Does The Amazing Spider-Man 2 deserve the hate that it gets? It is interesting we just had a new Spider-Man film only 3 years ago, a part of a new franchise that started 5 years ago now. I’m sure people remember the doomsday and Armageddon that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The less than stellar to bad reviews, where critics like John Schnepp would compare it to Schumacher’s Batman & Robin if he could. Plenty of people were already begging for a reboot or for the rights to transfer to Marvel before the movie even wrapped up its release. On top of this it was a financial disaster leading to new debt, foreclosures and lay-offs. OK that last part is not true but many of on-line pundits and so forth would preach that to the high heavens. Let us dissect The Amazing Spider-Man 2 both financially and critically, plus my own personal opinion.
Many of people will point out its lowly $91.6 million opening weekend, while having the highest theater count out of all of the films. With a franchise like Spider-Man you are expecting to break $100 million, right? Wrong, to some degree. The beloved Spider-Man 2 had an opening weekend of only $88.1 million. Therefore, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is hardly an opening dud. In fact, the rebooted franchise in 2012 had an opening weekend of only $62 million; on top of that, this was a holiday weekend with the Fourth of July in the domestic market. There we have it – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a better opening than the original sequel and out-does its predecessor. These are worthy brownie points. It is not always guaranteed but studios always want the sequel to out-do its original in the first weekend and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 already has a 47% lead over the first installment in the new series. Still, the box office was such a crummy run that it disappeared from theaters instantly, right? Granted this film had the smallest multiplier of the bunch (final domestic gross/opening weekend) of 2.21, though is just a few points off from Spider-Man 3. A multiplier shows how good the legs are for a film, but it is possible to make a good multiplier and not even make your budget back, case in point, The Spirit. Back to its box office run, this film actually stayed around as long as the first and original film from 2002. In the end, it was out for a grand total of 15 weeks and 108 days, both are tied. The first Marc Webb Spider-Man was out for 14 weeks and 104 days, so yeah! No doubt the film had a large drop by the second weekend, a whole 61.2%. This is a topic people like to bring up a lot today. However, Spider-Man 3 had a 61.5% drop. Yes, not a huge difference but it does keep The Amazing Spider-Man off the bottom. Plus, other big franchise films have had larger drops like the first three films in the DCEU, three films in the Harry Potter series and even Transformers as of late. Yes, this one had the lowest domestic total but its international take away was splendid. In fact, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the second highest grossing film in the series in the international box office with a total gross of over $506 million. This is just roughly 9% lower than Spider-Man 3, the cash cow of the international box office. Hell, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 made a killing in the Chinese market which is blooming right now. The entire Chinese gross of the first, second and third film, even when combined does not even hold a candle to it! Spider-Man 2 had stayed in the foreign market for roughly four months, but Amazing Spider-Man 2 opened over-seas in April and kept on, though straggling until late January.
It is a bit messy seeing these details, but case in point in some records The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not the bottom worst in the franchise. It could be argued this film had a warmer reception than its first film and more returning people from the first film unlike Spider-Man 2. In addition, it was one of the most internationally successful Spider-man films. This is all fine and dandy, but did the movie make money? Again, the doomsayers acted as if this movie was a huge bomb and bankrupted Sony. The film had an estimated budget of $293 million. Part of this is the huge spending of marketing this film got. Sony had plans for this to be their $1 billion worldwide box office film like a Dark Knight or Avengers, but sadly it was not. I would argue had the budget been more modest, and below the Spider-Man 3 levels of $258 million and just as close to $200 million as possible, regardless of the reviews, this film may have done better and gotten its sequel. In the end, the film did indeed make money – a mere profit of $70.3 million. In fact, it was the least profitable superhero film of its year. Nonetheless, a profit is a profit; it is still money in the bank. Meanwhile, the doomsayers can continue to prattle on but I doubt they ever made that kind of money with their so-called “analysis” and “estimates”. It is hard to say what numbers the other films pulled, but with smaller budgets and larger grosses, it is safe to say better than this, I would hazard a guess to at least double for one or two of them.
