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Non-Review Review: The Amazing Spider-Man II

What is remarkable about Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man II is how much it resembles a comic book. Not a particular comic book – although there are numerous shout-outs to iconic Spider-Man moments, right down to the choice of costuming – but in general terms. It isn’t that Marc Webb tries to construct his film to evoke the look and feel of a comic book – this isn’t Ang Lee’s Hulk; in fact, Webb seems much more comfortable here than he was with The Amazing Spider-Man, making a movie that feels more playful and relaxed within its medium.

Instead, The Amazing Spider-Man II borrows the structure of a comic book. It offers its own story, but that story isn’t constructed particularly tightly. Instead, the story seems to have been fashioned as part of a greater – as if part of a larger serialised narrative that has yet to take form. It’s quite distinct from the approach taken with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, where the films feel more like blocks that fit together. Instead, this feels more like the second chapter in a larger story, without being dissolved completely into the larger narrative.

The Amazing Spider-Man II has its own themes and motifs, and it documents a pretty epic selection of events, but the emphasis isn’t so much on this one encounter as what this encounter says about its hero. It’s much more interested in what these events tell us about our hero than it is in documenting a single self-contained story. It’s a novel (and somewhat bold) attempt at a serialised superhero narrative, and the results are absolutely fascinating.

Electro-fying!

Electro-fying!

Note: This is a spoiler-filled review of The Amazing Spider-Man II. You can find a spoiler-lite version here. Continue reading for more in-depth thoughts on the film, with the knowledge that absolutely everything is up for discussion. Continue at your own peril!

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Non-Review Review: The Amazing Spider-Man II

What is remarkable about Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man II is how much it resembles a comic book. Not a particular comic book – although there are numerous shout-outs to iconic Spider-Man moments, right down to the choice of costuming – but in general terms. It isn’t that Marc Webb tries to construct his film to evoke the look and feel of a comic book – this isn’t Ang Lee’s Hulk; in fact, Webb seems much more comfortable here than he was with The Amazing Spider-Man, making a movie that feels more playful and relaxed within its medium.

Instead, The Amazing Spider-Man II borrows the structure of a comic book. It offers its own story, but that story isn’t constructed particularly tightly. Instead, the story seems to have been fashioned as part of a greater – as if part of a larger serialised narrative that has yet to take form. It’s quite distinct from the approach taken with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, where the films feel more like blocks that fit together. Instead, this feels more like the second chapter in a larger story, without being dissolved completely into the larger narrative.

The Amazing Spider-Man II has its own themes and motifs, and it documents a pretty epic selection of events, but the emphasis isn’t so much on this one encounter as what this encounter says about its hero. It’s much more interested in what these events tell us about our hero than it is in documenting a single self-contained story. It’s a novel (and somewhat bold) attempt at a serialised superhero narrative, and the results are absolutely fascinating.

Electro-fying!

Electro-fying!

Note: The Amazing Spider-Man II is probably best seen absolutely blind, with no real information about its themes or the story beats that it might hit. I do try to keep the reviews as spoiler-light as possible (and we do have a spoiler-laden review available for your perusal), but if you are interested in seeing the film – I would recommend avoiding any discussion or review. It is good, if flawed; endearingly ambitious and engagingly bold; it does a lot of great things that excuse some cliché plotting, sacrificing novelty in some areas for storytelling efficiency.

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The Amazing Spider-Man – The Gauntlet: Electro – Power to the People (Review/Retrospective)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

Trying to channel Batman while writing Spider-Man is a risky business. The two characters are iconic – each can make a credible claim to be the most iconic character at their publisher, and perhaps the most iconic superhero ever. Both have imprinted themselves on the public consciousness; both have enjoyed multiple iterations across cartoons and movies; both have iconic stories and popular runs, as well as bucket loads of merchandise; both have truly wonderful supporting casts.

