Every now and then, it happens that a sequel is better than the initial installment. It’s certainly not a common occurrence, but it does happen. It happened when Spider-Man 2 far outstripped Spider-Man. Folks at Sony seemed determined to convince us that lightning would strike twice. The marketing hype for Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been overly intense to the point where it seemed to reach “doth protest too much” proportions. We’ve all seen the posters and commercials with the taglines of “His Enemies Unite” and “His Greatest Battle Begins” that clearly hint at an epic outing for Spidey in this newest sequel.
The reality is far different from the marketing, though.
Amazing Spider Man 2 (PG-13) has a couple of different plot branches. There’s Peter Parker’s (Andrew Garfield) rather complicated and guilt-ridden romantic relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), Harry Osborn’s (Dane Dehaan) relationship with his father and a rare genetic disease, Peter Parker’s unanswered questions about his parents’ deaths, and Max Dillon’s (Jamie Foxx) transformation from a creepy nerd obsessed with Spider-Man to Electro.
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. In fact, it winds up being too much, and director Marc Webb doesn’t handle the overload well at all. The result is an extremely uneven and herky-jerky display. None of the plot lines really come together all that well. Saying the final act feels forced is an understatement.
There were plenty of good things. The Peter-Gwen story was actually quite moving at times, and any one of the villains’ stories probably could have carried a show on its own. In fact, there were probably at least two good movies in ASM 2 somewhere. Jamming them all together created a bit of a mess, though, and the audience I was with definitely felt it.
Let’s go back to the prior comments about the marketing. The whole campaign for ASM 2 was false advertising. In the trailers, we get Electro, Green Goblin, and Rhino shown as villains. After all, they are allegedly uniting for his greatest battle, right?
They never unite. They aren’t even on screen together. You get a massive dose of Electro, about five minutes of Green Goblin, and about 90 seconds of Rhino. It’s disgraceful. Yeah, this might be a spoiler, but I don’t care. The trailers lied. I have an obligation to tell the truth.
From a performance standpoint, Garfield continues to be a massive improvement over the mopey and whiny Peter Parker that we got from Tobey Maguire. Better than that, we get more of the smart-aleck, trash-talking Spider-Man, which should always be a major part of the character. With all respect to Emma Stone, she just isn’t good as Gwen Stacy. In fact, she held back a lot of the romantic scenes with Garfield. The aforementioned moving bits were carried by him and the dialogue. Stone struck me as a drag on the whole thing.
And Jamie Foxx. Hoo Boy. Who thought that was a good idea? Was it just to add a big name to the cast? He was awful. The whole origin and portrayal of Electro was bad enough. When you add a complete miscast to the role, there isn’t a lot left to work with.
Dehaan was excellent, I thought. Too bad his plot thread was terribly under-utilized. Unfortunately, while there is an undercurrent message of sacrifice as a virtue, the narrative of the film is so fractured that many of the things that could serve as lessons or topics for discussion remain at a very shallow level.
There are two items that do get some worthy treatment. First, Peter’s promise to Gwen’s father that he would not pursue relationship with her. Peter breaks his promise and is tormented by the results. This can serve as a valuable platform for conversation about rash oaths and the obligations that go with them. Otherwise, there’s not much there there. Second, the last few minutes of the movie are very well done. Peter has gone into a deep depression. What brings him back and makes him willing to continue down the road of inevitable suffering of hero-dom is a good thing.
There is no scandalous content or anything really. No sexual stuff. The language is tame. It’s go the typical super-hero violence, but that’s all. Someone important dies, but I’m going to leave that out as a spoiler. It’s sad but not graphic.
Getting right down to it, the whole movie was a waste. You can figure out pretty quick that this is just a really long set up for yet another sequel that, if the hints dropped in this one are indicative, will actually involve some uniting villains. There is nothing here that warrants more than matinee admission and certainly not concession stand prices. The plot is a trainwreck, the pacing is terrible, and there are more bad performances than good.
Review by Throwback