“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” vs “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

20140514-081453.jpg

It’s the summer showcase movie season. Multi-gazillion dollar blockbusters hit the theaters to highlight a weekend and then disappear into oblivion when the “Next Big Thing” comes out 7 days later. Every year it seems as if the “summer” season begins earlier and earlier as Hollywood stretches the summer months from as early as late March, hoping to get some early cash and extend their sales through August. And that’s okay by me! I love me some action-packed popcorn flicks! It’s why the big screen was made, after all! Who wants to see August: Osage County on a ginormous IMAX screen in 3D? Nobody. So…let’s get the aliens invading, firearms blasting, superheroes fighting movies rolling, shall we? And this summer, we start with 2 superheroes that everyone knows and loves!

First out of the gate was “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” It opened to huge numbers and is, by all accounts, a hit. It’s got everything you want in a summer superhero movie. It has action, it has drama, it’s got espionage, it’s got Robert Redford and it has the extremely likable Chris Evans, reprising the Cap role. Now…I have to be honest, Captain America, to me anyway, is NOT the most exciting superhero. I never read the comics when I was a kid so I don’t have the knowledge of Cap as some but I have to say…of ALL the superhero movies out there? The first 2 Captain America movies are EXACTLY what I want in a superhero movie. The first film introduced us to the PERSON that Steve Rogers is and this movie, coupled with “The Avengers,” shows us the type of hero that Cap really is!

At this point, “The Winter Soldier” has been out for quite some time so I don’t know if I’d be giving anything away as far as spoilers go but this new Captain America has our hero once again battling a Hydra takeover of SHIELD and our planet. Along the way, he faces off against a villain very much his equal and, in a major plot twist, someone from Cap’s past. It’s all done very stylishly with well-written dialogue (lots of humor in this one) and great action sequences (the opening sequence alone is worth the price of admission). Every actor involved in this film does a remarkable job and I have to say, other than “The Avengers” itself, I think this may be the best of the bunch as far as Marvel movies go. It’s everything I wanted in a comic book movie and more! I highly recommend it!

Aaaaaaaand then came a spider.

Cut to a couple of weeks later, “Captain America” had laid waste to every other movie to come out until “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” hit theaters with a promise of new villains and a hip Spider-Man. With so many rumors flying about the “possibility” of a Sinister Six movie in the future and the death of Gwen Stacy, I was all jacked up for this installment, especially since I really liked the last one! But sad to say, this may be the biggest debacle of a superhero movie since 1997’s “Batman & Robin” which, ironically enough, ALSO featured a blue villain. In THAT movie, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. In THIS film, it’s Jamie Foxx as a disgruntled Oscorp employee who finds himself being electrocuted in a giant water tank filled with electric eels. If that idea doesn’t seem lame enough, let’s throw in a dash of Doctor Manhattan from “Watchmen” because…well…because he’s blue also and can seemingly zip from place to place, and you have this poorly constructed supervillain. So Spider-Man, who has MANY issues to deal with (his love affair with Gwen Stacy, Gwen’s dead father, HIS dead parents, his dead uncle, his Aunt May’s uncertainty, graduation, Gwen moving to England, etc & so forth), must now face off against this new foe who, for whatever reason, hates him. The REASON behind this hate is so poorly written that I can’t believe it ever made it on the big screen. You wanna know WHY Foxx’s villain (called Electro) hates Spider-Man? Because Spider-Man is famous.

Yep. That’s why.

Seems like a good reason for a villain, right? So THAT storyline goes on too long (much like this critique) and then an old friend comes into the mix. Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to New York when his father, the CEO of Oscorp, dies. He must now run the company. Little does Harry know that he carries a genetic disease that will eventually kill him. What can save him? How about spider blood? And so, now we have poorly constructed villain #2 who wants to kill our hero. In the comics, the Green Goblin was Spidey’s arch-nemesis. In this flick, he’s a spoiled brat with power issues and weird hair.

So there you have it. Spider-Man faces two poorly constructed bad guys, one that gets too much screen time and the other who doesn’t get enough to qualify him as a “arch nemesis” and that’s that. HOWEVER…there’s MORE! As promoted in the movie trailers, there’s a THIRD villain who may, or may not, be a part of the Sinister Six who is literally THROWN IN at the end to whet the superfan’s appetite and that is a 3 minute appearance by The Rhino, which is basically Paul Giamatti doing his best Russian mobster impersonation in a giant mechanical suit. It’s silly and a slap in the face of one of Spider-Man’s best villains.

