The Amazing Spider-Man 2 film review
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, Chris Cooper, Sally Field, BJ Novak, Dane DeHaan, Felicity Jones, Campbell Scott, Denis Leary
Alex Kurtzman, Jeff Pinker and Roberto Orci
CRITIC’S RATING: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
Marvel Comics’ favorite webslinger is back to his crime-fighting ways as he boldly claims to be amazing but the consensus is anything but what it is advertised in actuality. One could probably label the aptly named director Marc Webb’s comic book caper The Anemic Spider-Man 2 but then again this movie title would not go over too well in the film’s press releases. So in settling with Webb’s overstuffed superhero saga The Amazing Spider-Man 2 you are automatically conditioned to use your own Spidey senses to embrace another repetitive round of the webhead’s angst-ridden heroism. It is so regrettable to say that Spider-Man 2’s half-spun crime-stopping shenanigans gets caught up clumsily within its own tangled web.
Naturally, Webb was brought on board to reboot the new Spider-Man film franchise back in 2012 after many profitable years of Marvel’s beloved costumed wall-crawler being under the Sam Raimi-directed/Tobey Maguire-acted regime. Webb started off effectively with 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man that had introduced a relatively unknown Andrew Garfield to don the red and blue tights and assume the radioactive skin of the iconic web-spinning wonder. Sure, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 definitely has its share of impish fun, romantic flourishes and overall escapist kicks. However, Webb’s comic fantasy actioner also feels relentlessly jumbled, spotty and recycled. The problem is that Spider-Man 2 shows no ounce of growth or distinction from what was presented previously. The movie giddily stacks up on its villainy quotient and the story-line weaves in a combination of familiar faces and new blood all thrown in to concoct an adventurous blockbuster soup of suspense. Still, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 assumes an ultra-bloated look and tediously tip toes into the territory of cliched super-powered comic book cads with a manufactured chip on their shoulders. As a big-budgeted production, the CGI special effects and visual sheen is an eye-popping spectacle but the complacent plots are somewhat crippling and scattershot.
For Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Garfield), his existence continues to be a roller-coaster of highs and lows. As the crafty and wise-cracking Spider-Man, Parker seems to be enjoying his crime-fighting duties and rescuing tactics. And why not? After all, the entire city loves him to death as he is revered very highly. The movie basically delves into gentle slapstick with Spider-Man’s ability to save the day with quirky embellishment. Once a pariah to city officials and other notables good ole Spidey seems to be basking in a renewed realm of confidence and appreciation.
However, once that web-covered mask is off Parker’s noggin the inner conflict consumes the lovable geek to no end. The mysterious parental abandonment concerning Peter’s scientist father Richard Parker and his mother (played by Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) as shown in a flashback scene via a fatal plane trip has the young conflicted guy still trying to cope with such loss since his toddler days. Peter looks to his Aunt May (Sally Field) for emotional insight regarding his perished parents from yesteryear. Other guilt placed on Peter’s shoulders concerns his precious relationship with love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, Garfield’s real-life main squeeze off camera). Peter becomes quite wishy-washy about his love for Gwen and fears for her safety so he breaks up with her only to go back to her then repeats the same process. The source of Peter’s off-and-on romance with Gwen is triggered by the promise of her late police captain father (Denis Leary) that held him accountable to keep his distance from his daughter so that she does not get in harm’s way. It is quite clear that Mr. Parker has a lot on his plate to contemplate but his psychological struggles with his departed folks and cautionary affections for Gwen will soon take a backseat to more pressing Spider-Man-oriented business at large.
Soon, Spider-Man must contend with a trio of terrifying troublemakers in the ominous and freakish forms of Electro (Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx), Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and Rhino (Paul Giamatti). It is during the epic battle with Russian gangster Aleksei Sytsevich-turned-Rhino that Spider-Man saves the appreciative Oscorp electrician energy worker Max Dillon from his doom. Instantly, Max becomes an admirer of the celebrated superhero. Unfortunately, Max is also a bitter man who feels overlooked and exploited at the company. When Max accidentally falls into a power grid and fatally transforms into the supervillain Electro he seeks revenge against the city that has stepped over him time and time again. Armed with dangerous electrical currents that can zap the whole region to smithereens Electro is empowered to get confrontational with his one-time savior Spider-Man as a means to feed his indestructible ego.
Old Peter buddy Harry Osbourne (the soon-to-be Green Goblin) returns and much like Parker appears to harbor his own deep-seeded unresolved Daddy Dearest issues. After Harry’s father (Oscar-winner Chris Cooper) passes on but not before warning his son that he may have the same genetic disease the defiant Osbourne decides to do the unthinkable and schemes to generate the adversarial juices between Electro and Spider-Man as he searches for a cure as the ruthless Green Goblin.
Sadly, the movie resorts to being bogged down with its variation of “dead daddy dreariness” that plagues Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Harry Osbourne/Green Gobblin and even Gwen Stacy to a certain point. Webb enthusiastically encourages the moodiness and pathos in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 but the philosophical flourishes and contemplative edginess seems out of whack with the misplaced rhythm of the film’s off-kilter cheekiness. The overtones of giddiness and gloom feel uneven and choppy. The screenplay is muddled and confusing as it parades around the assortment of baddies while failing to instill Peter Parker/Spider-Man with any genuine tangy gusto. The action sequences are inspired in the energetic and imaginative spots here and there. Still, the movie’s so-called reflective pulses come off as heavy-handed and draggy at times thus compromising the free-spirited vibes of this puffy popcorn pleaser.
Garfield makes for an engaging web-swinging cad whose breeziness and likability factor is ideal for the glib Marvel misfit. It is too bad that Garfield’s acid-tongued hero has to be upstaged by the film’s selected foes. Foxx’s Electro and DeHaan’s Green Goblin are effectively insidious for the most part. The on-screen chemistry between Garfield’s Peter and Stone’s Stacy rivals anything that was suggested by Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the Spider-Man entries from years ago. It is too bad that the material felt rather mundane and regurgitated without loosening up the pretentious dramatic strings a bit.
If Spider-Man 3 looks to be amazing in its third installment then it must overcome the so-so reception of its current pedestrian razzle-dazzle.
NOTE: Focus of New York film critic Frank Ochieng is a member of: