There's No Untangling The Messy Web That Is The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Let's just put it out there: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a major, major, major disappointment.
I'm not one to really flat-out hate too many movies to be honest, but, really, I hated this film completely. There are just so many ignorant and ridiculous things that happen in it. It's frustrating as hell.
Thing is, it doesn't have to be. In the film's defense, it looks really damn good — better than any previous Spider-Man film, for sure. The CGI is top-notch, too — some of the best ever seen in a comic-book movie. Also? To our hero's credit, Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), is quite active throughout the whole damn thing. He spins through the air, high above buildings, slinging through New York and just generally doing his Spidey thing. The action, meanwhile, is plentiful. The film is packed full of fights, flying cars and buildings both blowing up and crumbling. Visually, it’s electrifying.
This is Spider-Man like you've never seen him before: He’s cool with the police, he makes jokes while in costume (um, he's kind of a wiseass, actually), he high-fives a lot of people and pretty much every civilian loves him.
He's a really swingin' guy. Your friendly neighborhood… well, you know the rest.
A lot of that swagger comes from Garfield. He's no Tobey Maguire, who played the role far more straight-laced, but Garfield does fine work as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He's sassy and witty — a fitting superhero for the millenial generation, really.
The chemistry between Garfield and Emma Stone registers, too. As Spidey romantic interest Gwen Stacy, Stone really nails showing how much Gwen loved Peter Parker — and not because he can save the day when bad guys are around. Their sparks feel real, and they explode on screen.
So, OK, those are the good things.
As for the bad things? They're everywhere else, and they're so abundant that they totally bog down the good.
The story itself is a mess — an incoherent tale that feels largely incomplete. Weird, since director Marc Webb (the director) proved himself a great storyteller with 500 Days of Summer and then flashed it again in this reboot's first go.
What went wrong here, then? Tough to say, but the script, courtesy of TV vet Jeff Pinkner (Fringe) and Transformers co-scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci probably didn't help.
Here's what they gave Webb to play with.
Gwen still works at Oscorp, apparently none too concerned that a man-turned-GIANT-LIZARD who also once worked there tried to murder her in the first film and actually succeeded in killing her father. Whatever, she’s ambitious and really wants to work in the field of science — although it's never made quite clear what she really does, research-wise. Also not clear? Why Oscorp has yet to hire decent security to protect billion-dollar, life-saving research.
Must be difficult to get good help these days.
Anyway, Daddy Stacy's dying wish was that Peter leave Gwen alone so that she could stay safe and out of trouble. In this sequel, his ghost even pops up to hammer that point home. So Peter walks away. Well, for a minute. The heart wants what the heart wants. Until it doesn't and the ghost comes back and Peter walks away once more.
It's very weird and it's very awkward. But it's hardly the worst part of this script.
Example: Spider-Man saves Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) in the beginning of the film, keeping an out-of-control truck from turning him into roadkill. Dillon is a nobody electrician at Oscorp, as is painfully obvious from his stereotypically bad dress and awful hair. Nobody likes him, and his boss (B.J. Novak) is a complete jerk. But when Spider-Man saves Dillon, he calls Max by his first name — it's on the I.D. card pinned to his chest — and that just makes Max so excited. Nobody ever remembers his name! So he becomes obsessed with Spider-Man, but, like, in a good way. Max now has a friend, right? Nope: When an unfortunate accident at Oscorp fries Max's human flesh and skeleton, he turns into a veiny, hollow blue guy with enough electricity in his body to do a lot of damage. Thus, Electro is born. And when Electro has his first mental meltdown and Spider-Man swings in to help calm him down, the budding friendship falls apart because Spider-Man forget Max's name. Naturally, this means Spider-Man is now Electro's sworn enemy, despite our hero's attempts to the contrary.
But we still have two more villains, neither of whom makes much sense or needs to be in the film at all.
First, there's Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan), who shows back up after being sent off to boarding school for reasons unknown. He turns evil thanks to his intimidating father (a typically solid Chris Cooper), who just so happens to be dying. On his deathbed, he drops a bomb on Harry: Their family genes are cursed with some kind of flesh-eating plague, and it'll soon make Harry its next meal. What Harry needs is Spider-Man's blood. Y'know, to live. Thus, the Green Goblin is born.
His fellow bad guy, Rhino, also has backstory issues. In the beginning of the film, a batshit insane Russian criminal named Aleksei Sytevich (a fully wasted Paul Giamatti) is wrecking the city in a big truck with some good stuff in the back when Spider-Man stops him. Then he disappears until the end of the film, when he shows up in a suit seemingly made specifically to piss off the comic book diehards and gives Spider-Man a final battle to deal with. Just because.
Listen: One of the many great things about Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise was how long we got to see the villains. We got to know them. Their intentions made sense, even if they were immoral and wrong. In Spider-Man 2, the villains are each given a big moment to shine in and then — POOF! — it's on to the next one.
And that's a shame. Part of what's so exciting about comic-to-feature adaptations is that audiences are afforded the chance to watch the new villains grow and steal the show. But even with Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx playing him, a lack of screentime turns Electro into just another one-note villain for Spider-Man to take out too quickly.
And you've got to blame the director for that, right? Sure, it's cute that his last name works as a pun for the franchise, but Marc Webb, who did OK enough the first in this reboot, is outgunned here. Sure, the script is a mess — the plot blows, the one-liners are aggravating and the overall scope is too broad — but, in the end, it's the director's responsible to notice that.
Seriously: How did all of the wink-at-the-audience one-liners not even get on Webb's nerves? When Peter tells Harry that he's been doing “some web design” lately, it's not remotely funny or clever. It's a character with a secret identity giving too clear a hint at who he is. Maybe this over-the-top playfulness works in the comics. But on film? Nope. Each wink and nudge just adds to the mess pile that is The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
If there's something in this film that needs saving, it's the film itself. And that's an order above even Spidey.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in theaters tonight.