Darn it, I’m getting excited.
Here’s a case where I hope I enjoy the sequel more than the original, because I really, really like what we’ve been seeing so far from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Marc Webb’s first film had a number of elements I wanted to like more, and it featured pretty much spot-on perfect casting for both Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, but I just couldn’t get past what felt like a very pedestrian script.
Over the last few days, several new featurettes appear to have popped up online, and while I tried to resist looking, I finally broke down and watched two new ones, and here’s the takeaway: Webb’s cranked up the action and the Spider-based character comedy in this one, and in both cases, that’s exactly what I want.
It now appears that the first scene with Paul Giamatti as The Rhino is the opening of the film, with Peter Parker swinging into action as Spider-Man to try and stop a truck chase through the city at the exact moment that he’s supposed to be at his high school graduation, where Gwen Stacy sits waiting for him. It looks like they’ve shot a ton of this as actual practical stunt work, and it certainly pays off in something that looks and feels more tactile. I love the gag in both of these where he grabs the truck driving by and whips out-of-frame. That is straight out of the comics in terms of attitude, and looks great. It feels like Webb is getting more and more comfortable with the visual end of things.
The humor looks like it’s the exact kind of Peter Parker stuff that I like the most, him insulting villains during fights and grappling with the mundane reality of daily life while also being a superhero. Him trying to buy cold medicine while having to stop a robbery is very funny, but him sneezing inside the Spider-Man mask? Priceless. My younger son, who is a certified “Spider-Man” lunatic these days, cannot stop quoting the bit where Sally Field asks Andrew Garfield how his face got so dirty. His completely ridiculous “Whaaaaaat?” makes Allen cackle and he now uses that as his response to pretty much everything.
What I’m still not digging is the way everything ties into Oscorp including Peter’s origins. The smaller they make this world, the more it feels to me like another film where Bob Orci’s particular world-view is driving the way they build bad guys instead of trying to make full use of the big weird pantheon that is the Spider-Man rogue’s gallery in the comics. I couldn’t care less about Orci’s personal politics in terms of how they match up with mine. He’s a very vocal proponent of conspiracy thinking, and the only reason it matters to me is when it starts to become the driving force in the films he writes. The “false flag” stuff in “Star Trek Into Darkness” seems shoe-horned in, and not really of a piece with the future originally imagined by Gene Rodenberry and all the amazing writers who helped build out the world of “Star Trek.” Likewise, this insistence that Oscorp is behind EVERYTHING that happens in the world of “Spider-Man” just feels like a weird way to re-conceive these characters. I don’t really want to see Norman Osborn pulling the strings on Doc Ock, The Vulture, The Lizard, The Rhino, and every other animal-themed villain who Spider-Man eventually fights. How about Norman Osborn gets to be The Green Goblin and everyone else can handle their own business? How about Peter Parker isn’t the Chosen One from birth and his parents didn’t monkey with his genetics and he was just bitten by a radioactive spider and then we get on with it?
Maybe it works like gangbusters in the film. Maybe all of this is being made to look like it works in a way it really doesn’t. I guess we’ll find out soon. For now, though, there are enough things that really play in these new featurettes that it doesn’t matter what I thought of the first film. I’m excited. I want this one to work. Fingers crossed.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” arrives in theaters May 2, 2014.