Thursday, May 1, 2014

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" ★★

Crowded, Long, And Less Than 'Amazing' 

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

One of the pleasures of "The Amazing Spider-Man" was its attention to young love, illustrated wonderfully by Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). I felt that it added an extra layer that was missing from Sam Raimi's original trilogy, where the acting could be sidelined for dramatic camera movement. With "The Amazing Spider-Man 2", however, the scenes between Garfield and Stone come in small doses, in favor of developing the film's many villains.

It begins with a car chase where Aleksei Sytsevich, a.k.a. Rhino (Paul Giamatti), is quickly subdued by Spider-Man and locked away for later use. In the process of apprehending Sytsevich, Spider-Man saves the life of a lonely OsCorp electrical engineer, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx, who later becomes Electro after a freak accident involving mutated electric eels), which sets up Dillon's strange obsession with the web-slinging hero. Complicating matters further, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) shows up to inherit OsCorp from his dying father, Norman (Chris Cooper), and discovers that he needs Spider-Man's blood to cure him of the same illness that is killing his father. All of this and we're only about a half-hour in to the two-and-a-half-hour running time. Crowded is putting it lightly...

While all of these new characters are introduced, Peter is struggling with the promise he made to Gwen's father, George (Denis Leary, who shows up just to stare disapprovingly at Peter in several scenes), to keep away from her, while Gwen is making plans to attend Oxford University. The focus is constantly shifting from one story to the next for the obvious purpose of setting up the next movie, or series of movies in this universe. In other words, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is less concerned with itself than what will undoubtedly come next.

It's a shame, really, because Peter and Gwen's relationship is something quite special. The film's strongest scene is one that involves Peter and Gwen deciding if they can truly be just friends or if they'll always be something more. The rules they establish for one another show the charm and wit they bring to the series, as well as the heart of Peter Parker's quest. Should he sacrifice what he wants in favor of being a hero, or is the real heroic act being there for the woman he loves?

The problem is that 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2" cannot decide what it wants to be. It's as if a bunch of noodles were thrown to the wall and the ones that stuck ended up making it into the movie. With three credited writers (Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner), and a fourth for the story credit (James Vanderbilt), you would think that someone would have spoken up about the need for crowd control. Characters are ignored for chunks of the movie because of all the storylines and plot points the writers need to hit. After the initial confrontation, Electro is locked away, Aunt May (Sally Field) is virtually unseen except to deliver truly pointless exposition, Sytsevich is onscreen for a total of five minutes, and Harry's development into yet another villain is quite rushed.

All of this is to say that the writers and director Marc Webb appear to have forgotten what made this new incarnation of the series special in the first place: Garfield and Stone. They're the reason to include "amazing" in the title and they deserve far more than being ignored for unnecessary, uninteresting characters.