Friday, September 12, 2014

The Audience is at Fault: Between the Lines of Andrew Garfield's Remarks on The Amazing Spider-Man 2's Shortcomings

In the context of comic media, It's been an interesting barrage of news over the past two days. The front runner for the most prevalent news item across my feeds has been courtesy of our friendly neighborhood, socioeconomic activist, and current live-action Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield.
 I happened to run across an article this past Wednesday from The Daily Beast which featured an interview of Garfield by Marlow Stern. Aside from, as mentioned before, being on my radar for his role as Spidey, I've gained respect for the actor due to his and his paramour, Emma Stone's attempts at awareness of more attention deserving social issues whilst flying in the face of celebrity obsession aided by the likes of paparazzi. The meat of the article revolves around Garfield's most recent film project, 99 Homes. This role choice further cements Garfield's leanings towards social activism. As the article continues, we're treated to some candid statements surrounding his experiences filming The Amazing Spider-Man 2, his reaction to the feedback of its moviegoers and his speculation on what influenced said feedback. These candid remarks created a mass of scathing articles insisting that Andrew Garfield lays the blame of The Amazing Spider-Man 2's poor reception on the heads of Sony Studios. 

I can see why others may have taken such a negative spin to Garfield's comments. My initial reading of the interview didn't lead me down that path. The various articles in reaction to this interview caused me to take a second look at his comments. I was wondering if maybe I was being too lenient on his statements or was the usual sensationalistic, volatile nature of geek culture working again to justify its ire

After talking at length about 99 Homes and Garfield's motivations for wanting to undertake such a role with less fanfare than previous projects, Marlow Stern asks how Andrew Garfield felt about The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The particular portion that everyone seems to be picking apart is this one:
 'I think what happened was, through the pre-production, production, and post-production, when you have something that works as a whole, and then you start removing portions of it—because there was even more of it than was in the final cut, and everything was related. Once you start removing things and saying, “No, that doesn’t work,” then the thread is broken, and it’s hard to go with the flow of the story. Certain people at the studio had problems with certain parts of it, and ultimately the studio is the final say in those movies because they’re the tentpoles, so you have to answer to those people.'
 The statement may seem pretty damning in this context. I still see the comment as speculative  rather than accusatory. Nevertheless, what stood out for me is what Garfield added when asked why he was so taken aback by the responses to The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
'It’s a discernment thing. What are the people actually saying? What’s underneath the complaint, and how can we learn from that? We can’t go, “Oh God, we fucked up because all these people are saying all these things. It’s shit.” We have to ask ourselves, “What do we believe to be true?” Is it that this is the fifth Spider-Man movie in however many years, and there’s a bit of fatigue? Is it that there was too much in there? Is it that it didn’t link? If it linked seamlessly, would that be too much? Were there tonal issues? What is it? I think all that is valuable. Constructive criticism is different from people just being dicks, and I love constructive criticism. Hopefully, we can get underneath what the criticism was about, and if we missed anything.'
 Here's my take away from the portion of the article pertaining to TAS2 (typing the entire title for professionalism's sake was getting a tad redundant): Albeit, Sony Studios did ultimately decide on the final cut of the film, these kind of decisions are based on fan response. Movie studios go out of their way to tailor films to the general audience. When you comment on social media, if you're lucky enough to be a part of a test screening, or writing a studio directly, your reactions are taken to heart. Ultimately, movie studios want to make money. Why would you think any movie studio would want to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to their profits?

With that said, is it really Sony Studios at fault for the bad reception of TAS2, or does the fault lie with the moviegoers? Let's be honest. This reiteration of the Spider-Man franchise began on a bad note. There were definitely some good points, but, the movie missed the mark on various levels. It was obvious that Sony took notes from the missteps of the first film. I'd wager that most would agree that TAS2 was a marked improvement over TAS. However, the movie still fell short of captivating its audience unlike The Avengers or more recently, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

As you see from Garfield's ending comments, the actors and the studios are willing to give you the film you want. The rub is how can they do that if you don't express what it is that you need? There is this infestation of negativity surrounding comic book culture that inevitably ruins a constructive exchange between the fans and creators. Constructive criticism has given way to vehement abusive monologue. I feel that our comic geeks and shared superhero film enthusiasts should take an introspective step back and reflect on Andrew Garfield's words. Don't lose the obvious passion for these films that you want to love. To paraphrase Andrew Garfield, instead of being a dick about a film not meeting your expectations, share what didn't work for you and what would have made it better. Your opinion is valued. In the film industry especially, it's seen as money in the bank.

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