Review: 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' Regresses Comic Book Films 20 Years
by Jeremy Kirk
May 2, 2014
Meanwhile over at Sony's take on the Marvel cinematic universe, things have gotten ugly. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rides a high wave of comic book fandom in the movie world, but that doesn't mean it carries with it the same weight or impact we've seen recently. The first film of this ill-timed reboot was worthless, a cheap retread over familiar territory that added little to the Spider-Man universe. The sequel, however, is littered with moments and ideas that bring about some very genuine emotion. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between, and instead of getting something fun, fresh, or original, we are bombarded by the same cartoonish tropes and over-the-top performances that nearly killed the comic book movie in the 1990s. Congratulations, Marc Webb, some comparisons to Joel Schumacher are in order.
But while he'll inevitably get the blame for how messy and rancid this film is, director Webb is far from the primary culprit working against The Amazing Spider-Man 2. On the contrary, the way this movie looks is one of its top selling points. Digital effects have come a long way since Sam Raimi gave us his version of the webslinger. In 2014, we're able to flawlessly jump from skyscraper to skyscraper, giving chase to criminals with the superhero and enjoying the thrilling views. The camera work and action scattered throughout The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is quality.
It's the multitude of villains, the poorly conceived drama surrounding our central hero, and the complete lack of cohesion going on in Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci's screenplay that quickly put the brakes on this film's excitement. That "multitude of villains" is chiefly made up of Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro and Dane DeHaan as this film's take on Harry Osborne/Green Goblin. Evidently, James Franco didn't get the job done well enough. While that's only two villains, the amount of time given to each of them in this 140-minute movie is staggering and cumbersome. That's not saying anything about the way their handled. Foxx's villain is in full-on Jim Carrey/Ridler mode. His backstory of loneliness and obsession with Spider-Man, who has saved his life, might be more interesting if Foxx weren't hamming it up left and right. The dub step that seems to permeate the world whenever he's pissed off doesn't help matters either.
I've gone this long without discussing the film's actual synopsis, but to write it out would be to hit every comic book plot-point we've discussed a dozen times over the past 15 years. Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is in that ever-present struggle between doing what's best for his city and what's best for the health of his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Her personal health is a constant point of concern for the hero, as well, as he's continuously haunted by the ghost of her father (Denis Leary) whose life Spider-Man failed to save.
Also Parker is continuing his search for the truth about his missing scientist father. Also Harry Osborne, a childhood friend of Parker's, comes to town and learns of a very rare disease he's inherited from his dying father. Also the thing with Electro trying to short out half the city. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 bounces between these storylines with all the finesse of a mechanical rhino.
Speaking of which, did I mention Paul Giamatti? He also pops up a couple of times as a Russian gangster, extremely heavy on the Russian. If Foxx's insane performance goes to 11, Giamatti's craziness doesn't even register a number. You can't blame the actor (neither can you blame Foxx) since the driving idea behind this follow-up seems to be bigger, bigger, bigger and more, more, more. The fact that Giamatti is barely in the film is evidence to just how much shit Webb and his crew tried to pack in here.
It has to be mentioned that this lack of development on most aspects to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 completely kills any chance it has of utilizing its greatest asset, that being Sally Field in the role of Peter's Aunt May. It's not surprising that Field can carry the weight of any role, and she delivers in this film with full-on strength and range. She even finds a way to slip in some restraint now and a gain. What's surprising are the little moments of character between her and Garfield in this film, little beats or lines of dialogue in the screenplay that could have easily been stretched to an interesting subplot. The fact that her character has taken on a night-shift job at a hospital and feels compelled to keep her outfit a mystery from her nephew creates a really interesting dynamic between the two. Unfortunately, it's completely gets lost in the dumpster fire swirling up around it.
At least seeming to attempt to keep up with all the plotlines going on is Garfield, who's always been a solid choice to take on the lead of this franchise. It's a good-news-bad-news situation that he seems to give his character a different persona for each of the villains/mysteries/dramas he's facing this time around. He's trying. Really, he is. Fortunately, he's talented enough of an actor to switch gears with ease, trading quips and punches with Foxx as effortlessly as he drops cuteness and tears when he's around Field or Stone. In another world, Garfield would have been the shining star of a quality slate of Spider-Man films. Unfortunately, those films aren't hear and now.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will surely be hit with a barrage of "Worst Comic Book Movie of All-Time" hate, and, to an extent, it deserves some of it. That's not to say that it IS the worst comic book movie ever made, far from it. There's an idea of a good Spider-Man movie tucked inside this God-awful mess of a film. There are several ideas for several good Spider-Man movies in here, to be fair. Sadly, nothing about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gels, and the unfortunate mess that results from too may cooks being in the kitchen is one of the most horrendous seen recently. It almost makes you yearn for Tobey Maguire to show up wearing black and nailing a dance number. Almost.
Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10
Follow Jeremy on Twitter - @JeremyKKirk