The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

Posted: April 17, 2014 in Action, Reviews
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THE-AMAZING-SPIDERMAN-SCREENCAPS-00If you are wondering whether The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is as good as the first one, you are asking the wrong question. You should be considering the possibility that the new movie, which opened in Europe this week in advance of its May 2 premiere in the United States, is as bad as Spider-Man 3, the movie that put the stake through the heart of the franchise the first time around. Actually, this latest tale blows past the badness of Spider-Man 3 and winds up in the company of Superman 3 and 4 and both Fantastic Four films as one of the worst major character comic book movies since the modern era began with the Christopher Reeves Superman in 1978. (Catwoman, Daredevil, Elektra, and Ghost Rider are second-tier titles at best and do not merit inclusion in the discussion.)

Every questionable decision taken by director Marc Webb and the screenwriters in the first film fails in the second, beginning with the new origin story that emphasizes Peter Parker’s mother and father, their work on irradiated spiders for Oscorp, and their subsequent death in a plane crash after dumping their son on good ole’ Uncle Ben and Aunt May. The deceased Parkers are back in a big way in this one, beginning with a too long prologue that shows the plane crash and continuing sporadically throughout the film at whatever point a scene is needed to disrupt any sense of suspense or narrative momentum. And the payoff for all this? The audience learns that (MASSIVE NON-SPOILER ALERT) they were killed for the work they did for Oscorp – which is pretty much exactly what we learned in the prologue of the first movie.

Another key mistake in straying from the canon of the original comics is having Oscorp serve as the cradle for all the villains while relegating Norman Osborn, the company founder and original Green Goblin, to a premature death. Jamie Fox is the main threat here as Electro, but with his face bathed in the blue-hue special effect used to indicate surging electricity, while wearing a black hoodie, Electro looks like a cut-rate version of the Emperor from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. At some point, you expect him to cackle, “As you can see, my young apprentice, your friends have failed. Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!” Instead, we get Fox uttering, “Let’s go catch a spider,” with an electromagnetic lisp.

The story is meant to pick up almost exactly where the first left off, showing Peter’s adjustment to his superpowers, while balancing his relationships at home and school. That goes off the rails almost immediately when the script throws Peter (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) back into the “I promised your dead father I wouldn’t see you anymore,” dilemma that was supposedly resolved at the end of the first film. Garfield is a mess here. Neither director Webb nor the screenplay provides enough discipline to keep his performance as focused as it should be. Stone fares better, and kudos to her colorist who does a better job here of capturing the Gwen Stacey comic book look than in the previous film. Stone is a pleasure to watch, but even her plucky performance cannot overcome the awful dialogue and preposterous situations her character is saddled with.

Meanwhile, Paul Giamatti (The Rhino) and Sally Field (Aunt May) are locked in an absolute death match to see who can deliver the most grating, atonal performance of the movie. Giamatti is excruciatingly painful in limited screen time, playing a Russian psychopath with a barbed wire tattoo across his forehead that looks like a half Frankenstein scar, while employing one of the worst accents heard since the advent of sound in the movies and using an acting style best described as cranked-up, brain-damaged meth addict. Not to be outdone, Field completely jettisons any pretense of portraying Peter’s aunt and begins reprising her role as Forrest Gump’s mom. Call it a draw.

Discussion in the weeks after the widespread release of the film will likely center around the decision to return to the source material for a pivotal moment. The fact that it is a seminal event not only in the Spider-Man saga, but also in comic book history, will only fuel the controversy. Given how much of the original story has been rejected in this version of Spider-Man, it seems ill fitting and shortsighted to include the event in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Yet, the movie fails even more it reaches that moment. The humor is not funny, the effects are not special, and the 142-minute run time feels closer to a full three hours. There is no post-credit scene to wait around for (although strangely, there is a mid-credit ad for the new X-Men movie), and no real reason to look forward to The Amazing Spider-Man 3, let alone the Venom or Sinister Six movies that are reportedly under development. This film alone could kill the franchise, and it’s not clear that it would be missed.

One star.

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