The Amazing Spider-Man 2

By on May 3, 2014
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So, let’s talk reboots. I’m not going to lie and pretend like I don’t have a problem with it. Basically, it’s what happens when either a production company is about to lose the rights to something and is forced to either sink or swim and do a movie or what have you to retain the rights for a little longer, and/or when something didn’t fare well at the box office and they decide to start from scratch.

Sometimes, admittedly, a reboot can be a good thing. Witness “X-Men: First Class,” a clever reboot that took the series back in time to the roots of the older characters who would become the X-Men in the then-current franchise. Not only was it a vast improvement over the third installment, it effectively breathed new life into the old franchise, which will cleverly collide with the new one in the upcoming “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” I have no problem with any of this.

Then there’s something like the most recent “Superman” movies. “Superman Returns” didn’t fly as high as the studios wanted, so a reboot was ordered, “Man of Steel.” Was it marginally better than the previous one? Sure. Did it entirely justify its reason for being in the first place? Not so much.

You can certainly add “The Amazing Spider-Man” to that latter category. Sure, it was better than “Spider-Man 3.” But at the same time, it only came out around five years after that film, which is a little soon to be rebooting something. Yes, I know the producers needed to do it to hold on to the rights, but still. They couldn’t have simply replaced the lead actor and continued moving forward? Did we really need to start things all over again?

As a result, “The Amazing Spider-Man” was…well, not so amazing in my book. About the only really positive thing it did was to add the delightful Emma Stone to the mix. She’s so likeable, you halfway wish there was a button you could push when watching a subpar movie to instantly add her to the proceedings. “Brick Mansions” a bit of a letdown? Let’s throw Emma in there, let her Parkour it up! “Transcendence” not transcendent enough for you? Let Emma be the new ghost in the machine! And so on.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, Andrew Garfield is likable enough, too. Hell, he was about the only likeable character in “The Social Network,” for God’s sake. And I like that he loves being Spiderman, and serves as a cheerleader for it every chance he gets. If you watched coverage of “TAS-M2” at Comic-Con, there was Garfield, showing up in a tattered, low-rent Spidey costume, surprising everyone when he stood in line to ask a question and revealed his “true” identity. That’s pretty cool.

Turn on “Jimmy Fallon” the other night, there he is, serenading the audience with an acoustic rendition of the “Spider-Man” theme song. Also pretty cool. He’s even hosting “SNL” this week, and I’ve no doubt him and the rest of the cast will have a little fun with it there, too. I’ve got no problem with that, either. Superheroes should be fun when it’s called for, just as they should be serious when it’s time to get down to business. So, all of that said, why did “Spider-Man 2” leave me so cold?

Well, first of all, it’s long. Way long. Like, nearly two-and-a-half hours long. Yes, there’s a lot going on, to be sure, but it’s also largely stuff you’ve seen before. Did we really need a highly-compressed alternate version of the Harry Osborn/Green Goblin story that didn’t add much to the one told in the original Sam Raimi-helmed series? Not really. Not only have we been there, done that, but Raimi just plain did it better. Meanwhile, the “new” characters, Electro and Rhino, all but get shoved off to the side.

New addition Jamie Foxx does the best he can with what he has to work with, but poor Paul Giamatti barely registers. I mean, they could have easily put a no-name or mid-level action star like, say, Vinnie Jones (“X-Men 3”) in there and it would have been just as good, but as talented as Giamatti is as an actor, one should never, ever be able to say that. He’s completely wasted here, and that’s a shame.

What we do get is a whole lot of Garfield mugging and being “charming,” to the point where you just about want something bad to happen to him. Maybe that was the point, but I was like: if Spidey starts break-dancing again, I am so out of here. Which leads me to that big “twist.”Of course, at this point, you’d have had to have been living under a rock not to hear that there was a major occurrence of a deadly sort in the movie towards the end. It’s, of course, directly lifted from the comics, so I’m not sure it qualifies as a “spoiler,” but just in case, you might want to skip the next couple of paragraphs.

Instant awesome? Just add Emma Stone! Courtesy of imdb.com

Instant awesome? Just add Emma Stone! Courtesy of imdb.com

So, most of us knew going in that Gwen Stacy was likely not going to make it to the end of the movie. Now I’m wondering if the filmmakers wanted us to know that, because watching this was like watching one of those “Final Destination” movies: you know death is coming, but you don’t know when, so you start looking for it at every turn. Is it about to happen here? No, here! Okay, it’s definitely happening here!

And eventually, it does, and the end result is oddly muted. It kind of reminded me of a recent development on “Game of Thrones,” which I won’t spoil here, except to say that, even though you knew it was going to happen there eventually as well, part of you kind of wanted it to be more brutal than it was, and when it wasn’t, it was weirdly unsatisfying. Not that, mind you, I want to see anything horribly graphic befall Emma Stone, who I’ve made it clear I adore, but you get my meaning. It just felt anticlimactic on the whole, and when that’s your big finish, that’s a problem.

(End of spoilers!) So, there you have it. It’s not a terrible movie, and certainly nothing for director Marc Webb- if that is his real name- to be embarrassed by. He did the job he was hired to do, and if the big finale was spoiled by the comic community, well, that’s what happens when you do adaptations of previously-released material in a post-internet world. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a right to exist. I just wish it was a shorter film that didn’t waste so much time telling the same story we already heard not even a decade ago.

That said, there are some things to love about it. The chemistry between Stone and Garfield is charming as ever, even if we maybe get more of it than we need. The Electro stuff is pretty exciting, especially a big showdown in Times Square that slows down for a spectacularly-rendered “bullet-time” moment that’s kind of nifty.

And new recruit Dane DeHaan, so great as the villain in “Chronicle,” does what he can with the Osborn character, but James Franco he is not. (And I’m not sure who I’m insulting there, if anyone.) Marton Csokas, as Dr. Kafka (see what they did there?), is oddly bemusing, if bordering on cartoonish, as the scientist “studying” Electro. Think “Hogan’s Heroes” or the Nazi characters Ralph Garman and Kevin Smith do on “Hollywood Babble-On” and you’ll get what I mean. And don’t even get me started on how excited I was by the mid-credits bonus scene, which was almost worth the price of admission alone in my book. No spoilers here, except to say it’s a must-see and ties this franchise into another you’ll definitely be familiar with.

Is it enough? Hard to say. If you are gaga for everything Spider-Man, you’ll likely rate this a little higher than I did. But I can’t help but feel even the hardcore fans will be a little disappointed in the retreading of plotlines here and the unfortunately lengthy running time. It’s marginally better than “The Amazing Spider-Man” and even “Spider-Man 3,” but alas, that’s not saying much.

Sorry, but it stopped short of being amazing for me, and ended up just being “The Slightly-Better-Than-Average Spider-Man,” and no one wants that. I’m giving it a charitable B- and hoping that the next one brings us a truly transformed-for-the-better Spider-Man that can hang in there with the rest of his superhero brethren, as he deserves to. Until then, this Spider-Man does what he can, but not much else.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
 
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