THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 Fails to Inspire
There were many problems with 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, there were bright spots in the first hour but the movie became gradually worse after that. There was never a question that a new franchise was being built and there are some improvements in Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but none of them lead to compelling storytelling. Now that we’re past the retread on Peter Parker’s origin story, I figured that 142 minutes would be plenty of time to tell an engaging story; unfortunately the script penned by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner is more concerned with setting up plot elements that will play out in future installments than fleshing out the characters enough to warrant personal investment.
The scenes with Spider-Man in action early in the film are an impressive showcase of his trademark characteristics, from the way he moves to his witty one-liners, but the introduction of Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti in full cheese-mode) is just a brief obstacle for Spider-Man, which indirectly introduces him to Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx). One of the biggest shortcomings of the script is the way it uses coincidence as a lazy plot device, as if it were letting them off the hook for having to bring their underdeveloped story elements together in a cohesive way.
Despite the amount of screen-time that Jamie Foxx has, his character is essentially as much of a throwaway as Giamatti’s was. There are intriguing elements introduced about Dillon, like his creepy obsession brewing with the web-slinger and how he attempts to deal with his own insecurities but this idea gets abandoned quickly and before he has a chance to develop into something interesting, he becomes a one-dimensional baddie who’s motivation for hating Spider-Man comes across as half-baked and uninspired. I can’t really fault Foxx for the way his character is rushed but once he turns blue, it’s like he lost as much interest as I did. There’s an attempt to add some allure to Electro with the theme music that Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, and Johnny Marr gave him, but it never really adds to much of anything; the rest of the movie’s score is instantly forgettable.
I was pleasantly surprised how much chemistry Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone had in this movie, because they certainly had their work cut out for them script wise. Unfortunately their efforts to elevate their relationship in context to the movie can only do so much with a weak script, and moments that should have had great emotional impact, suffer because of it. Obstacles pertaining to Peter and Gwen’s relationship from the previous film are re-introduced through flashbacks and they don’t really have the emotional weight that was intended. It in fact becomes annoyingly repetitive how Parker wrestles with the same dilemma about the promise he made to her father.
Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn has the same problem as Max Dillon, his transformation from friend to maniacal menace is too brief and Norman (Chris Cooper) only serves as a brief plot device to service his son’s torment and eventual transformation. We’re supposed to believe that Peter and Harry have this great history together but their friendship never feels genuine in the brief time it’s actually shown, and Harry comes across as damaged and untrustworthy from the moment he’s introduced.
The moment that’s been fore-shadowed to the point that even the uninitiated with Spider-Man lore will see coming, doesn’t get much of a chance to resonate with us properly. Any emotional weight it could have had is robbed because of this movie’s bigger agenda to push future spin-offs and installments. The most frustrating thing about this movie is how the things that get done right — the way Daniel Mindel’s cinematography pops with vibrant color, Marc Webb’s stronger direction with visual effects, and the brief changes in tone matching the source material — are all brought down by a greedy necessity to sacrifice engaging storytelling with underdeveloped characters, ultimately resulting in the audience not really giving a damn. The most amazing thing about this movie is that it ended up boring me more than the first one.
The success of The Avengers has obviously made comic book properties something that every studio wants to take advantage of, perhaps if they learn why people are invested in those character’s stories to begin with, then maybe they’ll slow down and actually show interest in their characters through captivating storytelling. We don’t need another studio trying to play catch up with Marvel and Disney by throwing everything in their arsenal at once.