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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
What's more intriguing than the sight of Tom Cruise pulling a Yul Brynner? Perhaps only the prospect of Steven Spielberg orchestrating the shaving of Cruise's head.
One of the world's most bankable stars joins forces with the most successful director in movie history for Minority Report, a futuristic thriller based on a story by famed sci-fi novelist Philip K. Dick. That alone should result in one of the biggest openings of 2002 for a film that is not a sequel or based on a TV show or comic book.
This long-gestating collaboration finds police chief Cruise relying upon telepathic technology to bust would-be killers before they can perpetrate their heinous crimes. Cruise, though, comes under investigation for a murder he will apparently commit.
Minority Report should give Cruise and Spielberg something to cheer about following their respective disappointments last year.
Vanilla Sky, a nonsensical remake of Open Your Eyes, survived scathing reviews to reach a solid but unspectacular $101 million solely on the strength of Cruise's enduring appeal and his on-screen trysts with new love Penelope Cruz.
Warner Bros.' incapability to effectively market A.I.: Artificial Intelligence cost Spielberg dearly at the box office. Was it a sentimental fairy tale about an android boy yearning to be a human? Or an adult Pinocchio envisioned by the late Stanley Kubrick and realized by Spielberg? With no answer forthcoming, A.I. blew a fuse at $78.6 million.
Opening at about 3,000 theaters, Minority Report should debut closer to Cruise's Interview With the Vampire ($36 million) than Spielberg's Jurassic Park ($47 million). Minority Report's ominous tone is more in keeping with the Gothic bloodletting of Interview With the Vampire than the CGI-fueled thrill ride that was Jurassic Park, which arrived in 1993 as the must-see blockbuster of that summer.
With Cruise and Spielberg calling the shots, Minority Report has what it takes to best 1990's Total Recall ($119.3 million), Arnold Schwarzenegger's take on Dick's We Can Remember it Wholesale for You. Minority Report also should ease the suffering inflicted upon Dick devotees this year by Impostor ($6.1 million).
The possibility of Minority Report becoming one of Cruise or Spielberg's biggest smashes, though, seems remote. Cruise is the only draw for women otherwise uninterested in a futuristic cat-and-mouse game between a cop on the run and his former colleagues. Cruise's appeal with women goes a long way, but not far enough to turn such tricky prospects as Eyes Wide Shut ($55.6 million) and Magnolia ($22.4 million) into hits.
Regardless, Minority Report will serve as America's proper introduction to Colin Farrell. Hailed as the next big thing after the unseen Tigerland, the Irish actor later endured the bombs American Outlaws ($13.2 million) and Hart's War ($19 million). Farrell replaced Matt Damon, who dropped out as the cop chasing Cruise because of a schedule conflict with Ocean's Eleven. Farrell's presence in Minority Report will doubtless help the fate of his Phone Booth, a thriller due Nov. 15.
Long live Elvis Presley!
The King's enjoying a No. 1 smash in the United Kingdom under the name Elvis vs. JXL with A Little Less Conversation, as featured in director Terry Gilliam's gloriously frenetic Nike World Cup commercial. Elvis: Today, Tomorrow and Forever, a boxed set featuring 100 unreleased tracks, will hit stores June 25 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Presley's death.
And Presley might recruit fans from a new generation of kids thanks to a little Hawaiian girl and her strange pet from outer space.
Disney, which has all but seemingly eliminated the musical interludes from its animated works, peppers the Lilo & Stitch soundtrack with songs sung by Presley or covered by the likes of Wynonna and The A*Teens. Lilo is the lonely, Elvis-worshipping girl who finds friendship with Stitch, an alien experiment gone awry. Stitch is a lethal weapon accidentally set loose on earth.
Employing Presley's songs underlines Disney's attempts to create an animated romp driven by the devil-may-care attitude of a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon. Indeed, with its alien protagonist bent on destroying all in its path, Lilo & Stitch boasts just as much merry mayhem as the typical Bugs Bunny caper.
