My original plan was to give each of these two summer ’14 blockbusters their own reviews. They were both highly anticipated, larger than life spectacles. They were also released within two weeks of each other… in May! For two movies this big, that’s a big deal. It’s a head to head battle between two of the most iconic characters of all time: Spider-Man and Godzilla- cinema style! And if I may use a little bit of hyperbole, I’m pretty sure reviews for these two movies were floating around the interwebs since around 1984 or so. These days, word spreads fast. Everyone who cares to spend thirty seconds on Google knows exactly how every movie will end weeks before it’s released. And don’t get me started on the X-Men: Days of Future Past post credit scene (review of that to come). We know everything there is to know about almost all movies before they’re even released. Unfortunately, if you read too much ahead of time, you may also find yourself walking into movies with many preconceived notions. And now I get to why it is, exactly, I decided that Godzilla and Spider-Man needed a joint review. I’m also assuming that pretty much anyone who had planned on seeing these films has seen them by now, so forgive any possible spoilers ahead. But then again, since second and third sequels are already being planned for these movies, it won’t matter much, anyway.
On scientific research journal Rottentomatoes.com, Godzilla currently holds a 73% Fresh rating, while ASM2 currently holds a 53% Rotten rating. Interestingly, these numbers were graded before the movies were even released. ASM2’s reviews, for the most part, praised stars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone’s onscreen chemistry, but most critics agreed that the movie was just overstuffed with villains and plots and it made the main story feel very watered down, using the fantastic special effects to mask the lack of deep story-telling. Then, of course, there were the comic fanatics. Oh, the comic fanatics. Those hard-to-please, contrarian folks who want these movies but are never truly satisfied. The collective Veruca Salt of the movies. And keep in mind, I’m one of these people, so I can say this. “Spider-Man is too cocky in these movies!! He’s supposed to be a nerd!!” But, wasn’t your main complaint about Toby Maguire that he was too nerdy and not cocky and smart-allecky enough? “Yeah but… uh… give the rights back to Marvel!!!!!!!” And villain overload. Still licking our wounds from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, we were skeptical about another superhero movie with three villains. SM3 had two too many villains. The movie was a two and a half hour long toy commercial. The character development was about as compelling as listening to my cat try to “talk” to the birds outside on the front porch. Actually, I get more ammusement from the cat. So when people found out that 3 villains would be in ASM2, they were naturally quite wary. They wanted to see a continuation of the Gwen Stacy/ Peter Parker story from the first film. Not just another moving billboard for Toys R Us. And boy, have people been complaining. Too many villains. Too much flash and not enough character development. Weak story telling.
Godzilla, on the other hand, is being praised for all of the things for which ASM2 is being slammed!!!! Shallow story-telling and character development? Well, it’s a movie about giant monsters destroying a city! Who cares about the human story! Even if the movie stars Bryan Cranston, one of the best in the business today and his presence is rendered irrelevant halfway through the film. It’s a movie about a giant lizard that fights a giant… thing! Spider-Man had too many villains. The “villains” in Godzilla were stomping around destroying everything in sight for what felt like an eternity before Godzilla just pops up out of nowhere, and Ken Watanabe utters the immortal line: “let them fight!” Really? That’s it? Why were there humans in this movie at all? Why did you pay all of these people to stand around and deliver dry lines when we’re all really just here to see a few monsters beat up on each other? The movie tries, or barely tries, to make you care about a crazy scientist studying the monsters and his military son who has to leave his wife and child behind to go fight this thing that has no chance of being defeated. The plan of attack? Lure the monsters to a big nuclear bomb that will explode and kill the monsters, along with every human in the blast zone. Even though the monsters feed on and grow strength through nuclear blasts. “Oh yeah, we forgot we spent the first part of the movie explaining how WE created these monsters with nuke tests… well… Let them fight!!” Now THAT is shallow story-telling. And remember when The Dark Knight Rises received complaints about Batman barely being in it? Well, Godzilla is in this movie even less. That’s right. A movie called ‘Godzilla’ should really have been called ‘Confused Humans and Giant Preying Mantis.” I remember walking around Toys R Us shopping for my nephew’s birthday a few days after seeing the movie and seeing a Godzilla movie playset, and I had to chuckle. Some kids are going to beg for that toy. Those kids will beg their parents to drag them to see the movie, and hopefully they will awaken from their naps in time to actually SEE Godzilla on the screen.
ASM2 had three villains, it’s true. However, they were barely in it! The villains existed purely to push the story along and push Peter Parker’s sense of responsibility to its limits. Rhino, in the beginning, makes Peter late for his own graduation, forcing him to miss Gwen’s speech. This is VERY important later on in the film, when he needs here words of wisdom the most. Electro (Jamie Foxx doing his best Jim Carrey Riddler impression), symbolizes and gives a face to the public’s initial love but ultimate distrust and hatred of a superpowered, masked vigilante. Then there’s Green Goblin. Harry Osborne, played by Dane Dehaan, is a spoiled, rich kid who happens to be dying from a genetic illness that only Spider-Man’s blood can cure. Apparantly. Ok, that subplot sounds a bit weak, I admit. Especially since we are expected to believe that Peter Park and Harry Osborne are childhood best friends even though the first film makes no mention of Harry at all. The movie missed a great opportunity to build their relationship thus making their fight that much more heartbreaking. But the too many villains argument still falls flat, since he becomes Green Goblin for JUST enough time to set up the sequel. However, in his brief time as the Goblin, his one evil deed as villain becomes the single most important event in Spider-Man’s life. Next to getting bitten by the spider, of course.
Now, like all movies, both of these films have their strengths and weaknesses. Godzilla wasn’t a BAD movie, I just feel that it was praised for all the wrong reasons. ASM2 wasn’t the greatest film ever, it’s just that it may just be the best you’re going to get from a Spider-Man movie. And for all of you Amazing Spider-Man franchise haters out there: At least we were spared Sam Raimi’s Vulturess character. On behalf of Sony and director Marc Webb- You’re welcome.