The problem with Sony’s reboot of the Spider-Man franchise isn’t that it came on the immediate heels of Sam Raimi’s trilogy — although that doesn’t help — it’s that their intentions are to please cineplex audiences through gimmicks like a lame post-3D conversion rather than create a series of worthy films. It’s curious, then, that they signed Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) to helm the series, although it’s most certainly because he’s a name, but more importantly, cheap. It’s a shame because although The Amazing Spider-Man 2 somewhat betters his first installment, there’s an obvious disconnect between what Webb wants to do and what Sony wants him to do.
At almost two and a half hours, the film is unnecessarily long. Again, it’s due to the story that Webb wants to tell which is of the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) not syncing up with the one he needs to tell which is, of course, the one about Spider-Man fighting bad guys. In this case, Parker is up against the nerdy OsCorp electrical engineer Max Dillon (Jaime Foxx) who happens to have some weird obsession with Spidey. After an accident at OsCorp, he’s transformed into Electro and funnels his obsession into some sort of hatred at Spider-Man. Ostensibly, his hatred is fueled by his invisibility to everyone pre-accident, so it’s only fitting that his power involves him literally being able to go invisible. But Dillon’s story is so thin and underdeveloped that his ascension from a cliched mild-mannered geek into a villain is confusing and lacking in any sort of deeper connection between him and Spider-Man.
Instead, Webb spends much of the film mining the relationship of Stacy and Parker. After the death of Gwen’s father, Capt. George Stacy (Denis Leary), in the first film, he made Peter promise that he would leave Gwen alone. Seeing visions of the elder Stacy everywhere, and racked with guilt over his death and his inability to keep his promise, Peter struggles between what he wants and what he believes to be right. So when it comes time for him to go up against Electro, it’s only a backdrop to the electricity between him and Gwen. And, really, if there’s one aspect the film has going for it, it’s the chemistry between Garfield and Stone. While they fit their respective parts well — and Garfield may even give Toby Maguire a run for his money at times — it’s the scenes between the two of them that really stand out.
But this is a Spider-Man flick and that means there must be action. Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) is also introduced as Peter’s old friend who fell out of touch after sent away by his recently deceased father Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper) from a degenerative disease, which he informs Harry is genetic. With an impending death looming — although how long that will take seems decades off if judging by his father’s advanced age — he comes to the conclusion that his healing will only come by way of Spider-Man’s blood. Again, it’s a thin setup for his eventual hatred of Spider-Man and his transformation into the Green Goblin. All of this also comes so late in the film that it seems it would have been better to leave much of it for the next film. Instead, the two newly reconnected friends find themselves at odds.
With such an uneven script, the film only really shines in the scenes between Peter and Gwen and showcases Webb’s knack for telling character stories. If only he had spent as much time investing in the villain’s characters — or reducing the number of them, as a third super-villain is also introduced for the final chapter — it could have at least been enjoyable. Instead, it’s a chore with fleeting moments of radiance.
Rating: 3 out of 5