Here, There Be Spoilers: How To Train Your Dragon 2 Review

Having seen an advanced screening of How To Train Your Dragon 2, Thomas gives his thoughts on the film.

As the title suggests, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

Also, due to technical problems that only became apparent after the fact, the first 2 minutes are a bit jumpy/laggy, so please skip to 2:01.

NetworkNext Article: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

 

Hello Folks,

If you haven’t seen the Amazing Spider-Man 2 by now, then I’m going to start out by saying I would recommend doing that before reading too far into this review.  After a brief summary of my opinion, I’m going to get into seriously heavy spoilers.  If you don’t want that, stop at the spoiler warning.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is, of course, the second in the new Spider-Man franchise of movies.  In it, Peter is just graduating and is now faced with relationship issues as well as further exploring the secrets hidden by his father, the late Richard Parker.  He also finds himself faced with a new threat in the form of the mentally unstable super villain, Electro, all while reconnecting with a childhood friend, Harry Osborn.

The film is decidedly simple, focusing more on the personal life of Peter Parker than on the plot involving the villain of the film.  I maintain that Andrew Garfield is PERFECTLY cast as Peter Parker and Spider-Man.  Meanwhile, Emma Stone is a solid Gwen Stacy.  Liberties taken by the franchise don’t generally hurt the film, at least not any more than the liberties taken by the first movie did.  The relationship element of this movie is done superbly and I do like this change of pace from the typical superhero movie, in which they usually focus more on the heroics.  If this movie suffers from anything at all, it’s choppy editing, and I feel as though that has nothing to do with Webb, but rather because Sony has no idea what they’re doing.  Regardless of that, this film is, in my mind, superior to the first one in many ways.  The advancement of character is done very well.  The jokes and light moments are a breath of fresh air.  Some did complain that the movie has difficulty deciding its tone.  However, that’s been a bit of a constant in Spider-Man stories for ages.  An arc in the comics will go through multiple tones, largely based on the events in it.  One movie does not equal one comic.  More often than not, a movie will be equal to several comics.  This is no exception.  I do have one major issue with this movie around the last 10 to 15 minutes.  But that aside, it’s a solid movie and I’d advocate checking it out.

 

SPOILER ALERT: From This Point On, Heavy Spoilers

 

I do think that it is interesting that while Spider-Man is a PART of the villain motivations in this franchise, he isn’t the core goal.  The Lizard wanted to  turn the rest of the world (or at least Manhattan) into lizard-people like him.  Electro has his own plans.  However, when Spider-Man becomes involved, he becomes determined to fry him.  Electro’s primary motivation is a desire to be noticed.  In the beginning we can see that he idolizes Spider-Man and when Spider-Man actually speaks to him, he seems to be on top of the world, at least in his own mind.  However, after the accident that turns him into a being of living electricity, an underlying instability is brought out and he progressively becomes more and more of a monster.  He ultimately plans to kill the power in the entire city so people will finally show him the respect he is due.  I feel as if this makes Electro a much more sympathetic character than Kurt Conners from the previous film.  You know he isn’t a bad person, but he is continually pushed around and treated like a nobody, so eventually he was pushed too far and snapped.  I like that you can hear voices in his head during his first scene as Electro.  And his character theme is very subtle but creeps up on you, as if you can feel his anger building up.

This scene is notable to me because it showcases that Spider-Man isn’t reserved to just punching away the problems.  He can see that (at least initially) Max doesn’t mean anyone any trouble.  He’s trying to talk him down, so to speak.  However, the cops in the Marvel Universe, as we’ve all discussed before, are complete and total idiots.

The on-off relationship thing was…a tad annoying.  The element of their relationship was great, I dare even say adorable.  Andrew and Emma have superb chemistry.  However, I feel they didn’t need the on-off thing to sell it.  And based upon what happens in the end, I think that it would have served the film better if they’d been in the relationship the entire time and instead made the whole of the issue about Gwen leaving for college soon (though I was a bit perplexed by where in the heck their summer went unless this movie takes place over the course of months).

