“Spider-Man 2” is one of the all-time great superhero movies. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is not.
I’m already on record as saying I prefer the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” over the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield “Amazing Spider-Man” and this latest installment did nothing to change my mind. Especially when you consider what an improvement the second Raimi film was. “Amazing Spider-Man 2” is more like the bloated mess that was Raimi’s third-and-final Spidey movie.
First Problem: When it comes to origin stories, the simpler the better. They knew how to do it in the old days — alien baby comes to Earth, has super powers; boy’s parents killed by mugger, grows up to fight crime dressed as a bat; overexposure to gamma rays turns scientist into green rage monster; teenager is bitten by radioactive spider, gets spider powers. It ain’t rocket science, it’s superheroes.
Remember in the last Spider-Man movie when they promised to tell you Spidey’s secret origin and then they didn’t? Well they finally get around to it for the most part and it wasn’t worth the wait. Director Webb and his team of screenwriters took a simple origin story and loaded it down with conspiracies and secrets and intrigue and everyone-has-to-be-connected and everything-has-t0-tie-together and nothing-you-think-you-know-is-true. In short, they took a simple, goofy origin story and turned it into an overly complicated, even more ludicrous origin story. It’s not an improvement although I’m sure the writers thought it was clever.
Second problem: So many villains, so little time. Even though the movie is a bloated 2 hours, 20+ minutes, insufficient time is spent building up the bad guys. Jamie Foxx stars as Matt Dillon, a nebbish who falls into a vat of electric eels and becomes Electra Glide in Blue — err, Electro. He becomes your standard Spider-Man hating villain despite being Spidey’s biggest fan earlier. I’d say his characterization was all over the map but he doesn’t have enough screen time to have a character.
But at least he’s better off than the poor Rhino. If you’re coming to this movie to see a big scene involving Spider-Man fighting Paul Giamatti in a mechanized rhino suit, be prepared for disappointment.
Once again the real villain of the movie is (yawn) the Green Goblin, a.k.a. Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) in a replay of the relationship much more fully developed in the previous trilogy.
Third problem: Where the heck is J. Jonah Jameson? After being shut out of the first film, Spider-Man’s true arch-enemy is relegated to an e-mail in the second. Apparently no actor is willing to follow in J.K. Simmon’s footsteps.
Fourth problem: The tangled web of Spidey’s love life. Webb seems far more interested in the love story between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) than anything going on with Spider-Man. Granted, Stone is one of the highlights of the film so giving her more screen time is a good idea.
But the relationship basically breaks down to: they’re a couple; they split up; they get back together; she decides to go to England; they get back together; and — well, the morale of the story is “Listen to your girlfriend’s dead father’s ghost.”
Well, them special effects is truly amazing. You’d think after four movies that watching Spidey jump and swing around would get routine but the effects team here comes up with new and interesting ways to show off Spider-Man’s skills. Combining web-slinging and bullet-time is a nifty idea and thankfully not too overused.
The action sequences are also well done. The opening chase scene is a lot of fun. The moments with Electro were highly charged. The showdown with Rhino had the potential to be entertaining.
Garfield’s portrayal of Spider-Man is a lot of fun, it’s his Peter Parker that I find lacking. I did find Sally Field’s version of Aunt May more to my liking this time around.
Overall, I’m not sure if the special effects, action sequences and Emma Stone are enough to overcome the convoluted story and sagging personal sagas. If you’re a loyal Spidey fan you’ll probably find it worth your time, otherwise I’d recommend seeing “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” again.
Note: There is a brief scene promoting the new “X-Men” movie that runs mid-credits. There is no post-credits scene. I just saved you five minutes of your life. You’re welcome.