LIKE The “Amazing” Spider-man’s victims, you may feel a little hog-tied while this rebooted franchise skips around its architecture, without landing on anything for very long.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (12A)
Director: Marc Webb
Running time: 142 minutes
* * *
Still, you can’t fault its ability to grab its audience by the lapels with an energetic opening sequence that amplifies the previous film’s question mark regarding the fate of Parker’s missing parents – and then adding a new question as to how a modern looking laptop manages to pop up almost two decades early.
Also nimble is Andrew Garfield, returning as a Peter Parker/Spider-man, who is still in thrall to Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), but strafed with doubts, since he promised her late father in The Amazing Spider-man to protect her, by ending their relationship.
However, romantic woes are a mere fly in the ointment for Spider-man once returning director Marc Webb (we did all the jokes last film) and screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner crank up the plot strands so that the film becomes bloated with villains, including Jamie Foxx’s Electro, Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin, Martin Csokas’ asylum supervisor Dr Kafka, Felicity Jones’s Felicia Hardy and Paul Giamatti’s Rhino. All of them lineup against Spidey, but like a martial arts film, they are curiously reluctant to attack all at once.
Foxx’s character is the one that feels closest to a commentary on fickle comic fandom. As geeky Oscorp-employee Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) he’s converted into a Spider-fan when Parker saves him from being run over by a car. However, an industrial accident involving electric eels distorts his fixation into something darker, except when he’s setting off car alarms. Meanwhile, as Parker’s duplicitous childhood friend Harry Osborn, Dane DeHaan combines the preppy looks of a young Leonardo DiCaprio with the trustworthy air of a lizard.
At this stage in superhero lore, doesn’t it seem surprising that the spandex crowd don’t take more of an interest in industrial accidents, given that a misjudged serum begets the Green Goblin, and a nuclear accident fuses Dr Octopus to mechanical tentacles? If The Daily Bugle’s newsplant was close to a nuclear facility, I’d fear J Jonah Jamieson in a future episode might be destined to morph into Paperman, assaulting Parker with regular editions of lethal typographical errors and a crossword that hasn’t been checked properly.
More to the point, of course, is how a boy bitten by a spider uses his spider-sense and bouncy parkour abilities when everyone else seems to get morally rotted by this kind of genetic meddling?
This film kind of resolves the problem but is clearly happier wrangling hints about dead parents and returning to mope about overfamiliar tropes regarding great power and great responsibility.
The conservatism of Marc Webb’s films disappoints – and hardly bats away the suspicion that the chief function of these films is to hold onto the Spider-man franchise for Sony so the rights won’t revert back to Marvel Comics. The 3-D ticket premium price might be factored in too.
Garfield remains a raw and lively alternative to the era of a sleepy Tobey Maguire. But is his baggy, disjointed, action-stuffed movie amazing? Not quite.
* * *
Like journalists, politicians, bankers and manufacturers of ready-meals, these are not good times to be a priest, although it’s a great time to be Brendan Gleeson, the burly Irish actor who commands Calvary, just as he did in John Michael McDonagh’s first film The Guard and his brother Martin’s scabrous, funny hitman movie In Bruges.
As Father James, he is both a decent priest and a worldly one, having joined the priesthood after the death of his wife. Yet this doesn’t inoculate him against the decision by one anonymous parishioner, who was abused by a priest throughout his childhood, to murder Father James. Quite the opposite in fact: what is the point of killing a bad priest, argues the killer. What sort of revenge is that against God?
Despite the death sentence, Father James ministers to his dysfunctional flock, which includes a womanising surgeon (Aidan Gillen), a cuckolded butcher (Chris O’Dowd), a cannibal killer (Gleeson’s own son Domhnall), a dissolute aristocrat (Dylan Moran) and the Father’s suicidal daughter (Kelly Reilly). In many ways the plotting resembles Robert Bresson’s sternly beautiful exploration of faith, suffering and absolution, Diary Of A Country Priest – except Bresson was a lot less profane and had fewer tartly funny jokes about adultery.
This is an honourable attempt to pull together a meditation on Ireland and its religious disillusion, and part of a planned trilogy for Gleeson and McDonagh. You just hope that by the next film McDonagh will bury his themes a little deeper so his film doesn’t keep tripping on them.
On general release
* * *
Those who enjoyed the bit in Frasier where star voices rang up Kelsey Grammar may find a soft spot for Locke, where Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Sherlock’s Andrew Scott and Tom Holland dial Tom Hardy in his car as he travels steadily towards London on a life-changing mission. Playing out in real time over 90 minutes, the speed bumps lie in Steven Knight’s exposition-heavy dialogue and stagey setups. Hardy gives a fine, naturalistic performance, but the journey isn’t much more than a radio play with flashing indicators.
On general release from Friday
The Love Punch (12A)
Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan star as a divorced Home Counties couple who lose their retirement fund to a caddish French businessman. To get their money back they join forces and stage their first diamond heist with their best pals (Tim Spall and Celia Imrie). Repressed suburban felonry is not a bad basis for a screwball romcom, and Brosnan and Thompson seem hell-bent on a good time, but Joel Hopkins’ broad, lazy script is no sparkler.
On general release from Friday
Magic Magic (15)
Sebastián Silva’s psychological drama about an American (Juno Temple) on holiday in Chile who ends up sharing a cottage on a remote island with a small group of strangers, including a sadistic student (Michael Cera), who pushes her into paranoia. Torpid and polarising.
Dundee Contemporary Arts, Friday; GFT Friday to 24 April; Edinburgh Filmhouse, 21-24 April
The Quiet Ones (15)
Sam Claflin and Jared Harris star in a British horror about university students trying to create a poltergeist. Naturally, this goes horribly wrong. Supposedly based on true events, it’s hard to believe that any place in 1974 played Slade’s music as frequently and ruthlessly as this film does.
On general release