Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy had its triumphs and faults, but it undeniably made a distinct contribution to the canon of comic book movies. With “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the second entry in the updated adventures of the web-slinging hero, the necessity and significance of beginning the franchise anew falters even further. Neither the protagonist nor the villains have inched any closer to seriousness and the differences between the two series continues to diminish. Nothing appears to have been learned from the mistakes made in the preceding features and, though the relaunch’s ambitious action sequences may offer the occasional thrill, the zany array of adversaries thrown at the titular crime fighter hampers the intensity by an alarming degree.
While fulfilled in his commitment to combat criminals and protect the citizens of New York City as masked superhero Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) continues to struggle with the promise he made to deceased police captain George Stacy: to refrain from seeing his daughter Gwen (Emma Stone). His life becomes even more complex when he inadvertently triggers the wrath of mentally unstable Oscorp engineer Maxwell Dillon (Jamie Foxx), who determines to destroy Spider-Man after a freak accident transforms the once mild-mannered employee into a violent monster capable of wielding electricity. When an old friend from Parker’s past returns with a nefarious agenda of his own, Spider-Man must take on both a seemingly indestructible being intent on causing chaos and a madman who will stop at nothing to get revenge.
The previous theatrical Spider-Man trilogy began in 2002 and concluded in 2007, leaving a mere five year hiatus before the character was picked up again for another big-budget outing. And it wasn’t just for ensuing adventures – it was also a reboot to reinvigorate what studios, and perhaps audiences, thought was a tired superhero. But instead of going the Batman route, which got so colorful, ostentatious, and immature that it required a drastic infusion of graveness and morbidity to revitalize his exploits, this new Spider-Man revisiting is essentially the same as before. The actors have been swapped out for virtual equivalents and even reused nemeses are being brought back into the fold. If nothing was going to change, why bother re-adapting the franchise?
In a particularly inexplicable move, the screenwriters have copied the primary problems from “Spider-Man 3,” which is generally regarded as the worst of the former triad. Far too many antagonists are worked into the unoriginal premise, the running time is overlong, Spider-Man’s repetitive origins are wrapped up into the heart of the character relationships, and pointless realism is excogitated (here, the landing of airplanes during radio silence, changing over to battery operated respirators for patients in a hospital when the electricity is out, and fretting over switching on backup generators for the city). It’s all entirely unnecessary, considering the antagonists are an electrically charged, lightning-bolt-spewing, levitating monstrosity and a family of mutant reptile abominations. And that nonsense is cheapened to a greater degree by the absence of definition (likely the most common flaw of all superhero movies), wherein “Electro” can absorb currents, cause blackouts, disintegrate and reincorporate himself at will, and travel through power outlets (all thanks to a few electric carp bites). And yet, for some reason, he keeps his human shape, can be subdued by water, and dons a skintight costume complete with lightning bolt logo.
Though this movie is an excuse to show massive destruction, car chase stunts, explosions, and tremendous amounts of computer graphics, the awkwardness of Spider-Man frolicking between skyscrapers, defying gravity as he swings from buildings like a technologically advanced Tarzan, and instantly recovering from all sorts of bone-crushing assaults is still insufferably cartoonish. The violence has increased marginally, but so have the comic relief, romance turmoil, random civilian heroism, and familial bickering. It all results in an insipid gallimaufry of recycled concepts that contributes nothing to Spider-Man’s marvel.
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)