The attempt to add meaning to a meaningless story drags down what could have been a fun movie.
When you make a summer movie, the one thing you don’t want to do is find the middle ground between mindless popcorn flick and a well-scripted quality film. This is what Mark Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 does, and because of this, it’s a complete bore with a couple of good bits thrown in.
The action starts with a flashback scene with Peter Parker’s parents on a fateful plane trip. This continues to set up the big mystery of Spider-Man’s origin, which means that crime against comic book mythology* will continue for another film. Oh boy. After this pointless encounter concludes, we’re next given the best sequence of the entire film, as Spider-Man dips and dives his way through New York City on his way to thwart a gang of Russian mobsters intent on stealing some plutonium. The effects look pretty cartoonish and terrible, but there’s an artfulness to the design that’s impossible to resist. This is Spider-Man being cool, and it is cool.
Unfortunately, the next hour-and-a-half of this movie spends way too long setting up origin stories for the multiple villains in this movie, and their origins are dumb. Really dumb. Electro, played by Jamie Foxx, hates Spider-Man because he gets too much time on the Times Square video screens, as far as I can tell. And Harry Osborn? Well, his story makes absolutely no sense. He needs Spider-Man’s blood? Or a radioactive spider bite? Or both? Or neither? And he teams up with Electro to help him, and then doesn’t wait around to get the help he asks for before he’s off doing something completely different? I don’t know. It’s dumb, makes no sense, and wastes lots of time.
What does work here is every time Spider-Man is out of costume, as played by Andrew Garfield hanging out with Gwen Stacy as played by Emma Stone. They have a nice chemistry, and you start to really like Peter Parker the way he is, creepy stalker stuff notwithstanding. Sally Field as Aunt
Norma Rae Mae is excellent as well — no big surprise — and I wish we spent more time with these characters. This movie has no idea what’s good about it, which frankly isn’t much, but had it focused on the elements that work, it would be better served.
Instead, we get nonsensical villain motivation, characters that are introduced for no reason (Felicity Jones, what are you doing here? You deserve better), and the inevitable setup of the movies to come. In today’s comic book movie world, it’s not enough to make a good movie; you just need to make sure people are excited for the movie to come. Moviegoers shouldn’t accept this, and demand that the movie they’re seeing be good, or at least fun.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t good, and it isn’t fun. It’s just there.
*What is the crime against comic book mythology? It’s that this series of films suggest that only Peter Parker could be Spider-Man, that it was destiny that he became Spider-Man. What was always so great about this character was that any kid could have been bit by a radioactive spider. I used to run around as a kid, wishing some radioactive spider would bite me so I could become Spider-Man. That would have been possible in the comic books, but here, it’s a dead dream.