I also like that, for once, a villain doesn’t discover his secret identity (not that Electro would know who he was anyway). It just gets boring after a while that every villain discovers who he is behind the mask.  It works for characters like Green Goblin and Venom, both of which have actual connections to Peter.  But characters like Doctor Octopus and Sandman…not so much.

Now let’s talk about Harry.  I think that this element of Harry being an old friend that went away but comes back is a pretty good story element.  The arc of him knocking on death’s door is equally good.  He’s been alone for his entire life and now that he’s threatened with this terrible situation, he’s looking to anyone he can for help, but when they can’t, it’s like being left alone (and for dead) all over again.  I think I still would have preferred it if they played Harry in the classic sense, however, of him being this guy who just wants his father’s approval.  Sadly, that isn’t in this film (and was barely used in the Raimi films, so I guess we’re never going to get Harry done proper).  In this film, Norman Osborn dies after maybe five minutes of screen time.  I kid you not, that is all he gets.  We’ll talk about the Green Goblin in a bit.

Something else I want to bring attention is the abundance of Easter Eggs in this film.  While I can appreciate them and got them, there was one that I wasn’t a fan of.  They turned one awesome supporting character, Dr. Kafka, into a German male scientist whose only role is to torture Electro.  Did I mention that the original Dr. Kafka is actually based on a real person?  Yup.  Her creator based Kafka on a real-life doctor of his as a way of immortalizing her as a show of gratitude.  This is what they did to the characters as a result.  Oh, and on a tangent, here, they also killed Kafka off in the Superior Spider-Man series…so yeah, screw the guys making these decisions.  And, by the way, the woman they got to play Black Cat?  She’s in a business suit the entire time, so it may be that, but NO.  *Ahem* Back to the review.

The element of Peter researching the work of his parents was interesting and intriguing, but for some reason I feel that it didn’t quite pay off in the way that I wanted it to.  The long and short of it is that Peter’s father used his own blood to create the super spiders, just so no one could ever duplicate his work.  After discovering some illegal dealings at Oscorp, he decided to terminate his affiliation with them and take his work with him.  The result is ultimately the plane crash that orphans young Peter.  I feel that the payoff was rather lackluster compared to the expectations you have after they built this up for two whole movies.  It isn’t bad.  It’s just not quite satisfactory in my eyes.

Some have said that the idea that Peter has some sort of destiny is annoying to them, but, really, he doesn’t.  Peter’s direct involvement in all of this is still a complete and total accident.  He isn’t the key to some riddle.  He isn’t some prodigal son and was never MEANT to go down this path.  It just happened.  So props to them for not making it seem like all of this was intended for him.

Now let’s just talk about that last 30 minutes.  It is, of course, the big fight scene.  Spider-Man is battling Electro at this Oscorp power grid where Electro means to kill the power, causing a city-wide blackout.  Something that’s very off-putting, at least to me, is that it’s heavily implied that Spider-Man and Gwen effectively kill the guy.  I’m pretty sure he isn’t truly dead.  However, many people seem to believe he’s gone for good.  I doubt this is the case.  Electro is notorious for making it look like he’s dead when he isn’t.  He could have just been temporarily dispersed.

After that we get the introduction to Harry as, DUN DUN DUN, the Green Goblin.  Now I’ll start by saying that oh my GOD did Dehaan do a good job capturing the tone of a very much insane and unstable, yet emotive Goblin.  Harry, as the Goblin, has never been quite as well put together as his father was.  So that’s why I’m not bothered that this Goblin wasn’t the whimsically cold, confident, and cunning psychopath that is Norman Osborn (if you want to see what I view as the perfect Green Goblin, then see the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon).  HOWEVER, there is one enormous problem, here.  Green Goblin is in this movie for all of ten minutes…MAYBE.

Why? Solely so he can kill Gwen Stacy…that’s it.  That is all.  The fight scene is cool, but too short and too anticlimactic.  Spider-Man defeats him way too easily for his presence to really be justified.

