As a constant defender of the current superhero movie craze, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 almost singlehandedly dismantles every one of my arguments. Columbia Pictures; 2014; Rated PG-13; 142 Minutes.
The Amazingly Bad Spider-Man (With Spoilers): I’m going to be as civil as possible here: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a terrible movie that really isn’t a movie at all – it’s a checklist of plot points to try and build a franchise. If you’re familiar with my review of the first Average Spider-Man, you’ll know I haven’t been a fan of the franchise from the start. There’s no blind loyalty to the Raimi films or anything, they just happened to be well made movies with solid thematic undertones and a tonal consistency that these new films lack (for all its problems, Spider-Man 3 has a better handle on tone than either movie in this new franchise).
It’s good to know that Marc Webb changed the tone from unnecessarily grim to more light-hearted but he went for broke on the comic book aspects. One minute we’re dealing with Peter and Gwen “romance” (more on that later), then we’re knee deep in Oscorp evilness because they’re supposedly building Sinister Six for future franchise shenanigans. There’s a plethora of fan service by name dropping characters like Alistair Smythe and Felicia who may or may not be Black Cat. But none of that fucking matters because they don’t do anything in the story besides deliver exposition.
I swear, the movie speaks in exposition. An early scene showing the insides of Oscorp through the eyes of Max Dillon, essentially lays out the landscape of a power grid that will serve as the battleground for the climax of the movie. Or how about when Harry Osborn, who is suffering from Green Goblin disease, accidentally drops some sort of flash drive on a desk that activates a list of secret projects, one of which holds information on a glider and suit is waiting for him to pick it up once the plot needs him to.
Spider-Man Batman Forever: I had assumed the same team that brought the Lizard to life in the first movie would somehow rectify their mistakes with several more villains, at least in the action department. I was wrong. Jaime Foxx almost diminishes all his goodwill from Django Unchained and Ray as Max Dillon. The fan turned enemy angle is fine, but the ridiculous performance that Foxx gives as Dillon sours the whole affair. The comparison has been made many times by now but Jim Carrey’s Riddler in Batman Forever must have walked off the set to teach Foxx the art of overacting. There’s no real character here. Only caricature. During a confrontation in Times Square (and space) there’s a flip of the coin progression where Dillon goes from being pathetic but sympathetic loser, to psychopathic Electro. There’s no reason for this character to end up hating his idol. It doesn’t help that Electro is absent from the entirety of the second act.
If anything good comes from Electro’s abduction from the second act, it’s the line “Let’s go catch a spider”. By this point, the movie has defeated me with its stupidity. I realize there is no winning here and my brain is forced to go into complete shutdown mode. My vital organs somehow still manage to pump life through me as Foxx’s electric voice continues ringing in my ears.
He’s not the only one who gets to hate Spider-Man for no reason! I was a fan of Dane Dehaan’s since Chronicle. There was a certain nuance to the breakdown for the Andrew character in that movie that felt fresh and innovative. Dehaan brings the same energy to Harry Osborn, only it’s completely misguided and uncalculated. From the second Harry goes up onscreen, you know he’s going to end up as a villain. Where’s the establishing conflict? We hear Peter and Harry talk about what great friends they were but apart from one scene, we never see it. A scene of reconciliation between the two orphans and you see the chemistry, it’s just the material that doesn’t live up to the actors.
Dammit, I never thought I’d see Paul Giamatti give a bad performance. This movie sure loves to prove me wrong. A glorified cameo in an opening chase sequence works better than any other scene in the entire movie. There’s a good argument for the chase scene ranking among the 10 best Spider-Man scenes put on film. Unfortunately it’s cut between Gwen’s oblivious foreshadowing speech.
HOPE. TIME. THEMES: Any scene with Spider-Man swinging around New York is actually pretty good. The spider-suit rippling through the air as Garfield quips “Hello, pedestrian!” is quintessential Spider-Man. It’s what makes this 2+ hour affair so disappointing. Beneath unnecessary subplots that include, but are not limited to: Peter’s parents’ mystery leftover from TASM 1, Aunt May’s nursing school, and anything dealing with Electro. There’s a good movie in here. It just never has the time to breathe life into itself.
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are by far the best assets about this cash grab franchise. Well, I guess now just Andrew Garfield, and he’s not wholly a good thing. His Spider-Man is pitch perfect. His Peter Parker… not so much. Peter is just as witty and lively as his Spider-Man persona – albeit, with a more sociopathic attitude as seemingly nothing affects him for any period of time. After Gwen’s death, the movie skims over any character reflection for the sake of ending the movie on a happy note. Not only is that definitively NOT Spidey, it’s poor writing. Gwen is never a great character in these movies to begin with. She’s just a proactive character who is constantly doing something. Whether it relates to the rest of the movie is another story. She also doubles as manic pixie dream girl for the plot to insert in any given situation.
Garfield and Stone look good flirting together, but there’s no reason to care about anything. Like the entire series thus far, they flirt without actually committing to anything. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield deserve better than this.
None of these issues would be too serious if it all meant anything. The movie tries to be about so much, it ends up being about nothing at all. It’s about hope because Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker say it. It’s also about time because the movie opens with a shot of a watch, Richard Parker mentions wanting more time, Gwen Stacy says it in her graduation speech, and the final fight takes place in a clock tower (mind you, the old clock tower is nestled inside a futuristic power plant surrounded by giant electric poles). The movie opens with the cogs in a watch supposed to represent time, but it all feels like clockwork in a machine trying to build a franchise. And this machine is failing.
Final Thoughts, Deleted Scenes, and Drinking Games: Several columns could be written on the problems with this franchise. But there is some good. The shitty aspects are hidden underneath a beautiful exterior. The cinematography is often breathtaking. I imagine the TASM fandom on tumblr will screencap every frame in beautiful Blu-Ray 1080p. I’m personally looking forward to watching the Blu-Ray with a room full of friends. The deleted scenes are tragically, hilariously, terrible. I’m talking Titanic alternate ending levels of awful. Personal favorites: Richard Parker comes back from the dead to tell Peter his mom and Gwen died for nothing, and Harry’s infamous “Isn’t that the question of the day?” line. Watch these if you need a good laugh. This is by no means a good movie, or an ironically entertaining one, it’s so bad it’s good. I can’t wait to place it next to Batman Forever in my movie collection.
If you’re still having trouble processing this movie, why not just drink the problems away? I’ve got you covered with some drinking game ideas. I call them: The Sinister Six
- Take a shot whenever you see a Sony product.
- Drink when someone mentions hope.
- Drink for every time symbolism and the mention of time.
- Drink when Electro has awful dialogue speaks.
- Drink until forced alternative/dubstep music stops playing.
- Drink whenever there’s a reference to the Sinister Six.
Oh, I’ve done it now. I’ve put more thought into this list than both writers, Orci & Kurtzman!