Emma Stone Archive

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Birdman, (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Superhero Hate)

I walked into Birdman accidentally and apprehensive. I had planned on seeing Whiplash but there’s only one theater playing it and because of traffic, my friend didn’t make it in […]

I walked into Birdman accidentally and apprehensive. I had planned on seeing Whiplash but there’s only one theater playing it and because of traffic, my friend didn’t make it in time. In order to save the night, we decided to watch another movie. It was a choice between Birdman and something I don’t remember. The reason I was worried I was wasting my time and money was Scott Tobias’ review for the Dissolve, which makes a pretty comprehensive case against the movie and my own personal conflicted feelings about the Marvel and DC empire.

See, I love superhero stories. They’re powerful, meaningful operatic depictions of humanity’s best virtues put on the microscope so that they can be observed at their grandest and yet experienced at their most nuanced. This could be said of all genre fiction, but DC and Marvel’s spin is filled with an idealism and a humanism unparalleled in my experience consuming all sorts of media. I always point to the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie that ends literally with five friends holding hands to vanquish the antagonist…  As many problems as that movie has, the good moments feel so sincere that I could not look away.

But then there’s the business side of things, Marvel’s current film universe has stuck to a very specific formula and tone. While the films have been wildly varied in milieu, everything about them feels factory made. Taken on an individual basis and when we had few releases, this was tolerable because the outings were still fun. But by the time we reached a mediocre Thor 2 and a flawed Guardians, it was quite easy for me to jump off the bandwagon (and occasionally laugh whenever the train went off the rails) while mourning the death of my love for the genre.

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The Amazing Spider-Man: On The Webb Trilogy and Its Failures.

The Raimi Spider-Man films are genuinely some of my favorite films of the 21st century. Wonderfully executed, terminally idiosyncratic and endlessly endearing, those three movies (yes, I’m counting Spider-Man 3 […]

The Raimi Spider-Man films are genuinely some of my favorite films of the 21st century. Wonderfully executed, terminally idiosyncratic and endlessly endearing, those three movies (yes, I’m counting Spider-Man 3 here. I’ll get to that) manage to convey so much love for the idea of Peter Parker and his adventures, it’s easy to want to be Peter Parker; even if Tobey Maguire’s performance is often questionable.  But this is Raimi’s show through and through, and while it’s obviously a showcase of talents for many people (will James Franco ever be this charismatic again?) in the end, it’s about a very particular vision, filled with love and pride for that nerdy kid from Queens who was bitten by a radioactive spider, was confronted with tragedy and then decided that that tragedy should not define anyone in the same way it defined him.

On the other hand, The Amazing Spider-Man films by Marc Webb are…well, they’re competently shot and wonderfully acted (Emma Stone in particular stands out) but the scripts are the ultimate example of what happens when you go by Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat formula without any heart or thought. Every scene feels like it happens here because that’s what the beat sheet said rather than because it evolved naturally from the events we saw before. See Gwen and Peter at the Oxford admission office or Harry telling Peter about his disease in the second film or the first film’s forays into back story for the parents.

However, I want to clarify some things before I continue. My issues with the Webb trilogy (Yeah, I know, please bear with me) aren’t related to me being conservative about comics adaptations. In fact, unlike many other fans, I’m quite fine with The Amazing Spider-Man ditching the “with great power” quote. Heck, I don’t mind that Norman Osborn was never the Green Goblin. My issues are related to three things: the Webb Trilogy constantly feels like the epitome of what committee writing looks like, it does not commit to the idea of being a creative reboot and, perhaps more importantly, the films are pretty ethically questionable (if I were to be charitable)

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