Not-so-amazing 'Spider-Man 2'

Sony Pictures

By Mayank Mathur, Daily Arts Writer
Published May 8, 2014

Mistakes are part and parcel of the creative process. There’s always one film in a trilogy or a series that doesn’t quite get it right and leaves a bad taste in the audience’s mouth. Director Marc Webb’s (“500 Days of Summer”) latest installment in his “Amazing Spider-Man” movie series is that film. It’s worse than the first film by a long, long way. That’s a really bad thing, because the first one wasn’t good enough to begin with.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Columbia Pictures
Rave and Quality 16

However, when it comes to trilogies or movie series, people tend to forgive the poorest film, simply because it’s hard to get it right with every film. What makes this film unforgivable is that it repeats the same mistakes that bogged down Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3” and it’s so brazen about it. The two movies are almost identical in conception, execution, plot structure and character development that you wonder if there as any genuine creativity involved at all, apart from minute changes in the hero’s costume.

It’s not as if these unfortunate errors are the result of poor execution; the entire conception of the movie screams laziness and willingness to let writing and character development take a backseat and let a talented cast figure things out for themselves. The plot is about too many things to be about one thing in particular, and the glut of characters ensures that none are given proper attention and focus.

This film is essentially a romance told against the backdrop of three super villains wreaking havoc on the city. The main conflict here seems to be the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, “The Help”). The issue of dealing with multiple villains and the mystery of the death of Peter’s parents are thrown in as an afterthought. As a result, the villains themselves are poor imitations of their comic book representations and are frankly embarrassing at times.

The lack of any coherency or structure in story telling is astonishing. From Peter and Gwen breaking up, then making up and Gwen telling Peter that she’s going to England while they’re making up, to Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx, “Django Unchained”) falling into a tank of electric eels and turning into Electro, to Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, “Kill your Darlings”) contracting a disease and injecting himself with the same venom that created Spider-Man, to Peter’s father’s miraculous ability to find Wi-Fi in a plane that is tearing up in a nose-dive in mid-air to upload incriminating files obtained from Oscorp — this film is all over the place.

It’s almost as if the filmmakers didn’t realize that handling three important super-villains is a major task. Coupled with these characters interweaving sub-plots, any attempt at substantive story-telling is destroyed. Even with a length of 142 minutes, there’s not enough time to devote to any of the characters. The villains, especially Electro, turn out to be so goofy that it’s difficult to take them seriously. Engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx,“Django Unchained”) becomes Electro not because he survived a rabid electric eel attack, but because Spider-Man couldn’t remember his name. Seriously — that’s his motivation for becoming a villain.

It is amazing that even with all of this to explore, Webb deems the romance between Peter and Gwen to be more important than anything else, and draws out the cute, romantic stuff for far too long. It’s clear from Webb’s previous films and even “The Amazing Spider-Man” that romantic comedy is his forte, but his willingness to let that strength guide a superhero action movie is baffling. There’s only so many awkward, cute romantic moments a superhero can take … doesn’t he have to fight the bad-guys at some point?

Just like Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3”, there’s too much flash in this film for it to have any real quality. There are too many characters, too many things to talk about and ultimately nothing gets said at all. It’s a sad film to watch especially for comic book enthusiasts, as despite the sly references to other villains in the Spider-Man world and exciting foreshadowing of the next film, the damage done to the characters in this film is criminal and the final product is … shocking.