Genre: Action and Adventure
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field
Release Date: May 2nd, 2014
In 2012, click Marc Webb did something nearly-impossible. He successfully rebooted a solid franchise that had only been cinematically dormant for a few short years. After three Tobey Maguire features about the webbed hero, Webb presented a new film— entitled “The Amazing Spider-Man”— featuring a new origin story with many of the same beats as Maguire’s original Spiderman (2002).
Fortunately for Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man struck a cord and worked better than the 2002 version, leading to massive success at the box office. Lacking the low expectations that its predecessor received though, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 misfires and offers up a more cartoonish and silly story that features more villains than necessary and more plotholes than you can count.
Andrew Garfield returns as the title character with Emma Stone starring as love interest Gwen Stacy. Spider-Man (whose regular personality is that of recent high school graduate Peter Parker) is still haunted by the events of the events of this film’s predecessor. Gwen’s late father (Denis Leary, appearing briefly here) explicitly warned Parker to stay away from Gwen but as we saw at the end of that feature, Parker ultimately ignored that advice.
Parker still feels some anxiety about his relationship with Stacy and despite the smiles to the contrary, still questions whether or not he should stay with her. Those anxieties often come to the forefront when Spider-Man is faced with new threatening opponents. Oscar-nominated Paul Giamatti, who seems out-of-place in this mediocre feature, appears briefly here as the first villain on the agenda– a Russian terrorist who gets pantsed by the hero. The major villain though is Max (Jamie Foxx), an Oscorp employee who is killed in an accident at work but ultimately comes back to life with the power to use electricity as his weapon of choice.
In his rebirth, Max becomes Electro, a needy monster who slowly turns to vengeance when he feels betrayed by Spider-Man. In many ways, Electro feels like a lesser version of Dr. Octupus (who helped make the second Spider-Man feature so memorable). Max doesn’t start out as a bad guy— in fact, he’s just a lowly employee looking for a friend before the accident— but when he gains his powers, his anxieties turn to anger and that brings him to vengeance.
In so doing, he loses his humanity— something that Dr. Octupus lost during Spider-man 2 but, in one of that story’s high points, eventually sought to regain. Max, on the other hand, strays to the dark side and seemingly never looks back to who he once was.
The Amazing Spider-Man excelled because it offered a fresh look at the characters and the story. Where The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffers is that it falls into the doldrums of superhero films and never seeks to be anything more. Electro is a superficial villain who loses his personality early on to become a standard bad guy. The secondary storyline featuring Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), which had much more potential than Max’s story, seemingly makes no sense as Harry discovers that he’s dying from a disease his father dies from as an older man (why Harry is suffering early on never really becomes clear).
There’s a certain lack of coherency to the whole proceeding. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 never seems clear on where it’s going and stumbles from plotline to plotline and from character to character hoping for something to hang onto. Webb, who uses slow motion here to show what he’s capable of, seems too assured of himself for a movie with such obvious weaknesses.
Yes, he successfully rebooted a franchise last time but the greater challenge will be in maintaining the story’s momentum and creating something more memorable than this forgettable sequel.
Review by: John Hanlon