Tag Archives: pop culture

Amazing, in a one-sided kind of way

Even with the way that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” phones in an attempt at deep characterization with its antagonists (Electro and Harry Osborne), it’s hard for me to see the movie as a failure.   Its being chalked up to that is more about it not being exponentially profitable, rather than its critical reception. But as much as I appreciate a big screen version of Spider-Man so close to the one in the comics, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” just isn’t as cohesive and thematically sound as its predecessor.

What shines through in the sequel is the buoyancy of a character whose life could easily be defined by tragedy. The Andrew Garfield iteration of Spider-Man has that in an extroverted way that’s thrilling to see in a live-action format. And between him and Emma Stone playing Gwen Stacy, they form the movie’s most successful dynamic — one that’s particularly refreshing in the framework of what Spider-Man movies have been, as Gwen is this amazing young woman who would have fallen in love with Peter Parker even if he had never become Spider-Man. It’s hard to the say the same for Mary Jane as written in the first “Spider-Man” film.

There’ve been a few great versions of Peter Parker outside of film (mostly animated), and a hallmark has been that Spider-Man, for all of his joking, is a character who genuinely tries to reason with any villain he can see some good in — or at least this is where some of his more interesting, endearing moments have come into play. Comics can feature a pretty black and white kind of world, and if all there is for Spider-Man to do is web indistinguishable thieves and beat nefariously one-dimensional super villains, that’s just not a solid platform for storytelling that speaks to the human condition.

The scene in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” where Spidey saves the life of Max Dillon (the future Electro as played by Jamie Foxx) is a solid attempt at making Spidey likeable, but after Max’s transformation — when Spider-Man is getting through to a pre-rampaging Electro until an overzealous cop sends him reeling — that’s it. Spider-Man doesn’t try to reason with him ever again, which isn’t the case with how he relates to the Lizard (who was the villain in the first film). Of course, Max is (a bit) more of a stranger than Dr. Curt Conners was to Peter, and there’s less of the Jekyll and Hyde dynamic.   But Max all too quickly becomes an embodiment of bitterness, with the reasons for this having been set up as minimally as possible: a balding black man with a comb-over (though that much was supposedly Jamie Foxx’s decision), someone with self-image issues who is obviously partly defined by frequently being ignored and powerless. Harry Osbourne (the movie’s other underdeveloped antagonist) can make an appeal to Max-as-Electro’s humanity, but Spidey can’t? After Max becomes Electro, Gwen is the only character who keeps cares the tiniest bit about who he was before that.

More than in any other Spider-Man movie, this Peter Parker has a chasm between his world and those of his antagonists. As affecting as the Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy storyline is, it would have been even more so if more time had gone into developing both the antagonists and the idea that, as hard as he might try, Spider-Man can’t juggle everything. The movie’s script isn’t deep enough to show him trying.

Even coupled with that, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is still enjoyable thanks to Garfield, Stone and company. There’ve been rumors that Garfield will be replaced in whatever the next Spider-Man would be, and that’d be unfortunate. He’s already done a thoroughly great job with whatever material he was given. And as much as he’s a fan of the comics character, he’s a fan of the idea of Spider-Man, whom he said “maybe … represents the underdog and those marginalized, those who come up against great prejudice…”

(The source of that one quote:  http://collider.com/andrew-garfield-jamie-foxx-interview/ )

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the chicken or the egg

 

I don’t think most people work jobs that are, in and of themselves, fulfilling. On any less than pleasant journey to work, it’s not uncommon to see people enveloped by any piece of technology that can provide some escapism. But even while people are working they’ll sometimes try to enhance what can feel a bit stifling. There’s everything from the usual water cooler talk about pop culture, and then occasionally you might hear the musings about how some trope from escapist TV would fit into the day. “Hey, what if a pack of mutant bikers just came and started circling the place?”

Between the life that one populates with pretend scenarios to make easier, or the TV that we let act as the window to vicarious lives — what comes from what?  

Too big for Sunnydale

From my latest piece at Den of Geek: When the mayor introduces himself to Mr. Trick in season 3 of Buffy, the latter makes a brief comment about how people telling him they don’t want his kind around got old long before he was a vampire … This episode explores -isms not in passing, and in a very natural way – isms that all boil down to fear, weakness, selfishness and insecurity. All the things that McCarthyism exploited. Using Judy’s racial background and Angel’s undead-with-a-soul status as a way to explore being different builds on an archetype – but there’s enough depth for it to be far more meaningful than it could have been.

Get thee behind me, Cupid

R. Pinero art

R. Pinero art

Almost time for Valentine’s Day again, which means it’ll be hard to avoid all the wuv: the schmaltzy stuff of destiny as portrayed in movies like a well-timed “Winter’s Tale.”  In such epic tales of romance, love is the virtuous domain of a dreamer — a handsome dreamer who dares to love a woman in the prime of her beauty!

And you thought there were no noble dreams left.

Truthfully, those of us plugged into most cultures have been influenced to have a similar dream, with the same flimsy sensibilities.  Cupid would have us happily fluttering around a glowing light, oblivious to anything else — until that light doesn’t quite glow the way it used to.  Any love worth celebrating isn’t so fickle or shallow.

So if you haven’t bought into wuv, maybe being single on Valentine’s Day is kinda sorta noble.  Or at least, knowing you shouldn’t care if you happen to be.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Quite proud of this

And you can be, too (well, of having read it).  An excerpt from my piece on Sleepy Hollow and diversity at the great Den of Geek: “What separates Sleepy Hollow from other shows? It doesn’t completely disavow the ethnic backgrounds of characters played by people of colour – and not in the Seth McFarlane way, where without different backgrounds and the general existence of women there would be no one to say ‘Ha ha, you’re ______’ about, thus eliminating a good percentage of the show’s comedic material…”

timey

Ah, father time. If your uncaring nature is stirred by the shoe of 1896, then maybe that’s why time slows to a crawl for me when most people talk about fashion.

On a renaissance of sorts

From my article at Den of Geek: ‘After 1992’s Army Of Darkness, another Sam Raimi feature film wouldn’t emerge in theatres for another three years. What Raimi did with the time in between is anybody’s guess – perhaps he wandered the world; maybe he dug through a peculiar collection of Spider-Man comics with most of the dialogue cut out. But what he certainly did with his Renaissance Pictures partners was bring to light a new frontier of genre TV

What Renaissance Pictures did for geek TV