For my eighth or ninth birthday, a friend gave me a Spider-Man action figure, pretty much the first action figure I'd ever received. I fell in love with the Web-Head immediately, and my fanhood has extended over multiple toys, comics, movies, and video games. So, of course, when ASM2 came out yesterday, I had to go see it. These are my initial thoughts on the film; it's been less than 24 hours since I've seen it, so I wanted to get my thoughts down before I mull on it too much. As it sometimes happens, I tend to like or dislike a film more the more I think about it, so here's a chance to see my original thoughts on it. As will also probably happen, if I see the film again, I'll probably like it more. While ASM2 was a good movie, I believe there were areas that could've been treated a lot better. So I'm going to give a list of five things I liked and five things I disliked. So let's go (Note: MAJOR SPOILERS ahead. Turn back NOW if you haven't seen the film yet).
1. The Death of Gwen Stacy: I kinda had the notion they were going to kill her off in this film. I'd thought it was too early, but there are some cues in the film that make it rather obvious. Gwen and Peter's roller coaster relationship throughout the film; her valedictorian speech about "life is short"; her acceptance into Oxford. She's the valedictoran in her class, she's going to England for school! Things are looking up for Gwen. So that means they're about to take a dive. And then there's also the little matter of her wearing the exact same coat, dress, and boots she wears in the infamous Amazing Spiderman 121. As soon as I noticed that, I realized she was dead. And she died, which was actually interesting. I'm not sadistic, and I don't want to be a jerk, but this is huge for Peter. With Harry turning against him, with the Sinister Six on the rise, with college looming, he's lost his rock. He's got Aunt May to lean on, sure, but he's lost someone very special to him. Does this mean MJ will finally make the cut? Will she be his new foundation? I think, as plot twists go, this one was executed very well, and I think it changes the whole dynamic of the franchise.
2. Harry Osborn: At first, we get the feeling that Dane DeHaan is just playing a sniveling, rich jerk of a kid with serious daddy issues. And then he snaps. From the moment he gets thrown out of Oscorp, his acting is excellent. The dude's got problems, and DeHaan portrays that really well. Threatening the board guy that tossed him out, beating up guards, interacting with Electro, DeHaan shines as one of those psychotic bad guys I adore so much. To be honest, his stint as the Green Goblin is not much to write home about; he doesn't DO a whole lot zipping around on his glider. He throws one bomb, kidnaps Gwen, and drops her in a brief scene ala-Dark Knight. But if we can see more of the dark and disturbed Harry Osborn in the upcoming films, we could have a very, very good villain indeed.
3. The References: All the geeks love comic references. The Winter Soldier was jam-packed with them, and ASM2 has it's own nice coating of nods to the comic books it stems from. Like having a lady named Felicia working for Harrry Osborn, which is clearly a nod to the Black Cat. Whether or not they intend to have the Black Cat in one of the films, it's still a cool way to introduce the character. Also, there's Allister Smythe, who, again, use him or not, we know him as the Spider-Slayer. I guess even Gwen's apparel is a direct reference to the issue where she died. Wearing those clothes was a dead giveaway for what was going to happen, but it was cool that the filmmakers thought to add that in. And, of course, there's always the Stan Lee cameo appearance. This one seemed a little just thrown in there this time, but it's nice to see him anyway.
4. The Sinister Six: It's been confirmed by Sony that they're building up to a Sinister Six film, and they do an interesting job building up to the classic supervillain team in this movie. Harry's still around, and so is the Lizard. We know Rhino's gonna get trashed, and Electro looks dead, but nobody (but Gwen) ever stays dead in these things! So that's four villains maybe, but I actually forgot something: The end credits. They showed glimpses of various weapons, including the Goblin glider, Ock's tentacles, a knife (Kraven?), a mask (which may be Chameleon or Mysterio), Vulture's wings, and maybe a Rhino horn. So no Lizard, but I think it's silly that they'd leave him to rot in prison. Whatever the team comes out to be, we're getting a bunch of villains for their own solo movie and maybe a showdown with a broken-hearted Spidey, which would be awesome. Could Webb juggle six villains? Sure, cause that's part of my next point...
