Directed by Marc Webb Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jaimie Fox, Dane DeHann
“The Amazing Spider-man 2” might go down as one of the biggest misnomers in cinematic history.
The fact that I actually had to stop myself, as I left the theater, and ask “Do I need to go back and watch ‘Spider-man 3’ to confirm if this was better or worse” really hammers home just how bad this movie was.
(Seriously, I had to think about it…O_O)
The few good qualities the film has are so inconsequential to the whole that they barely deserve mentioning.
After the breath of fresh air that was “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” last month, this film is on the complete opposite of that spectrum of the super hero genre.
A fair warning to everybody who has read this far, this review will be looong and will contain spoilers.
So you’ve been warned.
(So no crying…)
I’ll first start with trying to describe the plot which felt like a script written by twelve different people.
In short it continues the story of Peter Parker, aka Spider-man, who finds himself battling more evil villains, (who include a bumbling hybrid of Dr. Manhattan and Jim Carrey’s character from “Batman Forever” and by far the worst version of the Green Goblin to date, and Paul Giammati appears as the Rhino for exactly 10 minutes) while suddenly feeling terrible about the promise he broke Gwen Stacy’s dad about keeping her out of his life but still kind of dates her anyways (EPIC FORESHADOWING).
There are a lot of problems I can get into for this film whether it’s again the underwritten villains of the film, or the sappy up and down love story which jumps all over the place or the fact that there seems to be four different storylines playing in this film.
It’s going to be hard to put this all into one chunk so instead I’m going to break it down piece by piece, starting with….
1. Pacing and tone
For most films to work it has to have a three act process; rising action, climax, conclusion.
It helps the viewer follow along and not get lost in the sea of exposition.
This film has no beginning, middle and end.
The pacing and tone jump from one shift to another leaving viewers confused and disinterested.
Within the first 30 minutes of the film we go from Peter Parker’s dad and mother dying horrifically in a plane crash, to slightly comedic with Spider-man fighting the Rhino during a chase scene (actually one of the few good scenes in the movie), to dark with Spidey hallucinating Capt. Stacy (they brought back Dennis Leary for literally three scenes of staring) and whole message of leaving Gwen out of his life, to back to comedic and happy at Gwen and Peter’s graduation, to suddenly the two characters breaking up.
Yes, literally minutes after Gwen happily tells Peter to meet with her family for dim sum the next scene they just break up.
It’s like a sappy morning soap opera!
This all happens so quickly with little explanation and coherency between scenes, with the tonal shifts all over the place that the film loses me right here.
After this point, I just stopped caring, I knew exactly what I was in for and just reverted to pure MST3K mode because it was the only way to cope with just how bad the movie was.
(This was almost as bad as some of those movies…)
Another example of this recurring travesty is in the span of about 30 minutes once again we get Gwen and Peter sort of hooking back up again, then sad with her telling him that she’s going to England, then back to action with Electro fighting Spidey in Times Square (also one of the few good moments of the movie), to him being upset about Gwen and him breaking up again and then out of nowhere he decides he wants to solve his dead dad’s disappearance which is the first moment he has cared about this since midway through the FIRST movie (no joke).
In fact up until that scene Peter’s dad hadn’t been brought up at all since the very BEGINNING of the movie!
Things just happen in this movie, motivations aren’t clear and scenes just lack coherency and connection.
Where “Spider-man 3’s” main issue had more to do with how cheesy it gets, this movie just plain and simple has terrible writing from start to finish.
This is only the tip of the iceberg too, I’m just warming up.
2. The villains
This movie is comparable to the travesty of the third Sam Raimi film in that they both suffer from “Too Many Villains Syndrome.”
The thing is though they suck for different reasons.
Where Raimi’s Venom suffers from being really just a bad casting more than anything and the other two characters being just too much meat in the stew, Webb’s problem here are the bad guys are all terribly under written.
Now to be fair, Spider-man has never had many great villains in his rogue’s gallery.
They all mostly have the same mindset of robbing banks as their motivation and anybody who knows the character well knows that it’s Peter’s life that’s the real villain (more on that later).
(Once again the crying…)
The thing Raimi did do very well for almost all his villains was establish the human side to the characters.
They had just more going on for them than just being evil.
What the hell goes on for Webb’s villains?
