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Frustrating 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' Tries to Do Too Much

With a great love story hanging in the balance, 'ASM2' ignores it and gives Spider-Man silly villains to beat up.

(Sony Pictures)
(Sony Pictures)

Long story short: Big on romance, bigger on web-swinging, but light on actual plot, ASM2 is a spectacle of little consequence.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will remind you of: The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Man of Steel

Review: Beginning with an unnecessarily long and out of place prologue featuring Peter Parker's parents playing Mission Impossible on an airplane (where glass vases are readily available for smashing), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 proves itself unnecessary by doing nothing new or inventive. When there've been five Spider-Man movies over the past 12 years, you'd better distinguish yourself, but this movie doesn't. It's half-assed product pumped out by the Hollywood machine.

Apologists will defend ASM2 as popcorn fun, but a film this lazy about the one thing it should do well, special effects, deserves to be forgotten. Everything is rushed. Director Marc Webb mails it in during the action sequences. The web-swinging scenes could've been reused from the first film. And strapping a GoPro to Spidey's crotch is a confusing touch. The CGI makes the hero look cartoonish in some spots and the villains: simply laughable.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 presents us with a new and improved Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield). Being Spider-Man has turned the meek high schooler into a cocksure pretty boy who shows off in front of his entire graduating class upon accepting his diploma. The line between Parker and Spider-Man has been erased, the alter-ego detail omitted. This is classic Hollywood hubris, another example of a commercial movie choosing obnoxious swagger over authenticity. It strips the superhero of his humanity when you're constantly being reminded how "cool" he is, especially when the original character is nothing like that.

Frustrating 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' Tries to Do Too Much
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. (Sony Pictures)

The movie settles down with the arrival of Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. She's easily the best thing about the film, vacillating between happiness and anger, silliness and concern. She and real-life boyfriend Garfield have wonderful chemistry together. So what does ASM2 do? It separates them of course. Still semi-faithful to the promise he made to Gwen's dying dad in ASM1, Parker tries to do the right thing and stay away from the spunky blonde. He doesn't want to get her hurt. It's a noble thought, the whole star-crossed lovers thing, but this film doesn't have the smarts to do it right. Instead of focusing on what might be a thrilling, doomed relationship, Amazing 2 jettisons the idea in favor of introducing one of the worst villains in comic book movie history and then another one that's not too far behind.

Electro is forced into ASM2 to provide Spider-Man with something to shoot webs at but he makes no sense. Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is a squirrely electrical engineer for Oscorp who falls into a vat of electrical eels and emerges with the ability to absorb electricity and fire lightning from his hands. He also LOVES Spider-Man because the webslinger saved his life once. But those feelings evaporate when Spidey meets him again as Electro. The hero remembers him ("the blueprints guy"), but Max thinks he doesn't and goes ballistic in Times Square. We're left to endure the city's destruction yet again (every Spidey movie, Avengers, Ghostbusters, the list is endless). 

Frustrating 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' Tries to Do Too Much
Electro or The Soloist? (Pacific Coast News | Paramount)

Credit is due to Webb and his team of Lost screenwriters (Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner) for at least giving Spider-Man the sense to worry about all the innocent people around when the city starts blowing up. But it's a shade of a silver lining in what's otherwise senseless action. Electro is now a super villain because Spidey doesn't remember him? That's why he needs to blow up the city with lightning? Why would this sweetheart of a guy, who looks like The Soloist, all of a sudden turn into evil? The accident itself doesn't provide the explanation. Electro's comic book origin is largely ignored so we're just supposed to go along with the fact he's now a bad guy.

Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) then arrives in ASM2. Peter Parker's old best buddy from childhood is back from boarding school and looking to take over Oscorp after his father, Norman's (Chris Cooper) death from a mysterious disease. Harry learns he has it too, "The Osborn Curse," but the creeper with the Hitler haircut has an idea: Spider-Man's blood will save him. But Spidey refuses to give Harry a sample, believing it will turn him into a monster, which, of course, makes Harry hate him. He injects himself with another experimental serum and is turned into the Green Goblin, Spider-Man's greatest foe. 

Inbetween fighting Electro, because he doesn't remember him, and the Green Goblin, who's mad at him for not giving him blood, Spidey keeps his romance with Gwen somewhat alive. He follows her and pines for her, faking excitement when she's accepted to Oxford and standing her family up when it's dim sum night. Gwen breaks up with Peter, but it's an empty gesture since we know they'll go back to each other. Meanwhile, we have to sit through more Electro ridiculousness as he stares into space with his blue face and Spider-Man hate. 

ASM2 would've been better served narrowing its scope and cutting Electro. A focused story about Gwen and Peter and Harry might've been a fantastic movie. You can see the outline of it while watching this farce. But Webb and his team wanted to fill the quota of mindless action and huge CGI sequences. That stuff really looks cool in trailers. The director has no interest in merging these scenes with the emotional core of the story. Most of the action in Amazing Spider-Man 2 is there to look cool, and that's just not good enough. 

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