The ballyhoo and fervor that was built up by the anticipation of Amazing Spider-Man 2 may explode into embers of nothingness right before your very eyes. But to truly put it all in perspective we have to go back in time a bit. A problem with the Tobey McGuire Spider-Man franchise from 2000 to 2004 was the fact that there was way too much Mary Jane Watson. Yes, everyone is aware that Spidey’s loves, Mary Jane Watson, played by Kirsten Dunst, and Gwen Stacey played by Emma Stone, are among the most important characters in Peter Parker’s life. But after all the love-struck angst and kissy-feely scenes you may find yourself thinking, “Enough is enough.”
The knight in shining arm troupe is vastly overused in all elements of action film. In this film, it’s too long, too “lovey-dovey”, and has too few fight scenes. Too much of it delves into the relationship between teenager Peter Parker and his girlfriend Gwen. In the prior film rendition of Amazing Spider-Man, Peter is urged by Stacey’s dying father to stay away from her because the enemies of Ol’ Web-head would eventually discover his true identity thus placing Gwen in imminent danger. Comic book fans are aware of Gwen’s fate as illustrated in Spider-Man #121 in 1973. But the film was just too heavy-handed in foreshadowing the danger she would find herself in as Peter has intermittent visions and nightmares of the dead Captain Stacey. He tried to dodge her. He even breaks up with Gwen in the film because of the visions. But they eventually get back together.
Yet, the nonchalant way that Gwen approached danger in the film was also a little irritating to watch. Yes, Gwen was a bit of a daredevil in her own right in the comic books, but the giddiness she portrayed in running headlong into danger was a little much.
In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the writers (Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) appeared to struggle to find equal footing for Spider-Man, Electro, the Green Goblin and the Gwen Stacey backstory. One of the primary reasons why comic book lovers attend the film renditions of their favorite heroes is the action, not the backstory. There appears to always be a concerted effort in just about every comic book superhero based film to force a love story.
Daredevil did it, as well as the Hulk franchise, Superman, the Fantastic Four film series and the prior Spider-Man reboot. Sometimes it works, as was the case with Bruce Banner and Betty Ross in The Incredible Hulk (2008), and sometimes it doesn’t. Spider-man 2 is one of those films in which it didn’t work and instead felt like watching a romantic comedy instead of an action movie.
There were high points. Actor Dan DeHaan did a descent job playing the Green Goblin. His ability to easily inflect a sinister nature into his expressions and dialogue was impressive with relaxed acting chops displayed while ascending to the top position of Oscorp, realizing he’s dying, and then, after being denied a solution to his degenerative illness by Spider-Man, he dissolves into evil.
Although watching Harry Osborne fall apart was a joy to behold, Jamie Foxx was the very best part of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Playing much-maligned genius Max Dillon with a playfulness and likeability, it made his eventual transformation into the killing machine known as Electro all the more scary. Unravelling prior to his transformation, Electro comes as the result of an electrical lab, turning Max from a fan of Spider-Man into an enemy.
The problem is that even though Jamie Foxx was exceptional, there was far too little of him because filmmakers dumped three bad guys into one movie. Spider-Man has taken individual lumps from Green Goblin, Electro and the Rhino early on. Each character, as portrayed in the comic book, was layered enough to be an adversary who could successfully counter-balance Spidey throughout the film by themselves. Why bother stuffing the Rhino into the tail end of this film for 2 minutes? Nonsense.
In 2008’s The Dark Knight there were two villains; The Joker and Two-Face. Writers in that film were successful in balancing out Batman and his motivations as they related to each of these characters. The aforementioned example was masterful. But The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets a D in this regard.
Although the Tobey McGuire Spider-Man has absolutely nothing to do with this reboot, fans will be left questioning the imaginations of whoever came up with the villains portrayed in this franchise. Didn’t we already see Green Goblin in another film? Didn’t we see Dr. Octopus too? C’mon! That was barely 10 years ago. Comic book fans have long memories. There are dozens of Spidey villains that could be portrayed. Yes, these aforementioned villains, in addition to the Lizard from the prior film, make up the anti-Spider-Man cabal known as the Sinister Six. But if they’re not going to bring all six of them out at the same time, then why bother with the unnecessary build up?
All-in-all, Spider-Man 2 earns a C-, leaving you walking away bored thinking, "Haven't I seen this movie before?"