5. Pacing: I think ASM2 was paced very well. It wasn't too fast, it wasn't too slow. Unlike Raimi's Spider-Man 3, each villain took a shot at Spidey. It wasn't a huge team-up or anything else the fans may have complained about. Plus, I think the Gwen/Peter arc was paced well, plus Harry's descent into madness. I think Electro showed up at the right time in the film, and so did Harry. Each character was fleshed out, and two other important things were given significant screen time as well: Peter's relationship with Aunt May was given a decent amount of focus, and Peter inspecting the mysteriousness of his parents was done well too. My only complaint is that the Rhino and Green Goblin weren't given enough time, which will lead us to...
1. The Villains: While Harry Osborn's character flux was really intriguing, his time as the Green Goblin could have been utilized a lot better. First, I thought it was just a little ridiculous that he HAPPENED to crawl towards a suit and glider that HAPPENED to open. But that's just me. Also, making the Rhino a footnote was very disappointing. Having Spidey face Sytsevich was amusing, but we didn't even get to see a BATTLE with the Rhino. You're left with the feeling Spidey will tear him apart, but there's absolutely no battle, which is especially disappointing given the fact he was in the trailers. If anything, he should have been left out of the trailers and shown like he was an "extended reference," or just given more time in the film. Plus, Electro fought Spidey pretty well, but two things. 1. He basically turned into a Harry Osborn tool and 2. He was ANOTHER Spidey villain contorted by science that audiences should sympathize with at first. This is a trend seen way too often in the films. That's what made Osborn so good. The dude was just evil, and I hope he gets worse as the films grow.
2. The Gentleman: After two years of speculation, we find out that the mysterious man in the hat is a guy...not from the comics. The Gentleman is a dude from a trilogy of novels published back in 1999. Never made a comic book appearance, and he died in the novels. So why the heck would Webb pull out such an obscure character to make the manipulative mastermind of his franchise? Surely, there are lots of other classic Spider-Man enemies capable of pulling those kinds of strings. Why is it some powerless guy in a hat? Huh. Well, it was a bummer there, but at least we got to know. Again, I'll be keeping my eyes on Harry as a principle opponent.
3. Gwen and Peter: As I said, I enjoyed how their relationship was paced, but it seemed to get a little goofy at times. It was an entire roller coaster of ups and downs, culminating in a very strange idea from Peter: He's going to go to England with Gwen. He can't imagine the thought of her leaving, so he plans on flying across the Pond with her. Right. So we'll just forget about the parent mystery, Oscorp's plans, your photo job, Aunt May (really, Peter?), and the fact that Spider-Man will happen to vanish at the same time you do. Peter even says there's crime in England. So he plans on being Spider-Man there, too? Strange coincidence. Maybe he was joking, but he seemed deadly serious. The England idea was a nice nod to the comics, and Peter probably would've thought that decision out better, but that one moment seemed a little strange to me.
4. Norman Osborn: I had heard that Norman was going to die, but I didn't think they were going to do it. But they did. They killed off the original Green Goblin, which I think is kind of a rip-off. Sure, Harry was kind of intriguing as the Goblin, but Norman would've been way better. Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn would've been awesome. In the comics, he accidentally kills himself, and then comes back. It's hard to believe that they'd pull that kind of stunt in the films, but I still didn't like the fact that such an iconic character and fundamental Spidey enemy was left to rot in his bedchamber. It seemed silly.
5. Genetic disease: Sure, Harry's desire in the film is original, but it has nothing to do with the comics. Norman leaving Harry with this rare genetic disease (which, uh, only starts around the same time as the movie) seemed really out of place. It gave Harry something to fight for, but I think a different motive would have been nice and less strange. This just seemed out of the blue. In a sense, you can see it as Norman inflicting Harry with his troubles, which is basically what happens in the comics, but this was an odd way to go about it. I think it could have been done differently.
In all, ASM2 was good. I enjoyed it, and I'll probably like it even more the next time I see it. It wasn't perfect, but it was fun. I just wish that couple of choices hadn't been made, which seems to be a problem that has plagued Spider-Man movies for some time now.