Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, James Vanderbilt, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, and Marc Webb, 2014
Woof, this one’s pretty bad. It’s not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Sony was trying to put together its own parallel universe with Spider‐Man characters, and this feels like it’s been beamed in from a time before people learned how to make good superhero movies, back when establishing a character’s psychology was an exercise in Batman Returns‐style camp and people still used Vaio computers. Though it might have been better if this movie had been beamed in from the past: at least back then the actors who play teenagers actually were teenagers instead of 30+. (You know you’ve miscast your high school graduation scene when most of the people picking up their diplomas could use some Botox.) Spider‐Man does tell a lot of jokes in this one, so someone did catch on that telling jokes is one of the defining aspects of the character, but the jokes are neither good nor do they sound like Spider‐Man. Andrew Garfield slurs, mumbles, and twitches his way through the role in a manner that was maddeningly reminiscent of someone I can’t quite put my finger on—maybe Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid? In any case, after a few minutes I was definitely ready for him to wax off.
In between the obtrusive Sony product placement and cringeworthy Electro plotline, The Amazing Spider‐Man 2 recapitulates one of the landmark events in comics history, the death of Gwen Stacy. Poor Spidey is so devastated that he grieves for six whole minutes. Yes, we’re told that it’s several months of story time, but real time matters. This is the same point that I made in Radio K: Calen‐deliria #1, so I guess it’s time that it got added to the Patterns page:
|41||In any medium, both story time and real time contribute to the feeling of how long events last, but real time generally contributes more. It takes serious talent to develop a character in a feature film, because even if you say that twenty years have passed, it’s very hard to buy that a character is a whole different person from half an hour ago. On the flip side, one day of story time can feel like the makings of an epic when it’s split into two issues of a comic book with a 28‐day wait in between.|
This is hardly an original observation; Gérard Genette has a whole chapter on duration in Narrative Discourse. He also has a chapter on frequency, which I think is also apposite here. There is a difference between killing off Gwen Stacy in issue #121 vs. in movie #2. Not only did comics readers get to know their Gwen better in seventy‐some appearances than we get to know the Sonymatic Universe version in two, but there aren’t enough regular stories with the movie Gwen in them to give her death scale. A series with frequent installments—a comics series, a TV series—can establish a baseline level of drama so that big shakeups for anniversary issues or sweeps week do feel like major events. If all we get are origins and deaths and alien invasions, the result is a narrative loudness war in which nothing stands out. And sometimes the quieter stories are more memorable anyway. The Spider‐Man stories I’ve read in the 2010s have included big event storylines ranging from the very good (Superior Spider‐Man) to the not so good (Spider Island), but to me the most memorable wasn’t one of these at all—it was the two‐issue “Bad Tuesday” story that Dan Slott wedged in between big events. That story seems to me like it would make an ideal Spider‐Man movie. It’d be better than this one, anyway. Then again, so are most episodes of Spider‐Man and His Amazing Friends.