After two attempts, audiences around the world are making it clear that they are not thrilled with the recent Spider-man reboot. At the time of this article (10 days after US opening), Amazing Spider-man 2 has accumulated $148 million domestically and $278M internationally. While that is nothing to sneeze at, the numbers pale in comparison to the other entries in the same franchise. Not only is the latest chapter disappointing at the box office (over 60% drop on its second weekend), critics have chewed it to pieces as well. To make matters worse for Sony and fans of future installments, ASM2 is on track to be the worst-performing Spider-man film (and that’s with the help of inflation).
In 2012, one could find a few logical reasons why Amazing Spider-man underwhelmed at the theaters. For starters, the reboot came just 5 years after the last film in the Sam Raimi series. People may not have been ready to forget Tobey Maguire as the wall crawler, despite the groan-inducing Spider-man 3. Secondly, the 2012 ASM was too similar to 2002 SM. In a head-to-head comparison, most would choose the earlier version. It was colorful, fun, and broke molds in the superhero genre. ASM was a well-made effort, but suffered from an identity crisis. Although Andrew Garfield was a perfect cast for the wise-cracking Peter Parker, even he could not inject the project with enough levity to counteract the grim settings and lackluster plot. Thirdly, 2012 had a little too much competition for ASM to contend with. The biggest superhero movie of all (The Avengers) came out two months prior and the most anticipated trilogy finale (Dark Knight Rises) was just weeks away. Poor Spidey got caught in a web he couldn’t crawl out of.
That was 2012. This is 2014. No excuses now. Sony landed themselves with the historically audience-friendly first May weekend (a weekend that boded Spider-man and Spider-man 3 very well). With Marvel Studios opting for an early April release of Captain America 2, audiences had enough time to catch their breath before the summer kick-off weekend. Fans who eventually watched ASM on home media warmed to the idea of a new Spidey-universe and were ready for the next big step. The teaser of Electro from a year before had blogs titillating over the FX possibilities. It seemed like ASM2 was poised for greatness. Right? Well, soon after it released internationally, the excitement soon turned to apathy and the film’s box office projections started shrinking. By the time ASM2 released in the North America, analysts and critics already sealed its fate as the worst Spider-man film to date.
Now that I have finally seen the film for myself, I have to ask the public: What is wrong with you? This is aimed at the critics (who have collectively rated it the worst in the series) and the people who chose not to go see it (but instead spend lots of their good money on Spider-man 3, Iron Man 3, and probably will spend lots more this summer on Transformers and TMNT). Amazing Spider-man 2 is a good solid film. It is not a perfect one, alright, but there are few films that come even close to that. This is the type of movie that should bank half a billion dollars and contend for top-grosser of the year. Yet there is chatter now that it won’t make back its budget and could potential nix the rest of the franchise.
So how did this happen?
I think the first problem is perhaps people are still not ready to reboot. Batman Begins was the first major reboot in comic book movies. Audiences were obviously soured by the Joel Schumaker renditions of the late 90s, and it translated into a moderate box office haul. The benefit Nolan’s Batman had was that once people got around to seeing the reboot, they loved it. It was easy for them to wash their hands of the Burton/Schumaker series. By the time The Dark Knight landed in theaters, we were ravenous for more. The weak Amazing Spider-man never got us chanting, “We need more!” And the two years in between 1 and 2 still didn’t put enough padding in between the Raimi/Marc Webb versions.
The second problem comes from people’s errant perception that more villains make for a bad movie. We must thank Spider-man 3 for this. Up until the third installment, Spidey dealt with one villain at a time. Then for an inexplicable change of pace, Sony forced Sam Raimi’s hand into stuffing 3 with 3 baddies. The result was a disaster. This debacle was only seven years ago. People haven’t forgotten. They associate the inclusion of more villains with watering the film down. Amazing Spider-man 2 was doomed from the first announcement that there would be not 1 (Electro), not 2 (Harry Osborn turned Green Goblin), but 3 (Rhino). Fans everywhere counted the movie out before the first trailer released. That’s too bad. More on that in a bit.
The third big problem that worked against ASM2 came in the form of a familiar comic book ally. Captain America has some serious super-soldier legs. Even though Winter Soldier released a month prior, the movie continued to rack in the dough all throughout April. This put Cap in direct competition with Spider-man in some markets. Furthermore, as one cog in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America was a must-see flick for all those who want to see the upcoming Avengers sequel (which is like, all of you). Spider-man has existed on his own island since 2002. With the miss that was ASM1, ASM2 hardly became a must-see. Those who had already disassociated themselves with Andrew Garfield as Spider-man have no reason to return to the series. ASM is not connected to anything else, so if you didn’t like the first one, there would be no point in following the rest.
But that thinking is a mistake.
ASM2 brings a lot to the table that its predecessor did not. While Amazing Spider-man introduced us to new themes (like the Parker family secrets, for one), it didn’t travel far into new territory. The sequel is braver. ASM2 carries the subtle hints and brings them out into the open, discussing those Parker secrets and their connection to the root of all evil, Oscorp.
While people shun the idea of overstuffing a film with villains, it worked in ASM2. The main bad guy in this film was Harry Osborn. He is the most complete character. We are taken on his journey from boarding school brat to shrewd corporate executive to desperate and vengeful monster. Electro existed throughout the film, but always felt like a victim more than villain. Oscorp drove him to insanity and later their fallen leader used him as a tool to take over. And the mention of Rhino as one of the three bad guys is ridiculous. He was as important to the film as the muggers were in the opening sequence of 1989s Batman. For now, he was there as a tease and nothing more.
More highlights from the film:
- The chemistry between Garfield and Emma Stone is the best you will ever see in any comic book film ever. Hands down. At times, you feel like they are a real couple (wait a minute…). But the key here is that you feel their joy, their pain, and the weight of their actions because they do an exceptional job in inviting you into their lives.
- The score that Hans Zimmer whipped up will get you amped up. The Spider-man fanfare is a trumpeting anthem that makes you want to jump out of the theater and swing into battle. The theme he constructed for Electro is on par with the likes of Star Wars’ Imperial March. It so elegantly cues the villain and sets the mood for the scene that follows.
- Andrew Garfield > Tobey Maguire: AG embodies Peter Parker. He’s lanky, sharp-witted, and gives a heavy-hearted performance. Tobey Maguire donned the red-and-blue first, but if you look back at some of the earlier films, his performances are overly dorky at times. I know Peter is a socially awkward nerd, but Garfield balances the character’s qualities much better.
- The first Spider-man trilogy was a series of one-off adventures that could have easily been seen independently of one another. The reboot is giving fans so much more. Marc Webb is creating a Cinematic Universe based solely on the Spider-man line of comics. Fans should be way more excited about this. We have an overarching plot that will span at least 4 films and 2 potential spinoffs.
For those reading this who have not seen Amazing Spider-man 2, I implore you to go. It is not the best Spider-man film, but it’s the second best. I’m not sure what the creative team behind this series needs to do to attract a broader audience, but they need to figure it out soon or else they won’t be able to see their grand vision come to fruition.
Did you see Amazing Spider-man 2 yet? What did you think of it?