The Amazing Spider-Man 2

‘You know what it is I love about being Spider-Man?

Everything.’

Peter Parker is the original tragi-comic superhero; borne of the inaction that resulted in the death of his beloved Uncle, his optimistic, comedic & irrepressible alter-ego masks the sadness that blights his life.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ comic series, running since 1962, is not characterised by Mr. Parker’s successes but, instead, his failings. From the writings of Stan Lee, to other noted Spider scribes, including J. Michael Stracynzki & Dan Slott, Peter Parker has been noted for his inability to protect his loved ones, his mistakes taking hold of his natural guilt.

‘Amazing 2’ draws from a number of lauded 4-colour Spidey stories from throughout the characters’ lengthy history. The narrative begins with the characters on the cusp of adulthood, Peter & Gwen graduating high-school & Harry Osborn making a return from his enforced European education. The spectre of Peter & Harry’s parent’s work at Oscorp soon looms large, as scientific experiments & shady business dealings intertwine with the lives of the susceptible, troubled characters whose conflicts propel the plot into its super-powered denouement.

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Marc Webb’s pop-culturally kitsch directorial style, established in his previous 2 features (500 Days of Summer & the first  Spider-Man reboot) & derived from his background in music videos, is in full effect here. Whilst the cinematography is undeniably that of a ‘super’ blockbuster, it is in the quirky, eccentric & original visual flairs that Webb’s Spider-Man is at its best.

The opening half of Webb’s ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ is an almost perfect distillation of the essence of the ‘Web Head’s. He’s tortured, but never allows his sadness the better of him. He loves his Aunt May & Gwen absolutely & he relishes in his role as a quick-witted, righteous & hopeful protector of the people. Everybody needs a montage, & Webb’s quick-cut portrayal of Parker saving New York City through happiness, good-health & sickness is Spider-Man.

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‘Amazing 2’ sees Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone reprising their star-crossed leads from the first reboot & their chemistry is electric – far more so than anything Jamie Foxx has to offer. Webb’s Spider sequel is at its most effective, engaging & charming when it focuses upon the tender love affair between Peter Parker & Gwen Stacy.  Their kisses are sexier than anything any other superhero pictures have to offer, their lip-bitingly coy conversations sweeter & their present, past & future more realised.

This is a couple who, despite the super trappings, feels real & whose love introduces real, emotional implications to the audience.

This isn’t to say that the villains don’t satisfactorily spin their own webs. Paul Giamatti is more hammy than Rhino in his extended cameo as Aleksei Sytsevich, but proves apt for his role as supporting villain. Jamie Foxx, meanwhile, cuts a collusive tragic & imposing figure as lowly Oscorp employee turned livewire, Max Dillon AKA Electro. Dane DeHann, thirdly, as the morally ambiguous Harry Osborn, begins sympathetic and lost, but whose return to NYC soon marks his wrong-turn to villainy. However, his physical, emotional & spiritual descent is, as is often the case with multi-character super sequels, rushed. A slower paced devolution, unfolding through numerous films, would have proven a more impacting, & comic book’y, narrative through-line for the adolescent Osborn.

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Speaking of the Osborn bloodline, Chris Cooper delivers a deliciously malevolent turn as the patriarchal Norman. Webb marries Spidey’s arch-nemesis into the narrative in a manner that alleviates re-treading the story from Raimi’s trilogy, whilst ensuring the lineage of his menace looms large.

Disparaging comments from fanboys will likely turn to the increased role of Peter’s parents in his becoming the arachnid hero. This plot point borrows liberally from the Ultimate Spider-Man comics line, an early ‘00s reboot of the long-running series based in a fresh continuity, which sees his posited, & pivotal, every-man status potentially diminished. This could be countered in that self-same argument – Webb is crafting here an original status-quo necessarily distinctive to Raimi’s.

Criticism could also be levelled at Electro’s reduction from a compelling, morally grey character to what is essentially CG sparkle. But, again, thus is the nature of sequel-ised, big budget storytelling: intriguing character development can’t always compete with the toy sale profit margins.

Of course, it would be shockingly remiss to discuss Electro & not give credit to Hans Zimmer’s atmospheric, eerie score. Max Dillon’s debilitating journey to super-villain is underpinned by his theme, with its staccato broken sounds & intermingled schizophrenic voices, intuiting Electro’s breaking mind & his burgeoning power.

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‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ is, arguably, the purest representation of the webbed hero on the silver screen to date. Spidey himself is fun, Peter, Gwen & Harry are young & with the world at their feet but are also marred by the unmistakable tragedy of the Spider mythos. Webb brings directorial verve, transmuting a little of that indie rom-com aesthetic to a larger scale & with success.

