Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As grand as the themes of good and evil, needs and deservings, power and responsibility and such forth are, superhero movies are generally pretty straightforward in premise: hero stops villain from wreaking havoc. As off-putting as this kind of simplicity might sound, it's usually the right way to go. If you pack enough substance into your characters and adhere your plot to these linear margins, you can actually wind up saying a healthy amount (and having a lot of fun). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets half of this formula down pat. Although Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is still a moreover undistinguished identity, his emotional magnitude (re: his relationship with Gwen Stacy) is enough to keep him valid through the storm of lunacy that is his second feature. And it's not even that lunacy that holds him back. The problem isn't how wild his conquests are, how silly some of the action sequences feel, or how absolutely bonkers his villains turn out to be. It's all the other stuff (and yes, if you can believe it, there's a ton more going on in this movie than what I've already mentioned — that's the issue). All the plot twists, tertiary mysteries, ominous flashbacks, abject reveals, and weightlessly sinister pawns in this brooding game that, save for its fun with the baddies, takes itself way too seriously. All that stuff that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 thinks is necessary to make Peter Parker matter? It actually does just the opposite.
Peter is at his best when he's playing Tracy and Hepburn with the girlfriend he's perpetually disappointing (the eternally charming Emma Stone), or trying to win back the favor of the only remaining parental figure from whom he's rapidly slipping away (Sally Field, reminding us why she's a household name), or angling to connect with the mentally unstable engineer who just wants people to notice him (Jamie Foxx working his comic shtick with a frightening zest). We have the most fun with Peter when he's playing the simplest games, and we connect best with him on similar ground. But Peter and company, at the behest of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise's Sandman-sized aspirations, spend so much time exploring new avenues: the secrets surrounding the death and work of Richard Parker, the behind-the-curtains operations of OsCorp, the nefarious goings on in the waterside penitentiary Ravencroft.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As a result of the grand stab at world building, there is just so much stuff that Peter has to wade through in this movie, dragging the likes of Gwen and his boyhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, mastering angst, menace, and upper-class privilege all at once) into the dark crevasses of narrative waste. With so many diversions into the emotionally vacant, deliberately joyless explorations of Parker family origin stories, secret brief cases, and underground subways — The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rivals Captain America: The Winter Soldier in complexity, but forgets the necessary ingredient of fun — we barely have enough energy left when the good stuff hits.
And in truth, the good stuff isn't really good enough to sustain us through all the duller periods. Garfield and Stone do have laudable chemistry. Foxx is a hoot as Peter's maniacal new foe, especially when paired with the grimacing DeHaan. And the action, while often straying from any aesthetic authenticity, is nothing shy of neat-o. It's all passable, occasionally worthy of a hearty smile, but rarely anything you'll be definitively pleased you took the time to see.
But beyond coming up short in the micro, the film's regal downfall is its scope. With so much to do, both in accomplishing its own necessary plot points and setting up for those to come in future films, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't seem to take time to make sure it's having fun with its own premise. And if it isn't having fun, we won't be either.
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David M. Russell/AETN
When will people learn you can’t take a model, a designer and a prize package and replicate the magic of Project Runway? Many have tried and few have succeed. The new series Styled to Rock, produced by Rihanna, gives the show a punky makeover. Project Runway: All Stars has some major upgrades from last season. But is there room for more than one Project Runway?
Styled to Rock is the umpteenth attempt at using the same format of Runway. Rather than focusing on the design, this series focuses on styling and costuming for musicians. Unfortunately, supermodel host Erin Wasson has the charm of a frozen waffle.
People take for granted that Heidi Klum was an actress and a television host before she produced Project Runway. Tim Gunn has become a celebrity due to his loving nature, distinct voice and stellar vocabulary. Their Emmy is proof that they are a major part of the show’s success. You can't just pull people off the shelf and expect the same magic to happen.
Project Runway: All Stars may have the exact same premise as the original but at least it innovates. It gives designers we have come to love a chance at redemption. Judges Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman also speak more authoritatively and diplomatically about fashion. Casting has improved this season with charmless model Angela Lindvall and severe mentor Joanna Coles replaced by opinionated Alyssa Milano and effervescent Zanna Roberts Rossi.
