The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Two films into the series, it is pretty much official: Despite the addition of the word Amazing to the series title, Mark Webb’s filmed take on the webbed wall-crawler is lagging well behind Sam Raimi’s greatly superior Spider-Man series of the last decade.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not so much bad – in fact, it is significantly better than Webb’s series reboot a couple of years ago – but it is a bit of a mess. That is doubly disappointing to me because finally, five films in to the Spider-Man resurgence, they got around to featuring my favorite Spidey villain, Electro.
Not that The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Electro is recognizable to his comic book counterpart: gone are the green and gold outfit and yellow lightning bolt mask, replaced by a pulsing blue body that is cross-circuited with surging volts of power. In fact the new Electro looks much more like Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan than the original Spider-Man villain.
However, apparently Webb is determined to play fast and loose with his bad guys, in a late scene (which is obviously there only to set up the next sequel) Spidey comes face to face with another classic villain, the Rhino. In the comic, the character was turned by an evil experiment into half man, half rhinoceros. Now he’s a man inside a glittering silver rhinoceros-shaped robot armor. Hardly the same thing.
Somehow, that whole sense of being sort of Spider-Man, but not quite, expands to the whole movie.
Andrew Garfield seems to be getting more comfortable in the role of Peter Parker/Spidey, and yet his character, as written, seems a bit schizophrenic. As Spider-Man, he is a flamboyant, happy-go-lucky jokester. As Peter, he is a morose and distraught teen, in the midst of an angst-ridden relationship with his true love Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). In fact, Peter is haunted by the ghost (or is that memory or imagination) of her late police captain father (Denis Leary), who had made him promise to stay away from his daughter.
The bad guys this time out are (like I said) Electro as well as Harry Osborn, who again mutates into the Green Goblin. (The Rhino only appears in brief action scenes framing the beginning and the end of the film.) This is the first time that a villain have overlapped in the two films, and I have to say that Dane DeHaan’s hyper-intense take on Osborn is very different than James Franco’s version of the character, and honestly more intriguing as a bad guy.
I can’t really say what I think of Paul Giammati as the Rhino, other than being disappointed by the robot suit, because we simply don’t see enough of him to get much of a feeling one way or the other.
The fight scenes are colorful and fast moving. The storyline is relatively intense. Peter’s relationship with his Aunt May (Sally Field) is given new nuance and heft.
And yet, somehow The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels unnecessary. Like more of a narrative that we’ve all seen before. After all this time, I’m not even sure what The Amazing Spider-Man series could have done to make itself fresh. One thing is for sure, though, this movie did not do it.
If the series continues, which seems inevitable, I hope they rediscover the wonder behind the story. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels like a formulaic summer blockbuster. Just because it is often rousing formula doesn’t excuse its lack of imagination and ambition.
Jay S. Jacobs