The Lizard is sad about his stumpy arm, regrows stumpy arm then suddenly he’s evil in the span of about 15 minutes.
Electro is angry because Spider-man didn’t remember his name?
Harry is angry at Spider-man because he needs his blood to survive but gets a power suit that cures him of his injuries anyways?
Rhino wasn’t even in the movie long enough to register as a character which is a complete waste of Paul Giamatti’s talent.
You see, Raimi made us all feel a little bad for the villain too; Norman Osbourne pleads with Peter not to tell Harry as he’s dying, Doc Oct sacrifices himself to save the city from the destruction he created and Sandman just wants to pay for his dying daughter’s medical bills (albeit it wasn’t executed greatly in that movie).
Electro just dies in cold blood in this movie with very little attempt by Peter to save him which the real Spider-man would care about (more on that later) and Harry, well, nothing really humanizes him in the movie.
He’s kind of an evil punk from the get go.
My point is these villains need better writing behind them so they’re not just faces with names that Spider-man fights.
3. The “love” story
Now we all know Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are a real life item and some of that chemistry does translate to film but once again we are hampered by bad writing.
Like Raimi’s second film Peter is juggling between being with his love interest and not and like the second it really pulls the story down and makes it boring (we get about 10 minutes of Spider-man time in the second act).
Lack of Spider-man isn’t what brings this down the most though.
In the first film Gwen’s dad gets killed by The Lizard and explicitly tells Peter to stay out of her life only to of course at the end hook up with her anyways.
With great power comes great what again?
(What the fuck, Webb…)
But in the second film suddenly it’s a problem and within the first 30 minutes Peter breaks up with Gwen, only to get back with her again, then split, then get back with her again, split again and of course toward the end get back with her.
This up-and-down, back and forth love affair gives the film a very uneven pacing and frankly makes it boring.
The motivations of why they are in love and why we should care about it get muddied here and we pay attention to it less and less because of it.
Look, if you’re going to completely neglect the whole “With great power comes great responsibility” thing in the first film then just own up to it and stick with it.
Making it suddenly an issue for Peter doesn’t make sense and leads this movie to its most anti-climactic scene.
SPOILER: Gwen Stacy dies.
(OH MER GERD!)
Anyone, who reads Spider-man or is familiar with his story saw this coming a mile away and even if you don’t everyone knows a Mary Jane has been cast and you can’t have two love interests of equal weight in the next film.
The problem is by the time this scene comes up the whole process has been so exhausting and so over the top that you don’t really feel much for it.
What should have been a scene that left me shocked elicited chuckles from myself and others in the audience.
To put it in perspective, my least favorite character in “The Dark Knight” series was Rachael Dawes and even I felt something when that death scene happened.
You would think Marc Webb and his team of all people would know how to write romance, especially being the director of “500 days of Summer.”
Perhaps having 50 different story-lines going on didn’t help but if one’s not working you gotta cut one or the other to make it go more smoothly.
I don’t think Webb really gets these characters which leads me to my biggest point…
4. Marc Webb doesn’t get Peter Parker
The biggest most glaring flaw of the film is how Peter Parker is written.
Fan boys have paid waaaay too much attention to the fact that he’s now “funny” which to me he comes more across as Shia LaBeouf through most of the movie. (he talks really fast and stutters….)
Besides he’s the least believable loser I’ve ever seen considering Peter Parker is basically a giant, awkward nerd.
You see the thing there is more to this character than just his sense of humor and I don’t think Webb fully gets that.
Despite Garfield’s superior talent to Tobey Maguire, bad lines and bad writing will always undo this (Just see the “Star Wars” prequels).
I can see, in some ways he was trying to make Peter Parker more deep but the writing once again severely hinders this.
To explain this, my biggest gripe with the first film is how they under wrote Uncle Ben’s death scene.
The scene is done so flimsily and lazily compared to Raimi’s version and it barely registers as an important moment in the film.
In fact, Spider-man goes on a vendetta to find his killer and then just drops it without any explanation or reasoning midway through the movie.
(What the hell, Garfield…)
Uncle Ben’s death is alluded to a bit in this movie but it really doesn’t mean much to Peter; it only seems to matter to Aunt May.
