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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.22%
Worth A Look: 4.44%
Average: 22.22%
Pretty Bad: 33.33%
Total Crap37.78%

5 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Amazing Spider-Man 2, The
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by Jay Seaver

"A little better, but not good."
2 stars

One doesn't usually set out to damn something with faint praise; it's usually inadvertent, the result of trying to be positive about something that doesn't merit it on closer examination or only liking something that you are expected to love. So maybe what I'm trying to do here is damn "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" in spite of having some faint praise: It's not good, but it's also not quite the joyless and confused exercise in point-missing that its predecessor was.

After an necessary flashback to his parents Richard and Mary (Campbell Scott & Embeth Davidtz), we see Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) running late for his high-school graduation, although in his defense it's because he's chasing a highjacked truck full of nuclear material as Spider-Man. Along the way, he bumps into Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), an electrical engineer who goes mostly unnoticed at OsCorp, although that may change when an industrial accident winds up giving him electrical powers rather than just killing him outright. Speaking of OsCorp, founder Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper) is on his deathbed, bringing son Harry (Dean DeHaan), a friend of Peter's from childhood, back into town. Meanwhile, Peter's girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is considering heading abroad on a scholarship to Oxford.

Because, apparently, none of the for writers credited on this thing remember that almost all kids, especially those as academically inclined as Peter and Gwen, have actually got their college plans worked out well before their high school graduations. There are a lot of stupid, common sense-defying things in the script because they are narratively convenient at one particular moment, from that to the terrible workplace safety violations at OsCorp to how Peter and Gwen seem to go back and forth on being together entirely based on what the next scene requires, or spending a good chunk of the climactic battle on things completely disconnected from the rest of the movie. It's one thing to believe that the not-exactly-wealthy Richard Parker apparently maintained an elaborately disguised secret laboratory in an abandoned subway station - making a superhero movie larger than life everywhere the filmmakers can get away with it beats the heck out of being too embarrassed to put the Lizard in a lab coat the last time around - but it's tremendously frustrating to see things happening without there being reasons that the audience can buy into.

And those are the flaws that are all apparent before getting into how Sony seems to be learning the wrong set of lessons from Marvel's Avengers franchise: Once again, the story in this film seems incomplete, leaving connections unmade and deferring explanations for what is happening now until later rather than telling a satisfying story in each movie but giving hints of a larger world. Things from the original comics pop up and the audience is expected to cheer in recognition, rather than because the filmmakers have demonstrated how cool they are even without two generations of familiarity behind them. It's kind of baffling how the writers often seem to consistently make the wrong choice in how to adapt the source material, changing it in ways that weaken the characters by overemphasizing how Peter and Harry are following in their fathers' footsteps because of their DNA but keeping a forty-year-old climax intact despite how it is in a very different context and isn't nearly as suited to the pacing of movies to come out every few years than monthly serialized comics.

(At times, the operating philosophy seems to be "do the opposite of what Sam Raimi did", and while there's something to be said for not repeating the same thing in such close succession, Raimi at least had a clear vision of the character, and arbitrarily switching things up from that leads to chaos. Some folks may now be referring to the previous Spider-Man cycle as "the cheesy Sam Raimi movies", but a big heart worn on the sleeve is no sin in this genre.)

There are, at least, a lot of steps in the right direction here. Where Spidey often came off as a selfish jerk in the previous movie he's often funny and downright likable here, a working-class superhero of the people. Heck, I was feeling pretty upbeat during the first scene in which he confronts Dillon in his "Electro" form; it's visually cool even as the hero tries to defuse the situation without violence (points for good characterization within an action scene!) and has the goofy visual of Spider-Man wearing a fireman's helmet (points for whimsy!). Pity that getting from the first to the second is so awkward. The action is generally impressive, too: Director Mark Webb and his stunt & effects teams do a great job of making the physics of how Peter swings from building to building feel realistic without making the audience feel nauseous and still capturing the imagery from the comics, while what's going on is bright, clear, and make good use of 3D.

The cast is limited by what's in the script, but they do their best. I'd really like to see Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in a well-written romantic comedy (heck, let Webb direct it); just as was the case last time, the scenes of Petter and Gwen just hanging out and being together might be the easiest parts to excise from a bloated movie, but they're easily the most enjoyable to watch, and there's never any doubt that the pair are committed to their characters. Jamie Foxx is stuck with a character broad to the point of stereotype, but does pretty well with it, though he stumbles a bit on the transition to super-villainy. Dean DeHaan kind of struggles to establish a personality for Harry, but he's at least got something to do, which is more than can be said for Sally Field with her truncated subplot or Chris Cooper and Paul Giamatti with their glorified cameos.

Given that this is an improvement over the last Spider-movie, it's actually not unreasonable to hope that number three could actually rise to the level of being pretty good, especially if whoever is in charge of the franchise at Sony is looking at Garfield leaving the series and decides that there's no point in stretching stuff out any further. Even if that happens, though, that final movie (before another likely restart) will have to be more than amazing to make up for these two misguided movies, and I don't know if the studio's current Spider-Man team has it in them to make something spectacular.

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originally posted: 06/01/14 10:01:41
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User Comments

3/29/16 Aj wales No1 was missing something no2 has way too much. Electro no reason to be evil. Awful. 2 stars
10/11/15 Dr.Lao The uneeded subplont about Parker's parents dragged down an otherwise pretty good movie 3 stars
5/05/15 Jack Simply the worst of all the spider-man films. 1 stars
9/02/14 Jeff Not bad at all 4 stars
8/07/14 Albert Valentin Not a bad sequel, but wished they saved the Goblin for Part 3 3 stars
7/02/14 State-of-the-art superhero flick formula Heroes not particularly likable; Victims of circumstance inevitably become archvillains. 1 stars
7/01/14 I guess ES declined a role in next sequel How long can superhero genre prolong contorting itself to death? 1 stars
6/18/14 Heather Vole Must be computer-programmed to be as consistently painful as possible 1 stars
5/16/14 SID RUMKOWSKI Along came a spider man and sat down on a Hollywood hostess twinkie 2 stars
5/10/14 Toni Peluso The cardinal sin... boring. Plus Spidey is a douche. Pretty CGI though. 2 stars
5/08/14 Richard Brandt I don't know how snagged Young Leo DiCaprio, but what a lot of anguished youth on display 3 stars
5/04/14 Wzomwmxb In today's workshop it was all mom & pop shops. Once a Tsunami reaches shallow water., <a h 4 stars
5/04/14 mr.mike Passable Spidey flick. 3 stars
5/02/14 Mr Ed Complete bore; painful dialogue; walked out 1 stars
5/02/14 Donavon Bray I've been a lifelong Spider-Man fan. This is the best film version to date. 5 stars
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  02-May-2014 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Aug-2014


  DVD: 19-Aug-2014

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