Critically yes the movie had quite the field day. It has the lowest score on both Rotten Tomatoes and Meta Critic, both being in the low 50’s. Critics decide nothing though. People do not make films to get the appraisal of critics or washed up film students who never got to make a film and can tell everyone else how to write, direct, produce and market one. Not only that, but dictate your tastes for you. Audience scores are a tad bit higher. In fact, critics deem Spider-Man 3 OK over at Rotten Tomatoes, but the audience hated it. In fact, they take this over Spider-Man 3. Not only have that, but the audience like the original Sam Raimi filmed only a few hairs more than the 2014 release.
What went wrong with this film? I have already mentioned they spent way too much money on this project. It’s Spider-Man, he advertises himself, the over burdensome marketing was not needed. In addition, the reception to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was moderately warm but no one was clamoring for a reboot after Spider-Man 3, let alone even a sequel. Most people who saw The Amazing Spider-Man were OK with it but still fell back on the original trilogy for their spider fix. This film came out hot on the heels of the popular and successful Captain America: The Winter Soldier and before X-Men: Days of Future Past which many people were stoked for. Therefore, it was stuck in the middle of a rather saturated superhero movie market. This was only the second Captain America movie, not the fifth and this X-Men movie would be bringing back the old cast and new one from First Class. Plus, X-men would be bringing back the fan’s favorite director. One final thing is the huge push for 3-D in this film, unlike the other superhero films. It is hard to say how much revenue came from 3-D screenings and how much the audience responds to 3-D. We live in a time of high living expenses and 3-D always jacks up the price of your movie tickets, which no one really wants 3-D or not.
Personally though, I will admit that I loved this film. With the arrival of The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012 I was not 100% looking forward to it. The last Spidey film prior to 2012 was only 5 years ago; do we already need to reboot it? A sequel was in place with Sam Raimi returning and using the vulture, but never got off the ground. I recall in some special feature of Amy Pascal noting where do you pick up after Spider-Man 3? Harry just died in the arms of his best friends that he helped tear apart, Peter smacked M.J. earlier and was for lack of a better word being a dick to her the whole movie. Is there any hope for Peter and Mary Jane? It felt like a conclusion, but not the happiest one. The Amazing Spider-Man was a fresh breath of contemporary air with better love interest, a villain I had been clamoring for since the first film, a great cast, improved effects and just relatable characters I would argue. But we are here to discuss the sequel.
One common critique I hear is how the film had too many villains – Rhino, Electro & Green Goblin. What about most of the Batman films? Everything past 1989 has more than one. In fact, Batman Begins technically has four villains lifted from the comics. Marc Webb’s sequel really only has two villains. The Rhino just book ends the film. In fact, only die hard comic nerds know who he is in the beginning of the film. Never mind that he does not really detract from the plot. Rhino’s scenes are more day in the life of Spider-Man, to help establish the world. Sure, you could remove him and just use some thug but that would not make it a better movie overnight.
Meanwhile, I have heard people refer to Electro as Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Ace Ventura. This Electro is vastly different, yes and more based off from the Ultimate run. Yet, this is still a baseless claim. Electro’s hero worship was more accurately placed; given Spider-Man was hero. Riddler, well he worshipped the guy simply because he was a celebrity and he hired him. Jim Carrey then went off to channel his inner campy 60’s Frank Gorshin chewing the scenery, while Electro was quickly seen and viewed as a threat. When a person so taken advantage of in society with a massive inferiority complex is given powers, what do you truly expect to happen I ask you?
It is odd to note how they skipped over Norman’s Green Goblin for Harry as the Green Goblin. This was a welcome move to help them distance it from the original film though. Yes, this is not how it is done in the comics but this is not the comics. If you require that story so badly it’s right over there on your shelf. It was interesting to have these two physically turn somewhat goblin-esque, again akin more to the Ultimate series. Plus, the design under Raimi was neither great nor aged well. Let alone, a guy in green tights and purple long johns sounds a bit silly now days. Harry had every reason to be upset over what happened. Here is a young man who he grew up with, a best friend. Yet, he let the girl he’s been dating for a year to be in on his secret and help her out but not him. This does spell betrayal to some. Harry has no father, no family and apparently no trust-worthy friend, and then who does he have?
