Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and James Pinkner.
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott, Colm Feore with Sally Field and Chris Cooper.
PG-13, 142 minutes.
The first Amazing Spider-Man was a serviceable, if not at all remarkable, adventure that set things up for something bigger and better. After watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2, however, not only has everything set up come to a screeching halt, but, watching it, you get the sense that absolutely no one behind the camera was interested in making this movie at all. That sense of indifference can’t help but permeate toward the audience as a result.
The film begins in the past, with Peter’s parents (Embeth Davidtz and Campbell Scott) boarding a private plane immediately after we last saw them in the opening scene of the first movie. Inexplicably, we linger on this scenario for what feels like a healthy chunk of the movie, as Peter’s parents fight off men who are trying to kill them. This opening ultimately serves little consequence beyond setting up a “mind-blowing” twist later in the movie that ultimately also serves little to no consequence. That’s a good way to sum up the movie in general, actually. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can’t be described in terms of “plot” or “story” or “theme.” It’s merely a collection of subplots with muddled character motivations in a movie that is far too long.
The subplot that gets the most spotlight here is the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, for all the talk of this “newly reimagined” version of the character, only differentiates from Tobey Maguire’s in the sense that he cracks wise more often. I’m not saying he does a bad job, it’s just that the character of Peter Parker in this movie is not very endearing at all but downright unlikable. I had the same problem with the first Amazing Spider-Man, too.
Due to backlash against Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane in the original series of films, the filmmakers do their best to insert Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy into as much of the action as possible. This worked to the first Amazing Spider-Man’s benefit, but here becomes highly illogical as she is shoehorned into certain sequences in the most awkward manner possible.
The film very much relies on the idea that, because the actors playing them are dating in real life, their natural chemistry will carry us through the romantic sections of the movie. Rather, nothing about either of them or what they’re going through during the movie is interesting enough to necessitate so much of the film’s running time.
The second major subplot fighting for attention features Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), a nebbish electrician for Oscorp with a love of Spider-Man who falls into a vat of electric eels and becomes Electro, a blue-skinned entity that can harness the power of electricity. He begins the movie as the most interesting character, if only for the fact that it’s fun seeing Jamie Foxx playing against type like this, but quickly becomes useless after the forty-five minute mark, at which point his character is dropped for the better part of an hour. Plus, he has no real motivation to hate Spider-Man.
Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) comes back to town in the wake of his father’s death. It is stated on numerous occasions that he and Peter were great friends back in the day, but there isn’t any chemistry between the two, or enough for them to do together that would suggest they ever had a fun time as kids. He is trying to cure some genetic disease and becomes angry when Spider-Man won’t help him.
The Rhino doesn’t get mention alongside the aforementioned because he isn’t a villain. He’s a distraction and his inclusion in the film at all is baffling given how little there is of him. It’s a waste of a great actor’s talent.
Speaking of which, that’s all this film is really doing, wasting the collective efforts of great performers. Chris Cooper shows up for one scene that didn’t really need to be there. I feel sorry for Sally Field as well, who becomes a nurse for no other reason than to manipulate some kind of stakes for the audience when the Electro shuts off the power to the city. If it sounds like they’re stretching from my brief summary there, the almost desperate appeals to our emotions get even more tenuous during the entire final sequence.
It’s this whole final sequence that really sinks the entire film, too. Where mild irritation and boredom turns into active dislike. Not only do the action scenes prove a means to an end to what this film has been building up towards since the very beginning, but even the beautiful special effects can’t mask the fact that there isn’t anything inventive going on. A lot of the movie rides on its endgame, which tries to be slavishly faithful to the source material, but unfortunately falls flat (!) because it’s obvious the filmmakers believed it to be such a powerful kicker they didn’t put any effort into anything that came before.
For this new reboot series to work, it was going to take a fantastic building upon The Amazing Spider-Man to sustain interest in these new movies. Sadly, it manages to kill any kind of enthusiasm to be had going forward.
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