The Amazing Spider-Man 2

2014 - 142 minutes

Rated: PG-13

Directed by: Marc Webb

Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field

Failing to learn the lessons of Spider-Mans past (Spider-Men past?), The Amazing-Spider Man 2 tries to ensnare way too many things in its web, and nothing really sticks. It adds the same number of villains – three – and an even higher level of convolution than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, which ended that original series in 2007 and led to this close proximity reboot. Spidey is the only major Marvel character that Sony has rights to, and it appears they’re attempting to go all in and build a universe as big as possible around one superhero, but it’s too much weight for the web-slinger to bear, even though he has the strength of ten men.

Being Spider-Man is kinda cool and kinda crappy for Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield). On one hand, he loves donning the blue and red suit and flying around New York City, thwarting criminals like Russian gangster Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti). On the other hand, being a superhero means putting girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in danger, something Peter promised Gwen’s father he wouldn’t do. Adding to Peter’s narrow inner-circle of Gwen and dear old Aunt May (Sally Field), old pal Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to the city and inherits Oscorp from his father. He’s also inherited his father’s rare illness and is convinced Spider-Man’s blood is the cure. Elsewhere at Oscorp, engineer and sad sack Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is involved in an accident that transforms him into Electro, a glowing blue-skinned entity that can manipulate electricity. Peter’s love for Gwen, a complicated reconnection with Harry, and this volatile blue guy flying around are making it tougher and tougher to bear the assignment as city-wide savior.

It’s also a difficult task for director Mark Webb to make sense of anything, even with a 142 minute runtime that, quite frankly, feels even longer. His film, and a swollen script from a trio of screenwriters, is stuffed to the gills, but it’s hard to see any of it with glazed-over eyes. 2012’s The Amazing-Spider Man was basically a big tease that hinted at bigger things to come in the franchise, and while the sequel gives some answers, it’s basically just another giant nudge to the ribs and not a self-contained narrative. For example, the mystery involving the death of Peter’s parents and the information his father has on Oscorp is treated as integral to the plot, only to be completely dropped until late in the film to tie up a loose end that never needed a loose end in the first place.

We have to deal with new origin stories for Electro and Harry, as well as Giamatti’s gangster character, who appears in two scenes that could be dropped into any other Spider-Man movie and fit as well as they do here. None of the villain arcs are meaningful in the slightest. Harry and Peter’s friendship never feels genuine, and therefore any tension between them just kind of lays there. Electro’s origin is even worse – a near carbon copy of the disrespected/under-appreciated angle used for Jim Carrey and The Riddler in Batman Forever. When you lift something from one of the Joel Schumacher Batman films and don’t do it as well, that’s a bad sign.

The action scenes look fantastic, but don’t mean a whole lot after wading through mind-numbing, unnecessary plotting, and they’re presented with questionable context. Two minutes after a sympathetic Electro tries pleading with cops and Spider-Man that he “can’t control” the carnage he’s wreaking on Times Square, he’s gnashing his teeth and gleefully laying waste to the city. Harry goes crazy because Harry must go crazy, but man that glider looks pretty cool.

Trapped within all the gunk is the best thing this series has going for it – the chemistry between Garfield and Stone. They are each perfect for their roles as the sweet and smart couple, but their relationship is treated as fluff and sacrificed for the universe-building nonsense. Though the John Hughes-ish movie score during an ice cream date was a fine touch. Alas, that stuff is too small for this series; everything has to be bigger, which means more villains now and the promise of even more to come. The concentration is on what’s going to happen next instead of what’s happening now, which isn’t much.

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