Mosaic / Reviews / May 7, 2014

Little amazement in ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’

By now most are aware that the only reason we have another Spidey reboot is due to the fact that Sony Pictures had to snatch up the rights and crank out some quick movies before Disney claimed them. Did we need a reboot? No. Did we get one? Unfortunately.

I’m a big fan of the early 2000s Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” films. Well, excluding the horrendous “Spider-Man 3,” but that’s a given. The first two are fantastically fun and, for lack of a better term, gleefully “comic book-ish.” They effectively capture the fun of Spider-Man the smart aleck and, while there was a fair amount of flaws, they were memorable. I would watch “Spider-Man 2” any day.

So, in light of the success of the campy Spidey, “The Amazing Spider-Man” director Mark Webb was smart to approach the web-slinger from a different angle. He went into the reboot with the intent of pleasing fans of the original comic books, focusing on more deaths than just Uncle Ben.

Having gotten the origin story out of the way (again), “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was allotted the coveted “filler” spot of the superhero trilogy. There’s no need for beginnings or end – just the delicious cream filling.

The story begins with Peter Parker’s parents’ missing story from the first film. The new information is interesting, if a little lackluster for the starting point. Thankfully we transition to a spider symbol as Spider-Man free-falls between New York skyscrapers, presumably getting ready for some web action. I will give this movie one thing: The flight cinematography is killer. Then again, few things are cooler than watching someone shoot webs and fly through a city. It’s objectively awesome.

Spider-Man is crime fighting, per usual, and he’s late for his high school graduation, as his girlfriend so kindly reminds him on the phone. The banter between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, played respectively by Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, is adorable and almost startlingly realistic.

Peter shows up in the nick of time to graduate high school after missing Gwen’s valedictorian speech. These “high school” grads could easily be graduating college. As much as we like to marvel over Andrew Garfield’s boyish grin, there is no trace of believable teen there anymore. Same goes for Stone. But they’re adorable so I’ll give.

Cut to Jamie Foxx’s character, Max, a bumbling electrician who gets bullied at work. He’s a big fan of Spider-Man and aspires to be his best friend. Shockingly, the undervalued harassed employee lands in a tank of eels at Oscorp. It happens. He wakes up to discover that he has the ability to control electricity and uses that power to wreck havoc on New York City. The electric King Kong thing sounds thrilling, but I miss the menace of Alfred Molina’s Doc Oc in Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2.” I have a thing for crafty, complicated villains. And I would venture a guess to say that I’m not alone.

That being said, the action sequences are stunning. The fluorescent lights of Times Square as they spark and shatter invite “oohs and ahhs” similar to reactions at a fireworks show.

I could continue to exposit, but the film does quite enough of that. Co-writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci crafted a screenplay that smells of tedious work. There is no imagination or wit — no Spider-Man spontaneity. Each line feels contrived, even though the talented cast does as much as they can. Sally Field in particular has a heartbreaking monologue as Aunt May expresses her motherly love for Peter and sadness at the absence of her late husband. The fact that there are such talented performers at work in this film makes the lack of solid material that much more palpable.

There’s a lot of material, and it’s quite obviously too much. One villain is shoehorned in for a scene that comic book fans will recognize, and he was so obviously shoved into the mix that I couldn’t help but wish for a classic one-villain flick. Paul Giamatti is even thrust in as the Rhino! For a grand total of 10 minutes of screen time! Yes, it’s very weird.

The romance between Peter and Gwen is the movie’s core. The off-screen romance between Garfield and Stone translates perceptibly in their interactions and comfort. There is a particularly distressing scene featuring the two of them, and while it could have been done better, I still shed a few tears. I guess that’s all I can say in summation of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” It’s very poorly written, with an overabundance of villains and unnecessary plot digressions, but the cast shines. Webb does what he can with what he has, just as his players do, and I hate to write off his reboot entirely; the guy’s last name is Webb for Peter’s sake.

Tags:  Andrew Garfield Emma Stone gwen stacey Marvel mary jane peter parker the amazing spider-man 2

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