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'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' and the inevitability of Peter Parker

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
© Sony Pictures Releasing

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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There is about two thirds of a good movie in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" before the final third comes in to leave a general feeling of disappointment. "The Amazing Spider-Man" was advertised as being "The Untold Story" so I went into that movie hoping to get something different from Spider-Man stories of the past. I didn't. "The Amazing Spider-Man" was the same old origin story that everyone who has ever seen or read any Spider-Man story already knows. Okay, so they had a villain that never fully emerged in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies and a different use of the Gwen Stacy character, but that is it. Mostly, everything was the same as any other Spider-Man story ever told.

"The Amazing Spider-Man" also felt empty as a movie of its own. It felt like it was all a set-up to something more. It felt like there could be an "untold story" somewhere in its universe, but that it was going to take some time to actually get to it. "The Amazing Spider-Man" felt more like a teaser trailer for a movie franchise than an actual movie of its own. So, going into "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" I had some reservations, but actually, I was pretty optimistic.

A lot of people were worried about how "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" would have three villains. Many people thought that this was too many. After all, the least-liked Spider-Man movie was "Spider-Man 3" and that also had three villains. Well, I personally don't see having more villains as a problem. A lot of villains are not very complex, like say Rhino, and don't need a whole lot of story devoted to them. Also, lots of villains have similar backstories so no need to spend too much time on each one. Lastly, there should never be a rule for how to make or not make a movie. Take chances, break the rules, and see what happens. Sometimes it will work and sometimes it won't, but that's true of anything.

I was excited at the prospect of many villains because it meant that we would get to see more things sooner rather than later. The first movie seemed to be all a set-up for future movies. It didn't have enough going on on its own. Here, there was a promise of getting a lot all in one package. There would be no more teasing. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" would deliver everything right then and there. Well, at least that was the idea.

Having now seen "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" I can say that it is a much stronger movie than the first film. There is more character development here. The acting was not a problem in the first movie and it is also not a problem here. Andrew Garfield does a good job as Peter Parker although perhaps his Peter Parker is a little too similar to his Spider-Man at times. Spider-Man is a way for Peter Parker to be upbeat in the face of danger and the tragedies of the world. Peter Parker is left to carry the burdens of the world and to not be so sure of himself. Andrew Garfield sometimes plays Peter Parker just as upbeat and comical as when he is Spider-Man. Although, I can't quite call this a problem because any chance to see Peter Parker a little happy instead of his usual downer-self is welcome.

Emma Stone is fine as Gwen Stacy, but the character she is playing is too thin to leave much of an impact. Even in the classic comics, I felt that Gwen Stacy was kind of a blank slate. She was basically the innocent, wholesome, and pretty girl and not much else. I couldn't really tell you much about her personality or interests. Here, they give her at least some goals in her life, but still we don't get to know her very well. The character of Mary Jane Watson always had more personality than Gwen Stacy did and here her absence is felt.

There is more and better action in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" than in the first movie. There are some really cool action moments, especially those involving slow motion. The movie also captures the excitement of swinging around New York City in a way not seen before in previous Spider-Man movies. There are also some storylines and characters we haven't seen portrayed in a Spider-Man movie before. The problem is that while we may not have technically seen a lot of this stuff in a Spider-Man movie before, well, we actually have seen it before.

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" begins in a moment of action as the Rhino is rampaging through New York City in a big truck. Actually, it begins with an exciting shot of Spider-Man with a really triumphant opening theme by Hans Zimmer (and The Magnificent Six, which could be a nod to "The Magnificent Seven" or perhaps the Spider-Man villains the Sinister Six). Also, actually, Rhino is not Rhino yet, but a criminal named Aleksei Systsevich. The main thing to note is that this character is played by Paul Giamatti and that he spends most of his time yelling. I've talked about Paul Giamatti yelling before and how great it is when he does it and here there is the added bonus of him having an accent. So, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" begins on a high note.

While the movie starts with a moment of action, it actually begins to delve more into drama rather quickly. The majority of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is drama rather than action and that is not a bad thing. I found myself enjoying the drama quite a lot. The second third of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is where most of this drama happens and it was my favorite part of the movie. I really enjoyed seeing the friendship of Peter Parker and his best friend, Harry Osborn. Good too, was the romantic drama between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. For a while, the movie seemed to be running smoothly and on a path to something very good, but then the inevitable happened.

You see, the story of Peter Parker has been told many times already. It is a story very familiar to me. I already know what happens with characters such as Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn in the comic books and in the Sam Raimi movie trilogy. What happens to them is the same thing that happens with everything in Peter Parker's life. You see, Peter Parker's life is not a happy one. His life is filled with never-ending tragedy. It seems that Peter Parker is doomed to forever struggle in his life even when things seem to be looking up for him. If you read the classic Spider-Man comic stories then you will find that they are all narrated by some omniscient narrator. This narrator talks about the events in Peter Parker's life as if they were all fated to happen. There is a sense in all of his stories that Peter Parker was born only to sacrifice his life for the sake of helping others. Peter Parker himself could never be saved and everything that he loved could never last.

So, this brings us to the third act of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" where the inevitable finally happens. Basically, everything that is already known from previous versions of the story of Peter Parker comes to pass and it all feels too processed to really have any emotion over. It felt like the last third of the movie was just checking off things on a list of what happens in a Spider-Man story and just working more off of some kind of planned out schedule than anything that felt organic to the movie and its characters. Gwen Stacy's story is handled okay, but it lacks the impact that it really could have had due to requiring lots of suspension of disbelief in certain moments. The Harry Osborn story gets rushed at the end and completely loses all the power of the set-up that had taken place earlier in the movie. The villain of Electro similarly starts out with much promise and then just ends in an underwhelming manner. Even the score to this movie gets more bland and uninteresting as the movie goes on.

Basically, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" shows that the current Spider-Man movie franchise is just as plagued with problems as Peter Parker himself. Peter Parker can never seem to get a break. He seems to be perpetually doomed to live a stressful and sad life. Tragedy seems to be an inevitable thing in Peter Parker's life. If he ever starts feeling happy then you know something real bad is going to happen soon. Even in the classic comics this can be kind of annoying and certainly a little repetitive. The thing that made some of the classic stories so great is that they took their time to really develop the stories and the characters over many issues and the stories acknowledged and really played with the fact that maybe some things were just fated to be. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" never feels deep enough to make the story work. Even when the drama in the movie is good it can feel like watching the highlights of a story rather than the whole thing as it was meant to be played out.

Played out, I think that is what this story really is. It has all been done before and been done again and again and again. Not only is Peter Parker's life already repetitive, but the individual stories within it are now being repeated over and over in all sorts of different adaptations. The problem with "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" in the end is the same problem as the first film. This story has already been told before and told better.

Now, the interesting part will be in the aftermath of this film. The movie already teases at where the story will go next, but in terms of Peter Parker himself, the story is open wide. Where the Spider-Man story goes next may not be so beholden to a classic comic storyline that people are already familiar with. This franchise could go into new ground in the future and that is what I would think would be most exciting to see. However, as of today, this franchise seems to be stuck with that same sense of tragic inevitability that plagues the life of Peter Parker himself.