This leads me to the actual moment of Gwen’s death.  It was inevitable, people.  And while the handling of her death was BRILLIANT…the lead-up to it was notably lackluster.  The scene following her death is Peter reflecting on his failure to save her life…and that is a masterfully done bit.

Now, I’ve seen people state that they would have preferred the movie end there, but…frankly I’m perfectly okay with it either way.  I’m inclined to preferring it end on a positive note, just because I’m like that, but I can see ways for it to work if it had ended on her death the way they were saying.  Like when the Sinister Six comes together to kill Spider-Man, they do so and try to lure Spider-Man out after he’s been gone a while, still mourning and depressed.

But back to her actual Death.  This is going to be the make or break point for people watching the movie.  That’s just going to be the case for a looot of people.  It didn’t really break it for me.  I still like the film.  However, it was a glaring distraction.

If you would care to hear out my recommendation, I think that this film should have taken place over the course of their summer (as I…think it did), but either made the issue about Gwen conflicted about whether or not to leave New York for a college opportunity in England.  Towards the end, she could help Peter stop Electro, but Peter tells her that, whatever her choice, he’ll follow her in the end (as he does).  STOP at that point.  Done.  Just tease Green Goblin and that can be the end.

THEN, when Green Goblin has assembled the Sinister Six, have Gwen and Peter battle them throughout the whole movie, without pushing their relationship to the foreground.  Perhaps Peter is trying to find other ways of helping pay rent or some OTHER mundanity of his life.  There’s more to his struggles than just trying to maintain a love life, you know.  Have it take place only shortly after the events of this film.  Then, towards the end, it all comes down to the classic fight.  It’s Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin, one on one.  In THAT fight is where the Goblin can execute the infamous scene of throwing her over the side of the bridge or whatever he’s going to do.  THAT’s when her death can be implemented.  The issue here is that her death was far too abrupt.  And as a result, we all know they’re probably going to shoehorn Mary Jane into the next movie as a love interest.  Not only that, but their inclusion of Felicia (Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!) probably means we’re going to (kind of) get Black Cat…eventually.  Now, there are two more movies planned.  With that being the case, it is possible that Mary Jane could be introduced in the second film, but not actively resigned to the role of love interest until the 4th one.  I’d be fine with that.

And now for my prediction on the Sinister Six.

Obviously, we’re going to have Green Goblin and Rhino.  We also got to see the Doctor Octopus arms and the Vulture Wings.  I think we even get a glimpse of the symbiote, but I HOPE Venom isn’t a part of this.  If Venom’s going to be in another movie, I want him to be the ONLY villain in it.  Anyway, that aside, I think we may also end up with possibly getting Electro back, but if he is dead, then I’ll assume we can get maybe Mysterio, Shocker, Kraven, there are a lot to choose from, but I’m leaning towards Kraven and Shocker.  As much as I’d love to see Mysterio, I don’t think they’ll ever get around to that one.

Overall, I’d say that I’ve seen places this franchise could go, probably should have gone, and places I WANT it to go.  While it isn’t perfect, it is, at least to me, far better than the Raimi movies.  I feel, like many others, that the sloppiness inherent is less Webb’s doing, and more Sony’s doing.  A LOT of things seem to end up chopped out of these films, some of which probably should have been there, such as the scene from the last film, showing Kurt with his family.

In the end, I would certainly recommend giving this film a watch, if only to help you decide what kind of Spider-Man fan you are (if at all).  But I also highly recommend watching the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon (which is several dozen times better than anything this franchise can and will produce) and reading a few Spider-Man comics, preferably those prior to Civil War.  Or, if you want a fresh start, the new Amazing Spider-Man series is off to a pretty cool start.

That’s all from me today, everyone, and thanks for reading. 

-NNTV

Inked Editorial: Wonder Woman Casting

Ink gives you his thoughts on the recent news of Wonder Woman’s casting in the upcoming Man of Steel Sequel.

Note: Ink’s thoughts are less focused on the actress and more focused on the use of Wonder Woman.