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"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" Review

I'm not a fan of the Sam Raimi-Croaky Maguire (sp?) Spider-Man films for various reasons and Sony's desperate reboot (only 10 years after they booted the franchise in order to keep the rights from reverting to Marvel) was another unnecessary origin story rehash. While Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were good upgrades over Maguire and Kirsten Dunst (though her boobs will be missed; Google Melancholia to make up for it), the story was meh (oh look, another accidental villain) and cold-feet studio editing lopped away hunks of plot, leaving The Amazing Spider-Man disjointed and halting, if pleasant enough in a too-familiar way.

Since sequels are the way of life these days it was inevitable that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was going to happen, but unfortunately for the franchise, they sort of swung straight to what made Spider-Man 3 such a fiasco, with too many stories, too many villains and not enough of what would make it matter.

The problems start immediately with a pre-credits sequence revisiting the shadowy circumstance of Peter Parker's parents perishing. They've been hinting that Peter Parker's powers prevail due to his father (Campbell Scott) tinkering with his DNA, but again they don't really make it clear. Then we're with Spider-Man chasing Paul Giamatti's Russian gangster character as Peter almost misses his high school graduation where Gwen Stacy gives a foreshadowing-heavy valedictory speech. He's haunted by visions of her father (Denis Leary), to whom he promised to stay away from at the end of the last movie. Then we have Jamie Foxx as a nerdy engineer who idolizes Spider-Man, but after an accident turns him into Electro (oh look, another accidental villain), he wants to kill Spider-Man.

But wait, there's more, Harry Osbourne (Dane DeHaan), a childhood friend of Peter's returns for the death of his father, taking control of Oscorp. Ill with the same weird genetic disease that claimed his father's life, Harry believes that Spider-Man's blood can cure him, but of course it doesn't and thus he becomes Green Goblin. By accident. Because of course. (It is a Spider-Man movie after all and hardly anyone is a bad guy by choice in these things.)

If they'd just chosen  two or three items off the menu, perhaps The Amazing Spider-Man 2 would've been a better movie. How to keep one's loved ones safe when you're a superhero is an interesting premise. How obsessive fandom can curdle into hatred has been done before (basically this is the arc Jim Carrey's Riddler followed in Batman Forever), but could still have potential. Same with Green Goblin, though that would require making it more plausible that Harry and Peter didn't separate when they were in 3rd grade. The mythology about his parents never makes sense and the hidden lab in the subway is absolutely ludicrous. (How is it still receiving power and working after a decade other than reasons?)

The way they handle Giamatti's "transformation" into the Rhino is ultra-stupid as well and exists only because Sony was eager to set up a Sinister Six all-villains movie. Why? Because Sony only has the rights to Spider-Man making him a lonely Marvel hero in a universe by himself compared to Fox's X-Men and Fantastic Four holdings and Marvel Studio's gigantic roster of cash cow franchises. When the only reason The Amazing Spider-Man existed was to keep the rights, it's unsurprising that Sony didn't proceed with story and characters as their priority and this muddle is the result.

It's too bad because the leads are good as far as they're allowed to work within the stuffed story. Stone will be missed whenever they get back into making a third installment (allegedly in 2018 due to the disappointing BO on this one), but they always planned to stick to the comic's canon. The visual effects are much more CGI-heavy whereas they attempted to use stuntmen for the web-swinging before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it looks weightless. While the VFX for Electro are pretty spiffy - he looks like a glowing, charged glass-and-plasma creature, sort of like Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen, the effects of the final battle scene are cartoony-videogamey in appearance.

I wasn't that crazy about the first film and the mehness continues. Maybe one day a proper Spider-Man movie can/will be made, but I suspect it will require prying the rights out of Sony's hands first and that's highly unlikely to happen.

Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable.


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