My problem with this is glossing over Uncle Ben’s death scene in a Spider-man origin story is like doing a Batman reboot and just completely negating the meaning of his parents dying and how that played a part in him becoming The Dark Knight.
But this is only part of the issue here.
Uncle Ben never mentions the “With great power, comes great responsibility” line (he kind of paraphrases it but it’s never brought up again) and it is another heinous mistake in doing a reboot of Spider-man.
This line is the central theme of the Spider-man story and to neglect it is to neglect why Peter Parker became Spider-man.
Which leads me to the most damning scene of the film…
So after this whole back and forth exchange between Peter and Gwen over their feelings they, surprise, hook back up.
So they’re on the bridge, making out and one of side stories to this is Gwen is going to Oxford in London to study.
So Peter says “Oh yeah, I’ll come with you. They have crime in London, it’ll be great” (slight paraphrase).
This scene made me so…fucking…angry!
You know that whole thing about great power and great responsibility?
Yeah, Spider-man would never abandon New York based on what happened to him in his origin that they glossed over.
Him leaving New York for London so he can bone his girlfriend and just saying “yeah I can fight crime in London” is just so counter to what the character is all about that I seriously yelled “fuck this shit” in the theater.
This isn’t a fucking tech job where you can just transfer to a new location when you move; YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY AS A SUPER HERO TO PROTECT THESE PEOPLE!!!!
It’s like “Oh, I don’t care about these people, I don’t have a responsibility to protect them from harm AND the evil corporation that, I found out MINUTES before this scene, have an evil plan to take over the world with bio-engineered weapons.”
Yeah, I’m not fucking kidding about that.
See what I mean by bad writing?
This is why Gwen Stacy’s death didn’t really register to me emotionally because even though they were trying to make that point about “with great power comes great responsibility” they made the character so un-likeable and so not Spider-man that you kind of don’t feel a thing for him when this tragic moment happens in the film.
They don’t even try to tie Uncle ben’s death and the role Peter played in it to Gwen’s.
Sam Raimi understood this, that’s why at the end of “Spider-man” Peter leaves Mary-Jane and why that sacrifice was so meaningful. (And yes I acknowledge they hook up anyways in the second film and for the record I was not fond of that movie either…)
Look, my indictment of Spider-man in this series has nothing to do with Andrew Garfield as an actor.
In fact I think he would have been a perfect Spider-man/Peter Parker had he been in the Sam Raimi films.
Unfortunately, Garfield’s talent is severely limited by Webb’s team, which includes the writers of such classics as “Transformers 2&3,” “Cowboys and Aliens,” and “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”
(Almost as bad…)
So despite Garfield’s talent, the script unfortunately, in my opinion (and I know some of you will hate me for this), makes him a weaker Spider-man/Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire.
You see, Tobey may have been limited as an actor but the script and writing around him understood the character and even though his performance was flat at times, in my opinion he’s the better Peter Parker.
Uncle Ben’s death, the meaning behind that great line and the way Raimi and Tobey worked with it are 1000 times better than what Garfield and Webb have done so far.
They just don’t get this character and what makes him tick and most importantly why he is Spider-man.
This is the biggest reason I hate this film more than I hate “Spider-man 3” because as cheesy and hammy as it was Peter Parker still remained Peter Parker at the end of the film and his values never changed.
So that’s it, that’s my autopsy of this corpse of a film that will surely make millions around the world and probably make a bunch more sequels before the next election happens.
It’s sad but, even as a Spider-man fan, my greatest hope right now would be for this film and the following sequels to bomb so we don’t have to sit through another Marc Webb directed Spider-man film.
Right now I have no hope for what Webb plans to do next and though I normally watch these super hero films out of dumb, nerdy, cultural obligation I will not spend another penny on this franchise until I see big improvements.
The bastardnization of this character and destroying what makes him one of the best in the comic book universe has made me sick to my stomach and I don’t want to see this or any other Webb films like this ever again.
Spider-man deserved better; you can’t have source material like this and fuck it up this royally.
He’s not the super hero I remember seeing on the big screen the first time when I was 12 and certainly not the one I have been reading in the comics.
Well, if you’ve read this far, thanks for listening to me nerd rage, feel free to tell me I’m wrong but I’m still right.
Good night don’t let the spiders bite…