The Amazing Spider-Man 2

the amazing spiderman

It's a clear case of diminishing returns. What do you say about a torpid, top-heavy sequel to a 2012 reboot for which there was really no crying need in the first place?

You say this: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the fifth Spidey movie in 12 years, is overlong, underwhelming, unnecessary and sure to be a hot ticket. Now you get it. Despite the law of averages, audiences still think there may be life left in the Marvel hero with the web thingies. And the team responsible for dressing up the corpse is just gifted enough to fool us maybe one more time.

To start on a high note, the two young stars who sucked us in two years ago are back. That's Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, the nerd-turned-crime-fighter in spandex. And that's Emma Stone staring those saucer eyes up at him as Gwen Stacy, the daughter of a police chief (Denis Leary) who died begging Spidey to leave his daughter the hell alone.

Garfield, 30, and Stone, 25, are a little old to be playing high schoolers. But at least they graduate in Amazing 2. The script, by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Je Pinkner, has them speak impossibly cute dialogue about breaking up to make up, but Garfield and Stone (lovers onscreen and off) make you believe they mean it. No small feat. All thanks to director Marc Webb, whose 2009 romance, (500) Days of Summer, is a model of the form.

Hey, wait, I'm making this sound good. To be honest, for a while it is. Peter is still obsessed with finding out who offed his parents. And his Aunt May, played by the wondrous Sally Field, still resists telling him. It helps to have characters to root for. And 3D scenes of Spidey swooping around the steel canyons of the Big Apple are, well, wow.

Things go wrong quickly with Amazing 2. Am I the only one who hates the word Amazing to describe a movie that isn't? Just asking. If I had to pinpoint where this epic goes south, I'd start with the tonal shifts. As Spidey, Garfield is all Mr. Jokey. As Peter, he does endless variations on moody. What's up with that?

Worst of all is the villain overload. Jamie Foxx gets the most screen time as Max Dillon, a geeky loner who works at Oscorp Industries with Gwen but can't get any attention till he falls in a tank with electric eels and becomes the vengeful Electro. Next up is Dane DeHaan as Oscorp heir Harry Osborn, Peter's childhood bestie until he morphs into the mean Green Goblin to avoid dying like Daddy. Then Paul Giamatti shows up in a rhino suit barking threats.

Enough already. The last third of the movie is a shambles of FX overkill, frenzied editing and desperate plot contrivances that make you wish there'll never be an Amazing 3. No such luck. It's coming.

From The Archives Issue 1209: May 22, 2014
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