The Amazing Spiderman? Let me be the judge of that, please. Right now we are left with the Acceptable Spiderman. It is passable enough to fall into the clutches of an often mediocre and certainly exhausted genre which is showing no signs of fading because apparently people consider these subpar entertainment megasplosions as an acceptable way to devour over priced snacks.
The ‘Amazing’ Spiderman 2 is a conformist concession to the median viewer which makes sense given the reasoning behind the tired franchise’s ‘rebooting’, a term reserved for computers and fantasy ‘franchises ‘, it itself a word more traditionally understood in terms of fast food chains. Sony sought to squeeze more $$$’s from their most lucrative asset by essentially just remaking the same film of 10 years ago and are now promising another one of their Spiderman production line adventures every year. Aren’t we the lucky ones?
I didn’t hate The Amazing Spiderman 2 but it’s just so bang average. My criticism with Marc Webb’s first Spiderman outing was that it tried to stand apart from Sam Raimi’s version but it didn’t go nearly far enough. There was a lot of trepidation among Spiderman fans because this edition promised 3 major villains and perhaps the film would be too crowded. That’s not the issue. Two of the villains get plenty of time spent on their origins, with the third waiting to be fleshed out more in the next film. The problem is that none of it is terribly interesting and so much of it makes little narrative sense. For example, the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) is meant to be a really big deal. At one point Peter describes Harry as his ‘best friend’ but they only spend a couple scenes together and in their first scene it’s made clear that they hadn’t seen each other for 10 years. When the final battle strikes, nothing has been built into this relationship and you just don’t care, not helped by the fact that the entire battle feels so generic and uninspired.
Following on from the first Amazing Spiderman, Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey (Emma Stacey) are sort of together but not together, after Gwen’s father died in the last film, making Peter promise to stay out of the life of his daughter in order to keep her safe. Meanwhile, Harry Osbourn’s father dies from a nasty inherited disease, leaving him in charge of the multi billion dollar science conglomerate, Oscorp. He becomes desperate to find an immediate cure (despite the fact his father clearly lived another 30 years or so), unleashing some of the company’s hidden secrets. Meanwhile, an Oscorp employee (an impossibly uglied up Jamie Foxx) is a Spiderman obsessive and whilst trying to carry out a repair, it goes wrong and he turns blue and electric. Peter learns revelations about his father, again tied into Oscorp.
I was actually quite onboard with the film for the first half, until the cheesiness of the script just wears thin and you realise there’s nothing tying this story together besides cliché. Parker and Stacey are given so little character, besides one line when Parker claims to have been stalking his love interest in what feel like a creepy homage to Twilight. The moody ‘we’re not supposed to be together’ schtick is very sub-Stephanie Meyer but if that’s what they were going for then they at least needed to do it with some conviction. Jamie Foxx’s story pre-Electro was probably the most engaging part of the film. His mild schizophrenia and Spiderman obsession made sense and he’s a sympathetic soul. It’s when he turns blue that all of this is forgotten and we’re left with another giant blue bad guy throwing electricity around while Spidey throws some web. It’s not very interesting and looks as messy as that sounds.
I understand the swinging across Manhattan sequence are pretty cool, but there’s only so much of that you can get away with. The film has an ending which makes sense, but then it carries on as if it is starting a new movie again before cutting to an inevitable ‘to be continued’ black screen, which completely spoils any of the emotional impact from the film’s big climatic event. It’s like the director doesn’t trust his audience to be invested enough in his characters to leave us on that sort of note, instead choosing to leave the film on an action fuelled high involving Spiderman saving the day when an annoying a little kid attempts his best Tiananmen Square impression.
So much about this sequel is OK. Garfield is alright, the humour works fine, some parts of the origins stories for the villains are quite well done. There is just so much in this film that you will have seen a hundred times before. It’s really hard to care about what’s happening when all you can hear is the clinking of glasses from studio execs.
The Amazing Spiderman 2 is out on 16th April in the UK and 2nd May in the US. Running time 152 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).
Review by David Rank