The makers behind "Spider-Man 2", the latest rehash of the famed web-slinger's ongoing saga aren't at all interested in telling a uniquely crafted story that's truly new, innovative and refreshingly entertaining.
Instead, director Mark Webb and Sony Studios only succeed in throwing together a muddled mish-mosh of widely disparate production elements, exaggerated CGI-fueled action sequences and multiple villainous characters they hope will razzle-dazzle audiences eager for a truly adventurous sorbet to the prior Spidey installment… that overall left a bad taste in many moviegoers' mouths.
However, in reality, with this film, Webb cynically serves up an overly long, overblown teaser for the countless sequels the studio hopes will come down the pike in the wake of this on-screen travesty; while once again trying, but miserably failing, to put a new spin on a story we've seen unfold or alluded to in all four previous films in the Spider-Man franchise.
Seriously, of the five total Spider-Man films, four of them have in some way, shape and form been connected to the villainous Green Goblin character. Do we really need to see this guy and his origin again… and again… and again ?
This time around, director Webb continues to muck up the Spider-Man storyline with early flashback scenes meant to give more backstory to Peter Parker's existence, but are totally frivolous and unnecessary to the primary narrative. We're witness to some foolishness where Peter's scientist father, who works for the morally ambiguous Oscorp helmed by Norman Osborn ( Chris Cooper ) has made a scientific discovery that he discovers will endanger his family. So, Peter's father leaves young Peter in the custody of Aunt May, and Peter's parents are suddenly aboard a Lear Jet to places unknown fearing they "will have to look over their shoulders for the rest of their lives".
Let's just say things on the plane don't work out so well and results in a sequence of events we've seen in countless spy movies before with a villain resolution influenced by James Bond's "Goldfinger".
In the present day, Peter Parker ( Andrew Garfield ) is juggling graduating high school, foiling the bad guys around NYC as Spider-Man and dating his adoring and beautiful girlfriend, Gwen Stacy ( Emma Stone ).
However, there's a bit of trouble in Gwen and Peter's romantic paradise, as Peter feels guilty about the danger his spandex clad alter ego might bring in Gwen's direction. It doesn't help matters that Gwen's deceased police captain father ( Denis Leary ) keeps visually popping up in Peter's conscience from the hereafter as a reminder to not endanger young Gwen's life with his crime-fighting.
All this guilt and angst starts to put a strain on their relationship. Meanwhile, the elder Norman Osborn lays a deathbed haymaker over the head of his estranged son, Harry ( Dane DeHaan ). It seems the Osborn clan suffers from a rare disease and the old man has passed the terminal genetic gene to young Harry. As a consolation present, Harry's father leaves him the keys and management of Oscorp to maybe discover a cure to what ails him.
Cue yet another Green Goblin origin story.
Add on top of all this, beleaguered Oscorp employee Max Dillon ( Jamie Foxx ) is rescued by Spider-Man during a battle with a Russian bad-guy ( a ridiculous Paul Giamatti ). Dillon soon believes he and Spider-Man are now best buddies. However, during a serious mishap at the Oscorp labs, Dillon becomes accidentally energized with massive electrical powers which will ultimately change his mild demeanor into a Spider-Man hating "Electro".
Throughout this labyrinthine bloated plot, countless bits of silliness occur. Peter Parker's cell phone ring tone plays the familiar theme song from the old 1960's Saturday morning cartoon show. It would be a genuinely inspired bit of nostalgia, if the theme gag hadn't been used during the closing credits music of a prior Spider-Man film. Giamatti's villainous bad guy ( who will eventually become The Rhino ) chews enough scenery during his brief moments on screen to qualify as a demolition crew on the set.
Garfield's Peter Parker is far too cocky for his own good, which is a major character flaw for this superhero and the film. What made Peter Parker's character so unique in both comic book form and under actor Tobey McGuire was that he was a somewhat nerdy geek, an everyday young guy with problems who finds his outgoing and more confident, wise-cracking mojo when wearing his red and blue Spidey underoos.
However, Garfield plays Parker as already confident, funny, full of easy quips and more. In essence, his Peter Parker is no different than his Spider-Man character. They are one in the same, undercutting the sincerity and emotional vulnerability of Peter Parker sans the costume.
Jamie Foxx's pre Electro persona of Max Dillon is a literal joke complete with thick glasses, bad teeth and a horrendous combover that even Donald Trump would hate. He's a bumbling combination of Jerry Lewis' The Nutty Professor and Richard Pryor's equally inept computer hacker character from Christopher Reeve's "Superman 3". Once he becomes all blue and Smurfy as "Electro", he's just another scenery chomping annoyance in a film filled with bad characters.
… Oh, did I mention the evil Oscorp scientist that torments Electro has a ridiculously cliched German accent who's only missing a long mustache to twist with his fingers while sneering his evil dialogue?
Thankfully, there's two characters that manage to salvage some bit of this film into worthwhile viewing. Sally Field as Aunt May manages to bring to the table some genuinely emotional and poignant moments. She's the pinch hitter that saves the day when all the other bombastic, over-the-top characters threaten, and often succeed. to derail this film.
Foremost amongst the cast to save the day is the radiant Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. Stone creates a multi-faceted Gwen who is strong, funny, poignant, vulnerable and a true joy to watch in every moment she's on-screen. It's in large part, due to Stone's chemistry with Garfield as Peter Parker, that their scenes together as a romantic couple elevate this otherwise crappy film into something worth watching. Their romance, their emotional trials together and their ultimate tragedy give this cumbersome reboot sequel a much needed dose of something real and genuine to invest in and enjoy.
Sadly, director Webb undercuts these emotional moments with overly acrobatic and bombastic action sequences that scream CGI effects are at play at deafening volumes. At least in the earlier Spider-Man films, you kinda felt ol' Spidey really was just swinging from building to building. There was a sense of plausibility to the fantasy.
Here, Spider-Man and his battles with Electro and more are juiced to full amplitude of ridiculous action-filled proportions. Spider-Man dives off buildings in numerous sequences head first to the pavement like an Acapulco cliff diver only to swing, twist and contort at the last second into every conceivable position the human body is capable ( and incapable ) of.
In between all the explosions, car smashings, neon light colors of Times Square glaring and crashing, Webb tosses in "Matrix" and "300" like slo-mo moments for no other reason than to show that he can; but not to enhance the action in any meaningful way. And then there's the film's score; an inexplicably concocted mix tape of Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, and the Smiths’ Johnny Marr.
Again, big props to Emma Stone for being the brief shining light in a surprisingly annoying and mind numbing film. If only she could remain part of the franchise longer.
In fact, parents should do some homework about the fate of Gwen Stacy among their more comic book savvy friends before seeing this with the little ones, as the ending might be a bit too much for younger eyes looking for simplistic superhero thrills where the good guys always win.
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is one of the most overblown, over-produced and, save for Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield's romantic scenes together, over acted pieces of on-screen crap to sully the superhero film genre in some time.
It only narrowly escapes being as abysmal as director Joel Schumacher and George Clooney's demolition of the Batman franchise. But, it comes pretty darn close.
… Does anyone have Sam Raimi's number on speed dial ?
Tim Estiloz is an Emmy winning entertainment journalist and member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Boston Online Film Critics Association. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimEstiloz and at www.TimEstiloz.com. - Be sure to LIKE his page on Facebook at: Tim Estiloz Film Reviews.