The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a bit unfocused though it still has several fun moments
When you take the latest batch of Marvel comic book movies—starting with Iron Man—one of the first things that may come to mind to describe them all as a collection would probably be "intricate." Every movie lays a foundation for one or more movies coming afterward.
We get glimpses of Captain America's shield in the first two Iron Man movies. We get a teaser showing Thor's Hammer in New Mexico, or the Tesseract held in a secret government base. And eagle-eyed comic book fans have been fan-gasming over dozens of little glimpses of artifacts and name drops in every movie.
No doubt director Marc Webb and the producers of the new Amazing Spider-Man movies looked at that banquet of teasers and spoilers and said "I gotta get me some of that!"
Whatever else you might think of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, one thing that it does do very effectively is set up countless movies to come. Though it does seem to do that at the expense of the movie they apparently forgot they were supposed to be making.
It's not a bad movie. There are well-done sequences and several fun moments. It just feels unfocused and diluted.
But we'll get to that later.
But first, the story
The movie starts up with a little bit more information regarding Peter Parker's past and how and why his parents left when they did. They don't give enough to actually explain anything. That would be too easy. But they show his father, Richard (Campbell Scott), and mother, Mary (Embeth Davidtz), escaping in a private jet which doesn't exactly end well for the plane.
Flash forward to the present, where Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), as Spider-Man—spoiler alert! Peter Parker is Spider Man!—helps the cops chase down Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) who has hijacked a truck full of radioactive material. We know it's radioactive material because the computer very helpfully announces out loud that it's all radioactive and highly explosive so pretty pretty please would you please not kill anyone with this highly dangerous stuff that can explode and did I mention it was also radioactive? Because it is.
In the middle of all this action, Spider-Man takes a quick time-out to save the life of an under-appreciated, overlooked, slightly clumsy man named Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) who happens to work for OsCorp. And as we all know, being an under-appreciated, overlooked, slightly clumsy OsCorp employee never ends well for anyone.
And all this is happening while Peter is supposed to be at his own graduation, where his sort-of-girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is giving her valedictorian speech. I say sort-of-girlfriend because, if you remember from the end of the previous movie, Peter promised her late father, Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary), that he would leave her alone. And the good ol' captain seems to have come back from the dead to haunt Peter everywhere he goes.
And for all of those guys who already had a hard time telling Denis Leary from Willem Dafoe, this really doesn't do them any favors.
A little later, young rich-kid-sent-to-boarding-school-since-he-was-eleven Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) comes in to visit his ailing father, Norman (Zombie Chris Cooper). Now I have absolutely no idea what Norman's illness is actually doing to his body, and I'm not completely sure the filmmakers have a clear idea either.
Anyway, we're told that Peter and Harry had been childhood friends, and we'll just have to take the movie's word on that.
There's a predictable accident at OsCorp that turns Max Dillon into a living electric generator, self-titled Electro—frequently looking for all the world like Doctor Manhatan's moody younger brother. And when an overlooked loser gets super powers, the only option is to go crazy and become evil.
Unless your name is Peter Parker.
Dot dot dot
As I said before, one thing this movie does accomplish is laying the groundwork for future movies. They've created a simple origin they can point to for any number of future villains. However the amount of effort put into laying that groundwork causes the current story to end up rather unfocused and diluted.
For instance the "main" villain has shockingly little actual screen time. And he only really gets two actual action sequences. One where he goes from confused good guy to insane maniac in thirty seconds, and one where he for some reason tries to bait and kill that pesky little Spider-Man because apparently it was an obligation in his contract.
There's also basic lip service to the typical Spider-Man "wonderful hero vs. dangerous vigilante" debate that has been featured in pretty much every Spider-Man movie yet. Not that it's not appropriate, but if you're going to bring it up at all, really have the debate, not just the bullet-points.
The movie just seems to lack serious focus.
Another thing that the movie does well is actually fix one of the problems I had with the previous movie. In fact, it's actually a problem I've had with the entire Spider-Man franchise as a whole: the origin.
Here's my problem. Whenever a superhero or super villain has an origin, I take a look at the circumstances. Specifically how repeatable they are. And the more repeatable they are, the more I have to ask "Why the heck hasn't this happened before? And why does it never happen again?"
Or, at the very least, after this accident turned out a super human being, no doubt somebody out there would start testing out the possibility of making their own team of super-humans. But that almost never happens.
In the previous movie, yes, we're told that these spiders that OsCorp is breeding are genetically modified, but they still have an entire room full of them! Nobody has ever been bitten before or after Peter? They haven't even experimented with this venom?
But those questions are nicely answered in this movie, explaining why, whatever OsCorp may or may not have done with the spiders, it still only worked with Peter.
Another issue with the movie really comes down to certain motivations.
I'm getting a little sick of the "overlooked loser gets super power and turns evil" story line. Even if for no other reason than that's pretty much the same origin as Peter Parker, but not the same outcome. Whereas, if Electro had a catch phrase, it would be "I just wanted everyone to see me". He literally keeps saying that over and over.
And if that's his only motivation, I just can't quite get behind it. It's too cliche and weak. There's some secondary motivation thrown in about him feeling that OsCorp may have stolen one of his ideas, but that shouldn't exactly lead him to hating Spider-Man, should it?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer
They're easy, cliche motivations. And they don't do the character much service. Maybe if they hadn't devoted so much screen-time to showing everything-but-Electro, they might have been able to make Electro a real villain, and not just a generic drop-in.
And, mild spoiler alert, the main climax has a mildly surprising villain-ex-machina who really gets little to no actual time to be a real villain at all, aside from one franchise shaking shocker.
All that being said, there are some nice action sequences, some quite fun comedic interludes, and plenty to actually enjoy overall. It's just rather unfocused, spending more time trying to tell other stories rather than focus on this one.
But what do you think of the movie?
For myself, I'd give this movie a strong 6 / 10. Almost a weak 7. It's an okay place holder until a better movie comes along. But it could have been so much more.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is rated PG-13 for plenty of comic-book action violence and some extremely mild language.
Oh, and the obligatory mid-credits teaser is a little confusing, setting up a movie in a completely different franchise. Go fig.