I have to be honest; I was really hoping for this film to be absolutely atrocious. When I heard that they were once again placing three villains into one Spider-Man movie, I actually got angry. I was angry that this rebooted series, which kicked off to an alright start in 2012, was already getting greedy with the amount of stories that they were trying to execute within a 2-hour window. I was angry that they were taking one of my favorite superheroes and trying to milk him for profits instead of actually making a quality work of art. My anger made me hate this movie before I even saw it; I was hoping that it would be dragged through the mud by both critics and fans alike, and that it would be declared a failure of Uwe Boll proportions.
Now, after seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I have to admit that it isn’t quite as bad as I had hoped. At worst, it’s mediocre.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is, of course, the sequel to 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. I could spend my time and word count recapping that film, but I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a soul in the Western world who doesn’t know Spider-Man’s origin story. This film begins with our hero, played once again by Andrew Garfield, in the classic superhero dilemma of crime-fighting versus girlfriend, as his after school activities take up precious time that he could spend with Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. Meanwhile, an Oscorp worker named Max Dillon, played by Jaime Foxx, falls into a vat of electric eels and soon becomes this film’s supervillain, Electro. The mishmash of a plot continues as we are introduced to Harry Osborn, who we are expected to believe is Peter’s best friend despite the complete lack of his presence in the previous film. Before long, Harry, of course, becomes the Green Goblin, and Peter’s problems increase right up to the film’s end.
As I said above, the film isn’t all bad. There were some things that I was pleasantly surprised by. When I heard about this film’s announcement, I thought that Jaime Foxx as Electro was going to be one of the silliest things ever to be in a comic book movie. As it turns out, Electro was my favorite part of the entire film. The direction and cinematography during Electro’s battles with Spidey were fantastic, and the audience really got the feel of the destruction that Foxx’s character was creating. Electro can also travel through several different objects that conduct electricity, which made him even more terrifying and unstoppable. I was very impressed by both the character of Electro and Foxx’s performance, and if I had to pick my favorite thing from the film, he would be it.
The film also had a few other high points. In addition to Jamie Foxx, both Garfield and Stone did a great job in their roles, and made for a great on-screen pairing. Without giving away any spoilers, I will say that there is a part toward the end of this movie that was so expertly crafted that it almost made the rest of the movie worth sitting through. There were also some great action scenes with Spidey swinging through the city, something that I enjoyed greatly in Raimi’s films. Like in most modern films, the special effects were great, and I was very happy that the filmmakers took a page out of Pacific Rim’s book and used shots that had a longer duration so that we could get a good look at the action.
Unfortunately, great special effects without an effective dramatic narrative just make for an expensive light show. As I predicted, the film had a very overcrowded feel to it. Because of this, the progression of events in the film didn’t make very much sense simply because the filmmakers were trying to cram so many stories into the time allotted. As soon as Foxx’s character gains his superpowers, he becomes a villain. Why? At a certain point in the film, Peter is far more interested in finding out about his parents’ disappearance than he is in fighting crime. Again, why? The leaps from one scene to the next just don’t make for a sound, concise story. Even at the end of the movie when I thought that things were finally wrapped up, out comes Paul Giamatti in the Rhino suit for the last five minutes of the film. This scene was the moldy cherry on top of this jumbled up mess of a plot, and left me walking out of the theater with a sour taste in my mouth.
As far as the script, I liked about 50% of it. There was quite a bit of good humor in the film, especially from Garfield and Stone’s characters. Beyond that, however, there weren’t very many memorable moments in the film. I remember being a young teen walking out of the first two Raimi Spider-Man films being able to quote several lines from both the heroes and villains; I’m afraid that I couldn’t do that with this movie. On top of that, the script in this movie committed one of the Cardinal sins of screenwriting: clunky exposition. There were several times in the film that two characters would talk to each other saying things that both of them already knew, almost as if they knew that there was an audience watching. I almost felt insulted during these scenes, as if I was too dumb to figure out what was going on in the film for myself.
My final complaint with this movie is that I didn’t like Dane Dehaan in it at all. I liked Chronicle and Metallica: Through the Never (although I would’ve preferred that one to just be a live concert film without narrative), but I just didn’t like him as Harry Osborn. The delivery of his lines and the tone of his voice left me begging for James Franco.
When will filmmakers learn that cramming too much into a comic book film just makes for a bad time? Didn’t we learn anything from Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand? Why do they continue to do this? It can’t be a money issue; comic-based films are some of the highest-grossing movies out there right now, and spreading these stories out across several different movies would mean more money. Okay, so is fan service the reason then? If so, that certainly backfires every time; fans love seeing their favorite characters on screen, but when they’re given only fifteen minutes each, it really does more to upset them than to entertain. Even though I didn’t completely hate this film, I still hope that an example can be made of it to prove that crowded comic-based movies don’t work. I’d like to rename this film The Mediocre Spider-Man 2, and I sure won’t be swingin’ back into theaters to see it again anytime soon.