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"The Spirit” remains the worst comic book movie I’ve ever seen—but “The Amazing Spider-man 2” might be the most boring. I was not impressed by the Andrew Garfield/“Ultimate Spiderman” inspired re-boot from 2012.
Unless Sony is willing to sell the rights back to Marvel Studios and allow the character of Spider-man to interact with the likes of Tony Stark and Steven Rogers, the franchise is never going to be better than the first two Sam Raimi films featuring Toby McGuire. Garfield’s Spider-man, and his surrounding world, is too centered in pop culture insignificance, too cool for its own good, and simply too teenage.
It’s baffling to me how a Spider-man film can completely ignore the importance of Uncle Ben and shift the focus of Peter Parker’s motivations to his parents, who never featured very heavily into the original comics. It changes the tone of the origin, making it conspiratorial rather than tragic. Additionally, J. Jonah Jameson is never seen and his influence barely registers in the film.
Understandably, there will never be another person who can play the role like J.K. Simmons, but the absence of the character is noticeable. Most of these complaints are rooted in the retreat from Steve Ditko-style storytelling and there are plenty of “Ultimate Marvel” fans out there who are likely pleased with the outcome. But the film suffers from more than just stylistic differences.
At its heart it has the same problems as “Spider-man 3,” namely, too many villains, static characters, and one long, boring, hokey love story.
The film starts off with a car chase (this is an American movie, after all). Someone bald and angry (Paul Giamatti) has stolen some plutonium. Throughout the movie, NYC throws so many police cars at their problems that the Blues Brothers might find it excessive. Spider-man shows up to take care of business and does so in spectacular CGI fashion. To the film’s credit, many of the sequences where Spider-man does Spider-man things are truly impressive.
While the major battle towards the end of the film smacks of video game nonsense, the scenes on the city streets are thrilling and fun. It’s too bad that the majority of the film is filled with a teen melodrama rife with eye-rolling dialogue like, “I break up with you, Peter. I break up with you.” The romance between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker is as unappealing as anything found in “Twilight” and I couldn’t have been happier when the relationship met its ultimate conclusion.
The plot involves Oscorp, of course, Spider-man’s root of all evil. A lowly electrical engineer (Jamie Foxx) transforms into Electro through an accident involving electric eels (No, really! Stop laughing!). The electricity-wielding villain takes on Spider-man for some reason or another and Spider-man fights back with water and magnetism. Even by comic book standards, the science here is pretty ridiculous.
But it’s not as ridiculous as the lack of chemistry between the leads. In an attempt at injecting irony into the film, most of their dialogue concerns Peter hoping to protect Gwen from his enemies after a promise made to her father in the previous film. Comic book fans and anyone who has ever seen a movie before know where this will end up. It’s exhausting and dull and robs the climax of any emotional impact (the impact itself is more of a relief than anything else).
Also in the film is Harry Osborne, pre-Green Goblin, who suffers from a genetic disease that will eventually kill him. He has learned that a potential cure rests in the genetic research done on spiders by Oscorp, the same research that led to the creation of Spider-man. Harry, not unreasonably, requests that Spider-man assist him by providing blood for further testing. Spider-man refuses Harry, doesn’t really explain himself, and jumps out the window.
Spider-man is kind of a dick. This subplot could have easily been its own movie. If it had, it would have been a better one than the main plot. But there is an unwritten rule for bad superhero movies that states all movies need to be nearly three hours long and stuffed with villains. This way nothing is developed effectively and more merchandise can be sold.
The only thing that can save the Spider-man franchise is Marvel Studios. Ultimately, “The Amazing Spider-man 2” will probably be a financial success, keeping the property firmly in the hands of Sony. Comic book fans will suffer, but eventually this comic book fad will run its course. Or Sony will realize that with great power comes great responsibility. I doubt it.