The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review: Second Opinion
WARNING: This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS, but only plot points so stupid you’d think I was making them up.
It’s no secret that I did not like The Amazing Spider-Man, but my main problem was its repetitiveness as a remake of the first Spider-Man. If they’re moving ahead with the story, there’s room for growth. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is insufferable. I just feel defeated now. Let’s get through Amazing Spider-Man 3, Sinister Six and Venom. They’re going to happen anyway. Then we can move on.
The plot is actually okay, as convoluted connections between set pieces and characters go. Except for the incorporation of FDR’s secret subway line (really?) only to reveal more unnecessary exposition, it’s logical enough that Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) needs Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield)’s blood to cure his disease. At least it seemed logical enough until I actually wrote it down. It’s the tone that’s a mess, to a degree that makes me angry. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wants to be light and funny but it’s masking such dangerous attitudes that it really doesn’t sit well with me.
The opening scene is a flashback to Richard (Campbell Scott) and Mary Parker (Embeth Davidtz)’s plane crash, because why just give a character abandonment issues as a backstory when you can explain them entirely? The action in the sequence isn’t anything fun. It’s just vicious beatings and fights in a careening jet, while Richard races to upload a file that will be important later. It feels like an action sequence from “Alias,” where an airplane sequence was high profile for television, but in film is derivative. Amazing 2 screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman wrote for “Alias,” though were not credited on the “Phase One” episode I’m referencing. Even a recent superhero movie, The Dark Knight Rises opened with an airplane sequence, but that sequence was artful and contributed to the film’s consistent tone of dread.
When the movie finally gets to Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), it’s a busy scene with a mess of ADR. I know there’s only so much you can do to convey Spider-Man’s quips at high speed behind a mask, but maybe don’t try to throw 10 quips into a single chase. What you really find with this sequence is the slapstick tone is way off for the realism of the violence. Sam Raimi’s movies had some scary scenes and tonal shifts, but he knew when to be goofy and when to be terrifying. The Doc Ock surgery is all menace, and yet still heightened, like an Evil Dead movie. Here Spider-Man is juggling vials of plutonium while automobiles realistically collide and people are shooting guns.
Maybe if the humor itself worked it would be disarming, but it’s trying so hard to be funny, Spider-Man becomes a party clown hamming it up for kids. There are some well timed bits with a crowbar and a fire extinguisher but that’s about all it gets right. It’s as if somebody made the Radioactive Man movie from “The Simpsons” but didn’t get that it was a satire.
By the time Spider-Man helps an adorable kid, it feels really underhanded. Look how nice Spider-Man is and kids are gonna love this and let us earn your sympathies so we can violate them. We trust our filmmakers to craft a playful tone and not to violate our good will.
The best example of this must be the Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) character. Spider-Man rescues Max on the street and gives him a pat on the back and tells him how important he is. Max takes this literally, obsessively, fantasizing about Spider-Man. It’s the desire to be seen as perverted by people who don’t understand actual human needs. The screenwriters think they’re speaking to universal emotions, and I know the intent is to heighten it, but their line is way off. Why is Max such a caricature in a world trying so hard to establish itself as “realistic?”
Foxx is actually really good as Electro. It’s his Max Dillon that’s nonsense. His transformation is just due to complete Oscorp negligence. Max may be a nobody, but no corporation hates an employee more than it hates liability. By the way, doesn’t water conduct electricity? Yes, I googled the science on that but if dropping a hair dryer in the bath can kill you, surely spraying water on Electro isn’t a good idea. There must be a “Turn Off the Dark” reference somewhere in Electro’s plan to black out the city.
You know, I’m just going to say it. Garfield and Emma Stone’s chemistry isn’t that good. They make you feel like you’re watching something natural, and their improvisations are surely better than the scripted lines, but they still don’t actually say anything. They just keep babbling and interrupting each other. It only makes me even more resentful that they’re selling us so hard on this. “Like us, dammit!”
There is a tragic scene in the film, and it fits in with the tone better than the comedy does, but it fails to make the point of the tragedy clear. Anyone who knows the comics knows what I’m referring to, but the film muddles the way Spider-Man’s webbing caused the tragedy. It was a lose-lose situation, but that’s why it’s poignant. Superheroes can’t always save the day. Now it just looks like a generic tragedy.
At certain points, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rises to levels of mediocrity, but I will never forget what’s really going on. There are some nice moments in the Times Square confrontation, but it’s too insidious to even enjoy on that level. The Amazing Spider-Man series is trying to seem family-friendly when it really kind of hates humanity. It thinks playing with kids makes up for belittling the antisocial, and that feelings are just something you talk about until they’re over. I’d rather have some good old empty spectacle at that point.