The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Spin City

Rating: **1/2

| May 02, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
**1/2
DIRECTED BY Mark Webb
STARS Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone

SWINGER: Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
  • SWINGER: Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)

The screen settles on a depressed teen, and through some deft editing and camerawork, we watch as this brooding protagonist remains in the exact same position even as the months fly by and the previously bare ground is now covered with snow. The person in question is ... Bella Swan, and the movie is 2009's The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Now, we have Peter Parker in essentially the exact same setup in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and it's a delicious irony: A superhero flick, the sort adored by fanboys everywhere, is stealing from The Twilight Saga, a franchise abhorred by these same gaggle of guys? Say it ain't so, Mark Webb!

Then again, what should we expect from a franchise that was rebooted simply for financial gain? The cobwebs hadn't even settled on Tobey Maguire's Spidey suit before Marvel and Sony elected to return to their lucrative cash cow by offering a new series a mere five years after the original trilogy came to a close. Consequently, the rush job known as The Amazing Spider-Man suffered in comparison to the films (at least the first two) helmed by Sam Raimi and starring a perfectly cast Maguire as everyone's favorite wall-crawler. The problems with the reboot could be found front and center with the casting of Andrew Garfield; as I wrote in my original review, "Suddenly, Peter Parker is no longer the ultimate outsider, the self-deprecating, geeky kid who locates the hero buried within. Now, he's the poster boy for the iPhone generation, a surly hipster who, oh yeah, just happens to also be a superhero. ... The actor tries his hardest, but when it looks as if Peter Parker just stepped out of a GQ photo shoot (right down to the perfectly coiffed hair), it's hard to take him seriously as someone who's perpetually ignored by girls and harassed by guys."

For all its problems — the lack of a vibrant human dimension, a weak villain in The Lizard, the casting of Forrest Gump's mom as Peter's Aunt May — the film wasn't a complete debacle; on the contrary, it was adequate summer-movie filler, the type that's best to catch when the other options are an afternoon peeling off sunburnt skin or an evening suffering through the latest Adam Sandler comedy. Still, with such efforts as The Avengers and The Dark Knight Trilogy upping the ante, the movie felt comparatively puny, a designation that also applies to this latest entry. Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 offers a slight improvement over its predecessor, but not enough that we can feel excited about the future of this franchise.

The best component of TAS-M2 is the developing relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). The character of Gwen often felt like an afterthought in the previous installment, but not here. Instead, Webb and his quartet of writers take care to establish the bond between the lovebirds, and Garfield and Stone both do exemplary jobs of conveying the feelings and frustrations of their star-crossed lovers. With this romance landing in the pole position of the positives, the runner-up slot goes to the casting of Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon, a lowly and lonely engineer who's eventually transformed into the powerful and destructive Electro. Foxx brings genuine pathos to the character of Max/Electro, who in some ways brings to mind Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (right down to his siphoning of vast amounts of electricity), and even as the character's villainy grows, Foxx ensures that he never completely loses audience sympathy.

Paul Giamatti as the Rhino (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
  • Paul Giamatti as the Rhino (Photo: Columbia Pictures)

Electro is a compelling enough villain that he could have benefitted from more screen time; unfortunately, the film suffers the same fate as Raimi's Spider-Man 3 by cramming too many villains into the proceedings. Not even counting the peripheral baddies — Colm Feore's slick businessman, Marton Csokas' mad scientist, Chris Cooper's corrupt Norman Osborn — there's overkill in also including both the Green Goblin (although Dane DeHaan is effective as his alter ego, Harry Osborn) and the Rhino (the usually reliable Paul Giamatti is practically unwatchable in a part that makes one long for the days of Topher Grace's Venom). As for the effects that bring our superhero and his nemeses to life, they curiously run hot and cold, hearkening back to the shaky visuals of Raimi's first Spider-Man flick rather than the more accomplished work seen in its two sequels as well as in this film's predecessor. Of course, it also doesn't help that Webb maddeningly plays around with the tools of the trade with the reckless abandon of a pubescent kid discovering his own pecker, slowing down many shots to the point of absurdity.

Otherwise, it's business as usual, including the obligatory Stan Lee cameo. The appearances by the Marvel mastermind have always been treats in other superhero sagas — they're comparable to the sightings of Alfred Hitchcock in his pictures — but here the filmmakers just toss the poor old man out there, not even trying to distinguish his fleeting moment with any semblance of wit or innovation. When even the legendary Stan Lee gets swept aside, it's obvious that the cash register has replaced the comic book as the main source of inspiration.

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The Spider-Score So Far

It's pretty much guaranteed that any superhero flick these days is going to score big at the box office and earn positive reviews from at least the online critics (many of whom tend to be younger fanboys), but even with these caveats, it will be interesting to see how The Amazing Spider-Man 2 fares. Overall, though, the two films in the series reboot haven't done as well as Sam Raimi's original trilogy.

Spider-Man (2002)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89% Fresh

Box Office Gross: $403 million

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94% Fresh

Box Office Gross: $373 million

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63% Fresh

Box Office Gross: $336 million

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73% Fresh

Box Office Gross: $262 million

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 54% Rotten

Box Office Gross: ??

Sources: Rotten Tomatoes and Box Office Mojo. Figures as of May 2, 2014.

Jamie Foxx as Electro (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
  • Jamie Foxx as Electro (Photo: Columbia Pictures)

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Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

"Long for the days of Topher Grace's Venom?" You should probably just go ahead and kill yourself.

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Posted by Bradley Caine on 05/04/2014 at 12:50 AM

My sarcastic point being that Giamatti's Rhino is even worse, not that Grace's Venom was actually good. But thanks for the attempt!

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Posted by Matt Brunson on 05/04/2014 at 1:30 AM

Finally. The problem isn't that the movie sucks, it's that it doesn't suck enough. I appreciate that at least one critic understands the REAL motivation behind these movies... not love for the character, pushing the envelope on superhero movies (like Man of Steel did with its "first encounter" plot line), but pure greed. And with AS-M2 doing well overseas, they will continue to make these sub-par movies. I couldn't stand Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. Emma is Emma and she was good, in her own way. (Better than Dunst ever was) But the Lizard as the main bad guy and talking like he's as smart as Doc Connors? His evil plan is to turn NYC into Lizard City? He reveals his secret identity on the first date? He takes off his mask every time he wants to convey a strong feeling, regardless of where he is?

After watching the debacle known as AS-M, I went back and rewatched Spider-Man. My initial critique that Garfield took off his mask too often turned out to be false. Tobey took his mask off too much as well. It's as if these actors can't emote with a mask on. (hint: it's about inflection and tone, people!) But Tobey at least struggled to maintain his secret identity.

All in all, I wanted this movie to FAIL!! Like Batman & Robin FAIL! But it won't. It will make them just enough money to feel like it was a worthwhile venture and make another one. Hopefully, that one will do so bad to end the franchise so it reverts to Marvel Studios. Watching these soul-less movies erode my favorite superhero character's popularity is depressing and I will not watch this one. Like the remake of Clash of the Titans, these movies aren't worth my money.

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Posted by obscureinfo on 05/05/2014 at 8:06 PM
Showing 1-3 of 3

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