Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I recently read an interview with author and music critic Carl Wilson about the new version of his 2007 book. During the interview Wilson makes some interesting points about the dissolve of “taste” and how nowadays, almost every album, or in this case movies, has a specified audience in mind. Even though the interview focused on music criticism, much of the points being made could be transcribed to any type of art critique. What I got from it, was something I had already been practicing for a while now, which is trying to think art on less of an almighty scale, and more of a turn by turn basis. I try to keep this in mind during my own reviews. Basically, keep an open mind, because you never know what strange genre might be just your thing.

Now, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t in some obscure genre. In fact it’s geared at one of the widest possible audiences around right now, the comic book blockbuster fan base. With Captain America: The Winter Soldier ranking highly on my list of super hero films already, and the summer movie season upon us, I was fairly excited about the prospect of a new web-slinging adventure. After all, it’s been a slow first quarter, and audiences are hungry for some spectacle.

Well, if spectacle is all you are looking for, then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 may be right up your alley. If you are looking for strong story telling, innovation, or originality, you may want to look elsewhere. The film takes place sometime after the events of the first film (which I enjoyed for the most part). Peter is still fighting crime as Spider-Man, he is dating Gwen Stacy, and he is still attempting to unravel the mystery of his parents and their death. After the obligatory opening action sequence, things start to degrade rather quickly. Peter breaks things off with Gwen Stacy, which triggers a series of god awful romance scenes that made me groan each and every time. For whatever reason, the chemistry between Garfield and Stone wasn’t all there. I’m guessing it had to do with the ridiculously cheesy lines they were forced to spit at one another, but it could just be the sort of heartless nature the whole film possesses.

This heartless nature is summed up quite nicely by Harry Osborn, played by the fantastic and budding Dane DeHaan. Harry is following in his now late father’s footsteps, both in sickness and in evil intent. It’s a shame that they made this Harry Osborn come off as such a petty douche bag. In the original film, Harry was a central part of Peter Parker’s life, a best friend and future rival. In this film, however, he’s reduced to something of a one dimensional side character villain who pops up when Spidey is getting the best of our main villain, Electro. Played by the ridiculously cast Jamie Foxx, who does one of the most interestingly bizarre acting jobs in recent memory, his character is so comic bookish that he may have actually worked had the rest of the film shared his sense of camp and humor.

The biggest issue that faces The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is exactly what plagued Spider-Man 3 years ago. That is a combination of sloppy scripting, off-kilter pacing, and, worst of all, villain overcrowding. That last one is a major problem facing super hero films lately. The mythology just doesn’t fit into the American-approved 150 minute or less runtime. It’s not that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a terrible movie. It’s just that it succumbs to some easily avoidable super hero cliches that most sequels should be looking to divert. One particularly annoying aspect was a tacked on “possible” plane colliding sequence that seemed so out of place it was actually distracting. Not to mention the horrible final scene featuring Paul Giamatti as Rhino, a character that had literally no business being in this film, other than to give hope for inevitable sequels. The whole part with Giamatti could have been cut and we’d have never known the difference.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the film being underdeveloped and overdeveloped at the same time. The plot is undercooked, but the action is so over the top that it actually looks bad in some parts. I know earlier films needed CGI for certain feats to be possible, but this movie was so conspicuous about its SFX use that it was impossible not to tell what was real and what was generated. Sorry, but for me it’s just not as satisfying seeing CGI Spidey twist and turn in slow motion. Going back to what I said earlier, it’s heartless, stale even. I won’t say the movie bored me all the time, but I closed my eyes more than once during the film, and that’s never a good thing. Immediately following the movie, I probably would have written a scathing review, letting my emotions get the better of me, but after letting the film settle in and taking a closer look at it, I can safely say that while it isn’t a complete disaster, it’s far from the heights this series, and character has seen. See it in theaters if you are a major fan, otherwise I’d wait for video on this one!

Grade = C