However, trying to use Spider-Man to evoke Batman is a risky move. You can end up with a mess like Spider-Man: Reign, demonstrating that the dark cynicism many associate with the Caped Crusader does not translate to the wall-crawling web-head. Alternatively, you get a sense that what makes Peter Parker unique and appealing is being crushed in a desire to fit a round peg in a square hole, like with The Amazing Spider-Man.

Shocking...

Shocking…

That said, The Gauntlet is a pretty spectacular Spider-Man story, one only enhanced by its similarities to the iconic Batman saga Knightfall. It’s a massive sprawling epic that seems to have been written with those comparisons in mind, with the writing staff very cleverly using the story as a springboard to emphasise the differences between Spider-Man and Batman. The Gauntlet, like Knightfall, is fundamentally a story about trying to break the central character a sinister new adversary launches a sustained assault using a collection of classic baddies.

However, The Gauntlet serves as an argument that Peter Parker can never be completely consumed by darkness. Even in his darkest hours, even when the story twists in a way that it really shouldn’t, there is an inherent optimism and reserve of strength and hope that keeps Spider-Man from tipping completely into the abyss. The entire Knightfall saga is about Batman clawing his way back from the abyss. The Gauntlet is about how Spider-Man really can’t be pushed into that abyss in the first place.

Swinging into action...

Swinging into action…

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Requiem For a Genre Star: Michael Massee and Familiar Faces In Small Roles…

With Jamie Foxx in contention to play Electro in the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, I got thinking about the teaser in the middle of the credit sequence. In the small scene, a mysterious visitor confronted Curt Connors about what Peter Parker did or did not know about his father. He got a single line, and was couched in shadow. My less cynical side suggests that this was an attempt to play up the mystery of the character so his inevitable appearance in the sequel would make sense. My more pragmatic side figures that it was to leave the role open for the production team to hire a big-name actor for the character’s appearance in the next film in the series. That is, after all, why all the shots of Norman Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man were careful not to reveal any facial features. Perhaps they can be digitally reinserted into the first film when the role is cast next time around?

However, this short sequence is a bit disappointing, if only because I was able to recognise the actor appearing, only for a second, cloaked in darkness. He was Michael Massee. And I feel a little sad that this means he likely won’t be playing a significant role in the sequel.

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J. Michael Straczynski’s (and John Romita Jr.’s) Run on the Amazing Spider-Man – The Best of Spider-Man, Vol. 1-2 (Review/Retrospective)

It’s easy to forget just how iconoclastic that early parts of the new millennium were at Marvel. The comic company was in the midst of recovering from its bankrupcy, and was going throw a massive creative shake-up. Many would argue that the late nineties represented the company’s creative nadir, and there was a very definite sense of change in the air. Some of that change involved a radical restructuring of core concepts, placing them in the hands of more radical creators.

The early part of the last decade gave us Peter Milligan on X-Force, Grant Morrison on New X-Men and Garth Ennis on Marvel Knights: Punisher. It also saw a number of big-name creators working on these characters. Kevin Smith wrote the introductory arc of the new Daredevil book. While J. Michael Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man has a controversial and divisive legacy, it was a product of those times. While it was flawed even in its early days, it’s still a bold re-working of an iconic comic book mythos.

King of the swingers…

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Spiderman 4 – We Know Who the Good Guys Are…

… but who are the bad guys? With Kirsten Dunst confirmed as returning last week, the ‘big three’ (and four, if you count Bruce Campbell’s inevitable cameo) are back on board for the third sequel in what looks to be a very long-lived franchise. Sure, we (along with a lot of people) weren’t too impressed with the third film, but everybody makes mistakes. If only Sam Raimi were willing to admit that, it’d be the first step on the road to recovery. Picking kick-ass villains is widely regarded as the second step. So, we thought we’d give you guys a little cheat-sheet when it comes to the Spidey villains you are likely (and unlikely) to see in the webslinger’s next big screen adventure.

The Sinister Six. Does Exactly What it Says on the Tin.

The Sinister Six. Does Exactly What it Says on the Tin.

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