Needless to say, I hated “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” It’s not amazing. Actually, other than the snappy repertoire between the two leads (it’s been well documented that Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone are now a real couple), this film is a complete Hollywood mess. It’s everything I hate about the machine that cranks out movie after movie with no interest in solidifying a storyline or establishing quality personalities. What this film has done is completely obliterate whatever the first film had set out to do, which was establish a franchise that had already been set not too long before with Tobey McGuire’s Spiderman character. As good as Garfield is as Spider-Man, and I DO like him more than McGuire in this role, he can’t save this disaster. It’s poorly constructed in every way and deserves to be sent straight to DVD to sit in the $3 bins at WalMart.

OVERALL RATINGS:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: A

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: F

The Amazing Spider-Man

20120711-151732.jpg

It’s the dawning of a new day and so…it must be time to make a NEW Spider-Man movie…right?!?! A little over 6 years have passed since we last saw our wallcrawling friend on the big screen and in that time, he’s managed to make it on Broadway, NOT appear in any of The Avenger member flicks and has been licking his wounds since getting his butt kicked by Sandman, the Goblin and Venom. So what has happened since 2007’s “Spider-Man 3”? Well…PLENTY! There’s a whole new cast, a new director, a new production company and a cool new villain that was HINTED at making a run at the Spidey franchise but never quite made it until now. And so…without further adieu…I give you…

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN!!!! (In IMAX 3D wherever it’s available)

And so now…the reboot. Basically what happened was this…director Sam Raimi (who had directed the first 3 films) had disagreements with Sony over the script for Spider-Man 4. He apparently didn’t like any of the options given to him and he had major concerns over the initial release date (May 2011) so he stepped aside. It was then that Sony decided to simply restart the franchise. So they hired a new Spidey (Andrew Garfield), a new love interest (Emma Stone), got themselves a new director (Marc Webb) and put themselves together a hipper, faster Spider-Man that, in MY opinion, kicks the earlier versions’ butts!

Andrew Garfield IS Spider-Man. He’s the perfect physical type (tall & lanky) compared to the earlier version played by Tobey Maguire. He also plays Peter Parker as having a bit more confidence as a teenager, despite the fact that he gets roughed up by the school jock, Flash Thompson. I liked this subtle change in the character. Where Maguire’s Parker was kind of a mope, Garfield’s is more of an everyday teen. He’s smart but not “nerdy” and has morals that he stands by despite the possibility of getting beat down. SO THIS Parker has that going for him before he even gets his Spidey powers.

The supporting cast in this film is top notch also. Emma Stone and Garfield definitely have chemistry, unlike the Maguire/Kirsten Dunst love affair from the first 3 movies. Despite the famous “hanging upside down kiss” from the first Spider-Man movie, I never really felt like Dunst was the right actress to play Mary Jane. Stone is everything that Dunst wasn’t and I really enjoyed watching her play up the role that was originally played by Bryce Dallas Howard in Spider-Man 3.

The villain this time is The Lizard and initially, after seeing the trailers, I was thinking it could have been another CGI mishap like Venom. After seeing the movie, I can say that the Lizard is everything Venom was not. Rhys Ifans plays Dr. Connors, a scientist who has lost his arm and is looking to create a anecdote that will regenerate lost limbs like a lizard that can grow another tail. When Peter Parker actually helps him come up with a scientific coding that works, he ends up taking the serum himself and turns into a real, gigantic lizard. For the record, as much as I usually despise CGI, I really thought the Lizard looked great in this movie! Ifans is excellent as Connors and steals more than one scene from Spiderman.

The storyline works for this film even though they have to rehash how Spidey gets his powers. Everyone knows the back story at this point which includes Parker getting bitten by a radioactive spider and the death of his Uncle Ben (played nicely by Martin Sheen). Then there is the relationship between he and his Aunt May (Sally Fields). Fields does a good job as May and brings an understated performance to her role. One person completely lacking though is J. Jonah Jameson but Parker IS only in high school so his role will probably make an appearance in the next film (I would imagine).

Everything about this film is top notch and next to The Avengers, there hasn’t been a more entertaining popcorn flick this summer. Considering I really had zero interest in seeing it, I think that is the ultimate compliment that I can make!

Overall Rating: A-