By Danny Sarnowski
So..............I don't get it. Perhaps I am honestly just too old or something. I do not understand why, in an era of movies where 20% of the films are based upon comic books, and an era where a film studio is willing to re-boot a franchise less than five years after the last title in the series, the Spider-Man movies keep getting worse. Now, before you say anything, I agree - Spider-Man 3 was truly the worst of the bunch (it being the Batman & Robin of the Spider-Man series). That film, which killed the first set of filmmakers' ability to continue the franchise was horrific. But please trust me, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is almost as bad. Let's call it the Batman Forever of the franchise.
Make no bones about it - this movie was designed to get your money. The marketing has been non-stop and the licensing efforts are dialed up to eleven. This thing was built to sell toys, video games, and Happy Meals. What it wasn't designed to do is entertain moviegoers.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 follows its predecessor and blithely disregards the somber note that movie ended on within the first moments. This movie is for kids, get it?! Spider-Man says silly jokes as he bumps around defeating the bad guys! And he's almost late to graduate high school because he was stopping a theft of plutonium! Oy. It doesn't get much better from there. We are also dropped back into the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. The one he swore to her dying father that he would end (remember that? Me neither). This back and forth, off and on, goes on and on and on and on....It does not get any cuter.
Jamie Foxx, playing the Jim-Carrey-as-The-Riddler role here, hams it up in (what I think was meant to be) a comedic portrayal. His Max Dillon is so lonely and pathetic that he has an imaginary Spider-friend. He is so snivelingly loser-ish that when he asks for basic safety support at work he is told "too bad." His colleagues think so little of him they will honestly not provide bare bones help to make sure he does not die in the office. That, my friends, is feedback. Max should pay attention. Instead, being the brilliant electrical engineer that he is (and we know he is brilliant because he walks the streets of New York burdened by rolled up blue prints and tells anyone who will sit still for a minute that HE designed the new power plant in town) he decides to stand on a wobbly railing, grab a bunch of sparking raw wires, whilst DANGLING OVER A GIANT VAT OF ELECTRIC EELS. You heard me.
Obviously the tragic accident which inevitably follows renders Max a super villain who immediately decides that Spider-Man is a sworn enemy. The movie adds Harry Osborn, the gloomy scion of the brilliant yet wicked Norman Osborn. Dane DeHaan plays even the healthy Harry like a troll. He slithers and slinks around penthouses and boardrooms like an anemic Grinch who is sad because he has too much money. His billionaire playboy haircut also makes him look like Gary Oldman from The Fifth Element. I bet the chicks go wild for it. Later, of course, he will go insane, turn all scaly and gross, declare Spider-Man a sworn enemy, and partner with Electro. Did I mention that Jamie Foxx gives himself a super villain name along the way? No? Huh. He also guesses Spider-Man's secret identity in about three seconds.
Now, this may all sound like a lot of comic book exposition and action-action-action. You may be asking yourself "wait, where is all the high school drama and young love?" Don't worry. About 60% of this movie is dedicated to ridiculous, vapid, overly-dramatic relationships. None of it rings true; all of it is silly. Andrew Garfield, who plays Spider-Man and Peter Parker, must love these scenes. I think he would prefer being in a straight up romantic drama where he can stare pensively, or cry, or listen to dramatic music in his room. Or bicker with his Aunt May about who will do the laundry.
Another 25% of the movie is dedicated to a new and unnecessary back story where we learn what happened to Peter's dead parents. Were any of you wondering what happened to them? Me neither. These excess plot "twists" do not enrich the story. They do, however, lay the ground work for an over-elaborate "mythology." (Reviewer's note: I have not read enough Spider-Man comics in my life to know if this is something from the books or an invention of the several credited screenwriters. Either way, it is just bad writing.) Again, Garfield eats this up. The last movie he spent reeling from his Uncle Ben's death (he seems to barely remember him here). This time he is all-consumed about his parents (p.s. his father apparently hides subway tokens in a concealed compartment inside a graphing calculator - why?!????). The other 15% is devoted to CGI web-slinging and mild action sequences. Most of those involve Spider-Man swinging around streaks of lightning or pure (blue) electricity.
Emma Stone, whom I find charming and extremely funny, gives it her best shot in a stupidly written role. She is funny and sweet and also, I guess, a genius. She is studying "molecular medicine" and, despite having JUST graduated from high school, works in a cubicle at Oscorp. She is close to moving to England to attend Oxford on a scholarship. She also has reviewed the plans for the new power plant in town and - just in case - knows how to re-boot the system. You know, in case that ever comes up.
Marc Webb, who directed the previous film and who has committed to the next one, spends much of his time playing with trick shots, slow-motion, and granting his performers unwarranted amounts of improvisational comedy (none of it lands). He also works to sprinkle "Easter eggs" throughout which will plant the seeds not only for future films but for the already greenlit spin offs focusing on the "Sinister Six" and Venom characters. Sony only has the film rights to the Spider-Man characters. Legally they can just keep making them over and over.
Trivia point - Since Sony owns half of the rights to the James Bond movie Thunderball, which they already re-made once as Never Say Never Again, there was a plan in the late 1990s for them to remake it again. They were planning an entire competing James Bond franchise which could ONLY re-make Thunderball over and over. This honestly almost happened. So...that is Sony.
Finally, Hans Zimmer, the Oscar-winning composer responsible for Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and dozens of other movies, has truly lost his mind. He collaborates with Pharrell Williams and Johnny Marr to produce what has to be one of the weirdest and worst scores in a LONG time.
Also, Paul Giamatti embarrasses himself.
- There is literally one funny moment that Emma Stone must have improvised. I laughed a little bit.
What didn't work:
- Everything else.
- Any scene in which "real New Yorkers" demonstrate their support of, and love for, "'Ol Web Head."
- Most of the time when two or more characters say something to one another. Or when they pensively pace around rooms. Or throw stuff. Or solve mysteries.
This movie is one I will never forget. And for that I will always be regretful.
As an action-adventure film designed to thrill and delight the audience: D-