These are not the only attempts to clone Runway. Here are some others:
The Fashion Show
When Bravo lost Runway to Lifetime they tried to keep viewers with The Fashion Show. Mizrahi served as designer judge and Kelly Rowland served as host. The show received a slight upgrade in season two when supermodel Iman took over as host.
Launch My Line
Bravo tried again with this series. Dean and Dan Caten, of DSquared, hosted this series that featured “professionals” paired with designers. Seemingly random people in fields ranging from event planning to architecture had to create their own fashion line.
Not to be outdone by the shamelessness of Bravo, Lifetime tried to create a spin-off of Runway hosted by Molly Sims. Designer Kenneth Cole served as judge in this inversion of Runway. Designers create accessories ranging from jewelry to headpieces and style them with provided clothing.
This show tried to bring Runway to network television. Jessica Simpson, Nicole Ritchie and designer John Varvatos judged designers and offered them a chance to sell their line at Express and H&M. The show had too much product placement and was a little late to the game in Runway rehashing.
NBC's Fashion Star reality competition hit the glitzy TV runway on March 13, but is the series going to be hot for Spring?
When Project Runway lost its familiar faces and replaced them with the fully capable, yet unexciting crew - judges Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman, mentor and Marie Claire editor Joanna Coles and host and model Angela Lindvall - many viewers realized the dream was over. The series still packs some of its initial punch, but it's lost its bravado and its heart all at once. That void leaves room for some other lucky, fashion forward show to take its place. Unfortunately for NBC's latest hat in the reality competition ring, that void is still wide open. Fashion Star is flashy and exciting, but its cheap approach and surplus of moving parts keep it from making the cut.
That realization is not to say that the idea of Fashion Star wasn't worth exploring. Runway spends a great deal of time talking about "wearability" of new designs, yet recent episodes find contestants whipping up costumes for Nicki Minaj and the Broadway equivalent of a Cruella DeVil-Regina George hybrid.
Fashion Star takes the wearability concept to heart, making it the focus and driving factor of the show. Designers preview their fashions on the runway while Top 40 music bumps under the plexi-glass floor. Once mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos give the newbies their two cents, the designs go to the highest bidder. Buyers from H&M, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Macy's sit in their throne-like sky boxes and throw numbers at the designs they like - those without offers face elimination.
This process, while intriguing in its offer to take the lid off of the ever-booming fashion industry, serves to cheapen and degrade the art as a whole. Instead of contestants aiming to wow the judges and mentors with their creativity, they're trying to find something that will fit comfortably on the shelves of some of the most ubiquitous clothing store chains out there.
Fashion Star loses the personal element of the designs on Project Runway and then takes it a step further: all the winning designs are made available in mass quantities at the stores whose buyers won the bidding process. This seems to be working out for Saks Fifth Avenue and H&M, whose websites have already sold of their chosen designs - even one mini-skirt that's retailing for a whopping $350. The retail element is an interesting one, but the effect is that the designs are boiled down to mass-appeal simplicity and frankly, it's just not a joy to watch.
But we're not alone. Fashion experts took to Twitter to express their disappointment, too. Marie Claire site director Abby Gardner called the show "a HOT mess" and Us Weekly's executive editor, Lara Cohen replied, "i would say that fashion star is the forever 21 version of project runway, but that's not fair to f21."
But it wasn't just the run of the mill "fashions" that were under attack. The format of the show itself was on trial. Host Elle MacPherson took to the stage in the first few minutes with models clad in her line of intimate apparel and Phantom of The Opera masks, practically screaming "Hey, TV viewers, this is sexy, so please don't turn it off! (Also, please go buy Elle's underwear.)" The stage looked like was pulled from a Bratz Doll commercial, but considering the unimaginative and shiny elements of many of the designs, it's fairly fitting. Still, Vulture's The Fug Girls weren't going to let that go. They tweeted during the show, "#FashionStar clearly spent more on music & Nicole Richie's headbands than it did on anything else. -H" Yes, NBC. They're calling your new baby "cheap."
With all the grievances against the new reality competition, it's a wonder folks like Simpson, Richie and especially Varvatos would throw their lot in with it. But if the already hopping design sales are any indication, America clearly knows something we don't.