For its entire two hour, 20 minute running time, the film, directed by Marc Webb and written by a bloated team of four screenwriters, is obviously much more a studio accounting exercise than a creative one.
And it’s sad, because the last time there was a “Spider-Man 2“- in the summer of 2004, only ten friggin’ years ago- it was one of the best action blockbusters ever made, one that’s eminently re-watchable and holds up 100 percent. In the all-time ranking of “Best Spider-man 2 movies,” the new film ranks a distant second. (At least it’s got last year’s “Star Trek: Into Darkness” beat; that was the third-best “Star Trek 2.”)
In a better world, this summer would feature a tenth-anniversary re-release of “Spider-man 2,” rather than a whole new, inferior movie.
(I should disclose right now that I am not a comic book reader and am not familiar with character’s comic book history; my familiarity with Spider-man comes mostly from the first cycle of movies, as well as the various books and toys collected by my children.)
If you’re like me and you saw the first “The Amazing Spider-man” exactly one time and remember almost nothing about it, a refresher: Andrew Garfield (like Tobey Maguire, but taller) is Peter Parker/Spider-man, introduced in the first movie with an origin story not nearly different enough from the Sam Raimi-directed original to justify itself.
Now, Peter/Spider-man is graduating from high school, and is still dating Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone.) But forces are aligning against him- most of them concentrated around OsCorp. And yes, as always, why have one villain when you can have four?
So we have Jamie Foxx as Electro, the main, electrified, baddie, although also on hand are Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn (who, unlike Willem Dafoe in the Raimi films, doesn’t even get a movie of his own) and Dane DeHaan as his son Harry, as well as Paul Giamatti (not in the film nearly enough) as a guy in what looks like a robotic dinosaur suit. There are other, shadowy figures too; the film borrows the established Marvel trick of devoting large blocs of third-act real estate to setting up the sequels and spinoffs of the future that have little-to-nothing to do with this movie.
The action setpieces are hit or miss. The climactic battle is impressive- if a tad similar to the Spidey/Doc Ock battle at the end of the other Spider-man 2- and I really enjoyed the movie’s final scene. There’s an inspired sequence set in Times Square in which at one point, Electro attacks the TKTS booth. What, was he trying to prevent people from buying tickets to “Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark“?
But some of the other action scenes are lackluster and shaky-cam plagued, and just generally uninspired. I keep referencing the 2004 film, I know, but remember the scene when Spider-man stops the train, and then the entire train full of New Yorkers carries him to safety? There’s nothing in either of the Webb films thus far that remotely approaches that.
As always with Sony-produced films, all of the gadgets are Sony-produced and displayed prominently- including a Vaio computer that can upload data. On an airplane. That’s been hijacked. In a flashback scene set ten years ago. Another place in the film with perfect Wi-Fi? A long-abandoned subway car.
Garfield is all right; I used to intensely dislike him as an actor- especially that movie, “Never Let Me Go”- which was just a two-hour cry-off between him and Carey Mulligan- but he’s gotten better over time. Stone is never not immensely appealing, but this part doesn’t give her much to work with (the promised appearance of Shailene Woodley as Mary Jane Watson apparently will have to wait until the next film.)
Jamie Fox actually does some interesting things early on, playing a nerdy guy who reminded me a lot of Foxx’s part in the Michael Mann film “Collateral” (whose name, I believe, was also Max.) But once he turns into Electro he pretty much stops being a character at all.
As for Dane DeHaan, who’s playing Harry Osborn/the Green Goblin? I keep seeing this guy’s performances get high critical praise, and I just don’t get it. He looks like a wispy little boy. When playing a good guy, he’s got just about zero charisma, and in villain mode, he sounds like he’s doing a bad impression of Christian Slater imitating Jack Nicholson. Say what you will about James Franco, but at least he played the same part in the Raimi movies as something that wasn’t a non-entity.
Can’t we take a bit more time before we dive into this universe again? Can’t Marc Webb take a break and make something more along the lines of “(500) Days of Summer,” his standout debut? Can’t we wait until the generation of the last reboot has at least reached adulthood before we do another one? Can’t we take some time to at least let anticipation build?
Apparently not. The movie’s studio said in February that we can soon expect a new movie from the “Spider-man” franchise every year.