Now was their collaboration off or forced? Not at all. Both of these figures had been left to their own devices, to waste away. Electro had no friends or family that cared for him. He was just the guy to do all the work and get no credit, just a punching bag/welcome mat. Harry on the other hand, the rich kid who inherits his father’s empire begrudgingly, a father who kept him at a distance and tells him of the sickness he too will die from. Harry must quickly accept his father’s death, the failure of this man as his father and get back to a business. I remind you, a business that is working to quickly get rid of him. Both men think they can hopefully turn to Spider-Man some way but things go sour. Both men obtain power, and do not act irresponsibly but instead end up in dire situations where they become victims to no fault of their own and in return abuse their power.
The special effects were certainly top notch in this film, especially for everything Electro related. Most of the time post-conversion to 3-D does not always turn out well, but this film was one rare occasion where it did not ring true. It felt as if the theater itself was swarming with electricity and Electro himself was attacking the audience. Add the stellar score from Hans Zimmer and this film was an audio and visual extravaganza. Danny Elfman’s sound never left much for memory and did little to stir up much awe and excitement. Christopher Young left behind his beautiful Birth of Sandman piece and that was it. James Horner brought some things to the table. A great composer but he has done better and it did not sound like Spider-Man to me. This was however! You have the great heroic trumpets of Spidey’s entrance in the film. We also have the melancholy of Harry’s theme and the musical smorgasbord with Electro. We have a serious composure for the film, along with hot, summer hit for Electro with help from Pharrell of the Neptunes. It sounds odd, but made for this great new age vibe for this film and not just old fashioned John Williams like vibe.
Another critique is how packed the film is, along with these villains. Yes, it does feel like the film is doing and tackling a lot, but it is certainly not hard to follow. We do not have dream sequences nor extremely visual storytelling with zero exposition, no hard feelings Mr. Snyder. It was odd we were not over the death of Peter’s parents and that this was a continuing plot point. It was a welcome feature though. As comic nerds we know already. What about the general audience? What about the people who only know Spider-Man due to the other films or cartoons? Peter’s parents are rarely if ever mentioned. It felt for the longest time they were the off-screen dead Disney parents and had no real foundation in Peter’s history. This film changed all of that and it would make sense for Peter to want to know and track down the actual history of his parents. Need I remind you, Cold War agents dying in the line of duty would not work today in 2014? The last thing that made this film a win for me was the relationship between Parker and Gwen Stacy, and just Gwen Stacy herself. We have had numerous romantic relationships in films before, but most came off rather cliché’ and forced. Gwen Stacy was a welcome change to that. Here is a young woman who is already sure of herself and what she wants. She understands what her father said and wanted but is not hung up on that, she is not a child. Gwen will not let Peter, the man in her life, define her either. She is Gwen Stacy first, and Peter Parker’s girlfriend second if not third. In most other films, superhero or not, it is the opposite. Note that she is willing to leave to England and Parker must follow her. Not only that, but who knew the power grid best and who’s idea was it to magnetize the web shooters? Why our hero of course – Gwen Stacy! You’re welcome Spider-Man. In fact, I almost felt and thought that Gwen Stacy maybe smarter than Peter. We are living in a time and age where more women are joining the STEM field unlike prior generations. They are more interested in having a professional career rather than finding a man and popping out babies. Gwen Stacy symbolizes this so well. It’s a damn shame they had to kill her. As she provided a more intriguing love interest and one you cared about. The female actress who wants to go to Broadway is something we could catalog if we wanted to. Her death scene was truly tragic, especially with Garfield’s crying was hardly romantic but messy, much like when people really cry over loss outside of Hollywood.
But Gwen’s death is not what did me over, no. Her speech while a newly freed and powered up Rhino attacks the city and there is no Spider-Man. Not only do we the people need Spider-Man there, we want Spider-Man there. Then to see that young boy dressed as the hero who saved him from bullies take the cause against Rhino was beautiful. Only then to see the Amazing Spider-Man show up, thank the boy for his bravery and swing into action. It was truly a teary-eyed moment for me to be honest. At the end of the day it truly is a tragic film, given Peter basically failed three people in his life. Two of them dead and one locked up. Nonetheless, he still carries on and gives us hope for brighter days. It is only a shame other people decided to let go of that hope and instead clamor for a reboot, something they originally scoffed at but oh well.
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