When The Amazing Spider-Man came out in 2012, 10 years after the first Spider-Man and just five years after the end of that trilogy, it felt like a serviceable if wholly unnecessary addition to the superhero-ization of the movie industry.
After all, what more could the new version of Spider-Man offer us? We’d just finished learning all about him; did we really need to re-learn what we already knew? Yet Andrew Garfield made for an appealing Peter Parker/Spidey, and having Emma Stone along for the ride as the super-smart Gwen Stacy provided more than a few interesting moments.
As is often the case in superhero movies, it’s the villains that don’t hold up their end of the bargain. bargain. Their rampages seem like the world’s biggest temper tantrums.
They’re both back for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a film that tries to up the ante considerably. Peter is still dealing with a lot of complicated feelings: about his relationship with Gwen in the aftermath of her father’s death, about the way his parents left him in the lurch 10 years prior, and about how to balance his sense of duty in donning the Spider-Man suit and maintaining any kind of personal life.
He also has a knack for creating powerful enemies, sometimes through no fault of his own. Meek and mild Oscorp electrician Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) turns into Electro following a freak work accident; Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), an old school friend and heir to the Oscorp throne, continues toward his destiny of becoming the Green Goblin; and Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti), put in jail by Spider-Man, eventually comes looking for revenge in a unique way.
That’s a lot to stuff into the 135-minute movie; just imagine if they had decided to keep in Shailene Woodley as Mary Jane Watson. Even still, director Marc Webb and the trio of writers have difficulty making everything come together.
The relationship between Peter and Gwen, established in the first film, continues to work great. Considering Peter’s continued need to save the city, and the fact that both are experiencing turning points in their individual lives, it’s more than believable that they would experience some on-again, off-again swings.
But, as is too often the case in superhero movies, it’s the villains that don’t hold up their end of the bargain. None of them brings that urgency, excitement or fear that a good bad guy evokes. In fact, they mostly seem to be mad at Spider-Man for really petty reasons, making their rampages seem like the world’s biggest temper tantrums.
Consequently, the face-offs between Spider-Man and the villains contain nothing truly surprising or shocking. In fact, Webb treats them like a spectator sport, putting up barricades around specific fight zones so crowds can gawk at the destruction going on all around them. This is almost a bigger sin than Superman wantonly destroying buildings in Man of Steel, as people don’t even seem to care that their lives are in danger.
Garfield again does a good job in the lead role, but the way Peter zigzags between being happy with Gwen, being morose when thinking about his issues and doling out zingers as Spider-Man is enough to make your head hurt. I get that the Spider-Man of the comics is known for his one-liners, but they do nothing to enhance the scenes.
Despite the inadequacies of their characters, both Foxx and DeHaan do the most they can in their respective roles. Foxx gets to engage a different side of himself than we normally see, while DeHaan, who’s been an up-and-comer for a while now, shows off some great skills prior to devolving into a villain.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn’t contain nearly enough interesting flourishes to be a player in the hyper-competitive world of superhero movies nowadays. It has its moments, but it falls well short of amazing.