By Simon Miraudo
April 23, 2014
You’ve come a long way, Spidey. Just in the wrong direction. Sam Raimi‘s 2004 effort Spider-Man 2 is an all-timer; an exhilarating comic-book movie that skilfully balances goofball comedy with profoundly affecting tragedy, allowing a complicated romance to simmer beneath the surface. It’s among the best superhero films ever made. Marc Webb‘s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is… not. Come year’s end, it’ll struggle to even rank among the top three superhero films of 2014.
It has its moments, for sure. Seeing Spider-Man swing across the streets of New York with precision, speed, and joyful exuberance is, well, a pleasure unique to Spider-Man movies. It has in Jamie Foxx‘s lightning-blue Electro a dynamic-looking villain, questionable origin aside (nerdy engineer Max Dillon finds himself electroshocked into supervillainy in the nefarious basement of Oscorp Industries, though at least he died doing what he loved: wrestling electric eels). TASM2 is also bold enough in its finale to follow through on some early, ominous promises, providing real weight and devastating consequences; something the other Marvel movies struggle to bite the bullet on.
But Webb’s sequel commits the same sins of its 2012 predecessor, the hugely-financially-successful, contractually-obligated reboot that saw Andrew Garfield‘s non-Spidey alias Peter Parker get all cutesy and mealy-mouthed while courting Emma Stone‘s Gwen Stacy. The conversations between the two of them this time around – courtesy of notorious incoming screenwriters Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci – is beyond insufferable; faux-mumblecore (fumblecore?) babbling, coasting on the chemistry of its stars. This is how kids talk, the filmmakers suppose: unable to complete one g*****n sentence. Peter’s childhood chum Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) actually uses ‘random’ as a completely sincere punctuation mark, highlighting how out-of-touch the script truly is. This is why Webb was hired, surely, and not because of the synergy of his name. The man behind 500 Days of Summer should be more adept at making relationships feel real, or at least fostering sparkling, stylised dialogue. Yet here’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, still trying to make ‘fetch’ happen.
The picture also suffers from being over-stuffed with characters. Though Foxx’s silly, slimy Max Dillon is fun for a spell, any semblance of his persona or motivation is washed away in blue body paint come his evil evolution, making all that early mugging seem superfluous. (The atrocious, sub-dubstep score reaches its nadir with Electro’s recurring musical theme, which doubles as his internal monologue. It was composed by an all-star collective that includes Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams and Johnny Marr, who should all know better.) Electro at least provides the most impressive action sequences, despite winding up second fiddle to DeHaan’s whinging Harry Osborn; a duo of snivelling antagonists that would struggle to out-intimidate Topher Grace.
Barely funny, plenty colourful, easily digestible, and, like the one that came before it, totally unremarkable, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 continues the sideways-stepping of a once exciting franchise. Also, note to the HR rep at Oscorp: your company is so far responsible for the creation of four hyper-powered megalomaniacs and one Spider-Man. Please, just host a single OHS seminar, and we’d all be spared a lot of trouble.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is now showing in cinemas.