Still, Disney being Disney, Lilo & Stitch offers a strong message about family--care of the Hawaiian concept of ohana--to offset any concerns that this is just an 80-minute display of destruction.
Lilo & Stitch should appeal to a wider audience last year's disappointing Atlantis: The Lost Empire, a Jules Verne-influenced adventure that drew mainly boys. Girls will identify with social misfit Lilo, who yearns for nothing more than a friend. Boys will scream with delight at Stitch's naughty behavior. Parents will hum along to their favorite Presley tune.
Consequently, Lilo & Stitch should reverse Disney's flagging fortunes when it comes to its 2-D animated offerings. Atlantis made a less-than-adventurous $84 million. The Emperor's New Groove lost its funk at $89.2 million. That's a far cry from The Lion King's $312.8 million.
Whether Lilo & Stitch can shake its way past Mulan's $120.6 million will depend on how it copes with fierce competition from the upcoming Hey Arnold! The Movie and The Powerpuff Girls Movie.
Then there's the small matter of a certain Great Dane with a penchant for Scooby Snacks.
Scooby-Doo memorably marked its territory last weekend by debuting with $54.2 million. The canine sleuth, however, narrowly failed to beat the June opening record of $54.9 million earned by 1999's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Audiences--adults and children alike--clearly find the CGI Scooby-Doo charming. With $75.8 million through Thursday, Scooby-Doo will assuredly scamper past The Flintstones's $130.5 million on its way to at least $150 million. That would more than justified rushing a sequel into production for a projected summer 2004 release.
Lilo & Stitch and Scooby-Doo are circling the same young audience, although Scooby-Doo holds the advantage when it comes to luring adults who watched the TV cartoon show while growing up. Scooby-Doo should drop about 45 percent in its second weekend to about $30 million. Facing such stiff competition, Lilo & Stitch will likely open closer to Mulan's $22.7 million than Tarzan's $34.2 million.
The presence of both Scooby-Doo and Lilo & Stitch will be enough to put Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron out to graze. The DreamWorks animated epic dropped 44 percent in its fourth weekend, from $9.3 million to $5.2 million, and has $66.3 million through Thursday. Expected another similar tumble this weekend, with Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron on pace to make about $75 million.
Scooby-Doo didn't have the same effect on Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones or Spider-Man.
Attack of the Clones eased by an acceptable 33 percent in its fifth weekend, from $14 million to $9.4 million. Still, the fifth chapter in George Lucas' space opera is crawling to its inevitable $300 million total, having made $274.6 million through Thursday. That's a disappointment considering Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, which endured harsher reviews, managed to generate $431 million in 1999.
Swinging his way to possibly the year's top gross, Spider-Man lost just 27 percent in its seventh week, from 10.3 million to $7.5 million. With $385.8 million through Thursday, Spider-Man looks certain to make $400 million during the July Fourth holiday weekend.
On the bench since October, Juwanna Mann takes the court a week after the L.A. Lakers pummeled the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals. Not exactly perfect timing. At least this cross-dressing basketball comedy appears early into the WNBA season.
This NBA-styled Tootsie stars Miguel A. Nunez Jr. as a basketball superstar banned from the league for his stupid on-court behavior. Nunez pulls a Dennis Rodman and ends up in drag, playing for the women's league. Things get mighty uncomfortable when Nunez falls head over heels for teammate Vivica A. Fox.
Juwanna Mann isn't likely to emulate the huge successes of Tootsie or Mrs. Doubtfire. But it should connect with urban audiences far better than Sorority Boys ($10.1 million) did earlier this year with teens.
Nunez isn't the draw. It's Fox, who can be counted to deliver a modest opening with her comedies. Juwanna Mann should deliver an opening and total on the scale of Kingdom Come ($7.5 million opening, $23.2 million) and Two Can Play That Game ($7.7 million, $22.2 million).
Juwanna Mann's should steal away some of Undercover Brother's dwindling audience. Eddie Griffin's blaxploitation spy spoof has $33.3 million through Thursday, with $40 million a likely total.