In essence, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, with its wit, awe & sadness, effectively realises the Peter Parker adage – ‘With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.’

**** 4/5 stars

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Andrew Kaufman – Page out of his book

This short & sweet interview was conducted early last year. 

Andrew Kaufman is a novelist.

Mr Kaufman is known best for his exquisite novella, the subverted romance  ‘All my Friends are Superheroes’ – a short tale in which protagonist, Tom’s, friends are all, rather unsurprisingly, superheroes. Even Tom’s wife-to-be, ‘The Perfectionist’, is a superhero. Their couples’ marriage is thrown into disarray, on their wedding day itself, due to the machinations of ‘Perfectionist’s malevolent ex-boyfriend, ‘Hypno’. Tom now finds himself invisible to his lover, who is convinced, through her ex’s antagonistic hypnosis, that her husband has left her.

‘The Perfectionist’ has decided to return home to Vancouver, Canada (close to Kaufman’s own hometown of Ontario). She has decided, when the plane lands, she will use her superhero gift to restore perfection to her life, thereby eliminating Tom from her memory. Tom has until the plane lands to get his wife to see him again and to ensure that he doesn’t lose her forever.

‘All my Friends’ is as engaging as the plot suggests, offering the reader a brisk exploration through a fully realised, fantastical world, grounded in relatable inter-personal relationships & character types. His other books, including ‘The Waterproof Bible’, in which the lead cannot stop the voracious outer projection of her innermost feelings and ‘Born Weird’, a modern fable in which the Weird family are each deigned blessings by their Grandmother at birth that, in time, reveal themselves to be curses, that blight their lives. Each of these works inhabit a similar aesthetic; wonderfully idiosyncratic.

This interview with Mr. Kaufman, in which he discusses his motivations, literary favourites & opinions on contemporary reading platforms, is much like his works; short, intriguing and not without a dash of charm.

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Mr. Kaufman, when did you first become interested in literature and is there a particular novel, writer or genre that sparked this interest?

For me,  it’s not really writing that I was born into. I’ve always been fascinated by story. Whether that was stories my grandfather told me or ‘Gilligan’s Island, I’ve always loved story.

I tried a lot of other mediums. I worked in radio and film and I still work in TV, but for the kind of thing I do, with all the fantastic elements, prose just works best. There’s no budget limitations. The talking green frogs never look cheesy in a readers imagination.

What inspired you to write your first novel?

I was trying to make a feature film, when it hit me that I was never going to make any money doing indie film in Canada. So I thought I might as well not make any money doing what I really wanted to do, which was write.

How did you go about getting ‘All My Friends’ published?

I had one of those magical experiences where Alana Wilcox at Coach House books pulled it from the slush pile. It was the first place I’d sent it. I owe her a lot.

Of course, the acceptance of ‘All My Friends Are Superheroes’ came after ten years of having things rejected.

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What are your feelings about contemporary changes in publishing methods, with the increase in popularity of self publishing and the purported redundancy of the publisher as middle man?

I honestly think it’s a fad. You can’t create a material culture and then remove the material. And i’m lost without a good editor.

That being said, I’m writing this to you on my iPad.

Do you feel that the Kindle, e-books & similar technologies are a good evolution of reading methods? Or, do you feel that the joy in a book is possessing a tangible book?

E-books are just a reason to buy a computer. They’re not objects to themselves. E-books are the plastic toy at the bottom of the digital cracker jack box. I have seen some very beautiful computers, however.

Do you have a favourite writer? What are your favourite of their works?

There are so many writers who blow me away: Chris Adrien, Aimee Bender, Sheila Heti.

But, if you promise not to spread it around, I’ll admit that my favourite writer is Kurt Vonnegut.

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Find out more about Andrew Kaufman, and his works, at his website –   Several Moments Later

Paul Auster – World Book Club

Paul Auster, famed author of classics ‘New York Trilogy’, ‘Timbuktu’ and ‘In the Country of Last Things’ among others, recently appeared on the BBC’s World Book Club radio programme at one of the stops along the press tour accompanying the release of his latest works. On ‘WBC’, however, Auster was met with questions about, arguably, his most famous works, the aforementioned ‘New York Trilogy’.

One of my favourite books, I tweeted my Question for Auster to his interviewing Journalist Harriett Gilbert and, luckily, she ensured me she would ask it. Listen to my question to Mr. Auster and his response by clicking upon the link below.

To listen to the programme (my question comes in around the 13 minute mark) Click here.