The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is caught in a web of mediocre
There’s a certain level of proficiency in this post-Dark Knight world that’s expected in comic book filmmaking. Not to insinuate that all comic book films need be of the same competence as Nolan’s films – flawed films in their own right – but the plotting, dialogue and character motivations in Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is excruciatingly meagre. It’s difficult to imagine how the screenwriters thought their work was of an appropriate standard.
There’s such an array of colourful characters in the Spiderman canon that surely exploring their impetus is one of the most compelling reasons to make a Spiderman film. Villain motivations in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 could be reduced to half a sentence, and just in case we missed it, they’re repeated incessantly, as if a maddening reminder of just how little thought the filmmakers have put into their work.
Some time after the events of the first film, Peter Parker is struggling with his promise to Gwen Stacey’s dying father to leave her out of his dangerous lifestyle. Spiderman has become in equal parts loved and loathed by the New York population, but Parker’s natural inclination to help drives him to forward.
Parker’s life is made more complicated by the arrival of an old friend Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan), who’s dead father has left him the entirety of OsCorp, the shadowy corporation that employed Curt Connors in the first film. Ridden with the same genetically transferred disease that killed his father, Harry’s health is degrading rapidly. He believes that Spiderman’s blood is the only solution.
A crazed Spiderman fan named Max (Jamie Foxx), an employee of OsCorp, has been mutated into a seemingly omnipotent electric force during a very preventable accident in his lab. Assertively dubbing himself Electro, Max begins wrecking havoc on New York City, driven by his Spiderman obsession and a desire to outdo the webslinger’s superstardom.
There are two central villains in the film, both compellingly portrayed but painfully underwritten. The first of Webb’s Spiderman films suffered from underdevelopment, so it’s surprising that the filmmakers have decided to include more characters in this sequel. It’s astonishing how often more is mistaken for more, but additionally frustrating is that big-budget filmmakers still haven’t learned from previous mistakes. The final entry in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy is perhaps the most immediate example of how too much equals less.
Our hero Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) doesn’t far much better than the villains. The dull backstory surrounding the disappearance of Parker’s parents continues here, to similarly monotonous results. Plot is not an inherently interesting thing, no matter how much of it there is, and for the nearly two and a half hours running time, there is very little in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to sustain curiosity.
The dialogue is terrible. The only noticeable scenes outside of the action, which is refreshingly proficient, are those involving Parker and his girlfriend Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) and even then the film has Garfield and Stone’s immense on-screen chemistry to thank rather than any inspiration from the screenwriting department. There’s a likeability and believability to Parker and Stacey’s relationship, possibility as a result of the actors’ genuine relationship,that carries much of Webb’s film.
The action sequences are by far the most captivating elements of the The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Webb has obviously developed his eye for spectacle since the rather flat first instalment, and the film is unexpectedly adept at communicating Spiderman’s exhilarating powers. A crucial aspect of the action sequences is that we can see what’s happening at all times. The camera often tracks Spiderman and Electro in combat or slows down the skirmishes to an almost standstill to convey the layout of events. With a bit of luck, the days of rapid editing in action sequences are on their last legs.
Jamie Foxx as Electro has a captivating presence in a peculiar way. The colossal powers of Electro, a relatively minor villain in the comic book series, are so captivatingly portrayed here there’s often a sense that he could defeat Spiderman. It’s an enormous shame that Foxx’s performance and Webb’s exciting concept of Electro are supported by woeful dialogue and even worse motivations.
Webb’s film is not often dull, but aside from the final half an hour, there’s nothing in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that we haven’t seen in countless films of a comparable nature. There’s rarely a sense of surprise or interest during any of the events that occur, because we’ve seen these stories before far too often.
Spiderman could be an interesting character, but in Webb’s hands Peter Parker’s story is squandered potential. Are we supposed to accept that the choice to do good or the choice to do evil is as simple as a quick change of heart? There are too many blockbuster filmmakers that let their budget speak for them, when critical thinking would be preferable and much more appropriate.