The Ya-Ya Sisterhood is strong, but not as strong as it could be. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood fell a worrying 45 percent in its second weekend, from $16.1 million to $8.8 million. This Sandra Bullock-Ashley Judd starrer continues to attract large audiences during the week--it has $40.6 million through Thursday--but its fast fade in the face of little similar competition indicates that women might not be too taken with those eccentric Southern belles. Indeed, they could be going out of their way to find art house sensation My Big Fat Greek Wedding ($13.6 million through Sunday). Still, Ya-Ya Sisterhood remains on target to top Bullock's Hope Floats ($62.9 million).
Bullock and Judd also can rest easy knowing that Ya-Ya Sisterhood will do better than their respective spring misfires, Murder by Numbers ($31.6 million) and High Crimes ($41.2 million).
It was spy vs. spy vs. spy last weekend, with Matt Damon emerging the winner.
The Bourne Identity, director Doug Liman's liberal adaptation of the Robert Ludlum novel, enjoyed a strong opening salvo of $27.1 million. That's almost on a par with Ben Affleck's The Sum of All Fears, the latest Jack Ryan assignment, which opened with $31.1 million. The two CIA-related thrillers were both originally scheduled to open on May 31, but Universal thought better than to pit buddies Damon and Affleck against each another and moved The Bourne Identity back two weeks.
Damon, as an on-the-run CIA operative suffering from amnesia, could use a hit that rests solely on his shoulders (unlike the ensemble-driven Ocean's Eleven). His most recent efforts, The Legend of Bagger Vance ($30.6 million) and All the Pretty Horses ($15.5 million), both died quick deaths.
With $39.3 million through Thursday, The Bourne Identity is on pace to exceed The Talented Mr. Ripley's $81.2 million. That might be enough to turn Damon into a viable action star, but not quite enough to convince Universal to greenlight the second in the trio of the Jason Bourne novels, The Bourne Supremacy. The Bourne Identity was something of a troubled production, with Liman clashing with Universal and the film missing its original Sept. 7 release.
Jason Bourne didn't stop Jack Ryan from carry out his mission to save the world from nuclear annihilation. The Sum of All Fears eroded by just 30 percent, from $19.2 million to $13.4 million, in its third weekend. This fourth Jack Ryan adventure, and the first to star Affleck, already has exceeded Patriot Games' $83.2 million by earning $89.5 million through Thursday.
The Sum of All Fears, however, will need to rely upon all of Ryan's cunning if it is could pose a threat to either Clear and Present Danger ($122 million) or The Hunt for Red October ($120.7 million).
The one-two punch of The Bourne Identity and The Sum of All fears all but stripped Bad Company of its audience. Another tale of the CIA hunting down a missing nuclear bomb, only played for laughs, Bad Company fell 47 percent in its second weekend, from its tepid $11 million opening to $5.8 million.
The unlikely and unappealing pairing of Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock has made a mere $24.3 million through Thursday. Hopkins, however, can take solace knowing that Red Dragon, a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs, will likely make twice that much during its opening weekend.
Like The Bourne Identity, Windtalkers missed its 2001 release date. Twice, to be exact, after being scheduled for June 29 and Nov. 9. The delay obviously benefited The Bourne Identity. It's proved ruinous for Windtalkers.
Saddled with a budget of more than $100 million, director John Woo's World War II epic could become the summer's biggest disaster.
Windtalkers, revealing the role played in winning World War II by Navajo-American code talkers, opened Flag Day with a weak $14.5 million and has $20 million through Thursday. Its failure to connect with audiences--unlike Pearl Harbor or Black Hawk Down--is less to do with a growing disinterest in American warfare than a reaction to its mediocre reviews.
MGM is experiencing déjà vu with Windtalkers. Its Hart's War, a World War II courtroom thriller, earned a pitiful $19 million in February. At best, Windtalkers might waft to $40 million.
Nicolas Cage also dropped a bomb last year with the World War II romance Captain Corelli's Mandolin ($25.5 million). Don't expect Cage to volunteer for another tour of duty any time soon.