse in the Sinister 6 Nestle Grabass Hour, coming to Amazon Fire in 2019. Duuuude, you can’t kill off Clitterestro, he has to lead the Frigid Four against Venomous Vadge in season seven! Won’t someone think of the tie-ins?!

And that, kids, is how we get Dane Dehaan’s bangs teaming up with black Emperor Palpatine for a city-wide dub-step rave.

That isn’t to say that AmSpi 2 is terrible, or even a particularly bad movie. It’s not. Or at least, it didn’t have to be. It has a lot of things going for it. The cast is terrific, from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (so pretty…) on down to Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti, who’s only in the film for about five minutes total (I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he’ll be back later). You don’t need an Oscar nominated actor to play an insane Russian with barbed wire tattooed on his head anymore than you need an Oscar-winning one to play an electrified dub-step monster, but I do applaud the hustle.

And after the frenetic shot-reverse editing of the fight scenes in Cap 2, the slowed down wide shots and bullet-time effects of Amazing Spider-Man 2 are a breath of fresh air. You can actually tell what’s happening! Neat! That is, aside from the opening plane scene, where the camera operators are literally shaking the cameras around to create the illusion of chaos. Who knew Jerry Springer was going to influence a generation of stunt coordinators? It’s shot so differently from the rest of the movie that you wonder if a second unit shot this part at the last minute. The whole movie feels like a lot of really talented people coming together to create a thrown together mess.

Pretty much everything ‘Zing Spi 2 does well is crushed under the weight of Sony’s future plans and the script’s oppressive obligations to the greater Spidey universe. It may represent a new low in “outline filmmaking,” depending how you weigh it against the extended trailer that was Iron Man 2.

There are benefits to having an outline when you’re telling a story, but too-specific outlines can act as a limiter on creativity, forcing the writer(s) to make leaps in logic and create vague plotting in order to hit every bullet point. Like your sister, storytelling tends to snowball. One decision leads to another leads to another, sparks some new, even crazier idea, and then you go back and tweak the first few, over and over, and eventually you get something even better.

There were only two years between Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2, which isn’t a lot of time in the first place, and add to that the necessity to tie everything in to this larger universe that includes The Sinister Six and whatever else (all in the name of that sweet, sweet ancillary revenue). All of which adds up to Sony’s creative brain trust not having much time to create a wildly complex outline that Mark Webb and his softball team’s worth of screenwriters have to stick to pretty religiously to keep from screwing up the larger universe.