By Michael Parnell
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 falls prey to its makers’ desires. They hoped to create a movie that makes us want to go to see its sequel. To do that there has to be much in the story that leads us to the next movie.
This is the problem with franchise movies. They want not merely to tell a story but to tell an additional story. But to do that they have to tell the current story.
Some franchises do it well. The first series of Spider-Man movies, directed by Sam Raimi, had one of the best second movies. George Lucas did it well with the original Star Wars trilogy with The Empire Strikes Back. Nailing the second movie is important.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does not. To use a quote from my childhood, “It’s too big for its britches.”
The movie picks up where the first ended. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) loves Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), but he is conflicted because of the promise he made to Gwen’s late father, Captain Stacy. Captain Stacy knew Peter was Spider-Man and believed if Gwen was with Peter she would be in danger.
As the movie progresses we see the on and off nature of Gwen’s and Peter’s relationship. There is real love here, but Peter keeps seeing Captain Stacy and is reminded of his promise.
This is one aspect of the story that the movie gets right and does well. Spider-Man is not the central character in the story. It is Peter. The original comic book version always played this up and made it clear this is really a soap opera. Peter is our everyman, full of angst and doubts. Peter is Job-like. His life is an ordeal of conflict and pain.
One of the biggest mistakes this movie makes is creating multiple villains. One is Max Dillon, who transforms into Electro, who can control electricity. Jamie Foxx performs this well, but he is hampered with the “too big for its britches” problem. His character is not really developed to the point that one can have any real feelings for him. His story is merely one of many thrown on the screen.
Another aspect of the story is the relationship between Peter and Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan). Harry enters the story just as his father, Norman (Chris Cooper), is dying. The disease is genetic, so Harry has it as well — and in fact is dying from it.
Peter and Harry were childhood friends. As they rekindle that friendship, Harry asks Peter to get Spider-Man to give him blood. Harry knows Peter takes pictures of Spider-Man and thinks the two have a relationship. Harry believes Spider-Man’s blood will heal him, but Peter refuses the request, afraid of what his blood would do to Harry.
As a result Harry becomes the Green Goblin. Using genetic material and weapons at his father’s company, he becomes a villain. So we now have two villains.
But wait, there’s more. At the beginning of the movie a Russian mobster, Aleskei Sytevich (Paul Gammati), is taken down in an attempted armored car robbery. He returns as the Rhino. So we have three villains, with nearly no character development.
All of this swirls around while Peter is trying to find out about what happened to his parents. Peter’s father worked with Harry’s father and the two were developing genetic material that created Peter’s powers as Spider-Man. But his father and mother die mysteriously and Peter wants to know why and how.
The movie is just too busy. Too much goes on and it loses its narrative focus.
Director Marc Webb wanted to hit a homerun, but all he got was a single. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not that good. And that is a shame.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man is an iconic character, and Webb does well with some aspects of that character.
Andrew Garfield plays the Spider-Man role very well. He wisecracks and shows compassion for little children — both hallmarks of the character in the comics.
Garfield and Emma Stone do an outstanding job as lovers, but then they are a couple in real life.
But I wanted more. I wanted better. I wanted more real story rather than a bunch of narrative threads that force me to buy another ticket to another movie to get to its end.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.
Directed by Marc Webb. Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner.
With: Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Jamie Foxx (Max Dillon/Electro), Dane DeHaan (Harry Osborne/Green Goblin), Sally Field (Aunt May), Paul Giamatti (Aleskei Sytevich)