This past weekend I amused my inner-child/ true-self and saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on opening weekend. Like most scrawny (and non-scrawny, I suppose) children, Spider-Man was my superhero of choice. What better dream was there for a muscularly-challenged child than to one day be bitten by a radioactive spider and turn into a superhuman who can get a girlfriend and lift 10,000 tons? Let me tell you: none.
However, when I go to movies today – you know, now that I’m older and sophisticated – I try to leave visceral feelings out of it. In doing so, I was not very impressed by the second installment of the second major series of the iconic Marvel hero. Some may remember that I mentioned The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was one of my “summer movies I was excited about.” Those people should also remember that I did say there was a good chance that it would not be that great. Though not very often, there are some cases in which I wish I weren’t correct. This is one of those cases.
The movie started off poorly for me when I thought Samuel L. Jackson might bust out of the bathroom and yell “I’ve had it with these motherf**kin’ snakes on this motherf**kin’ plane!” Granted, there were no snakes on the plane and it was Richard Parker and his wife in the scene, but the scene itself felt alien to Spider-Man, so why couldn’t it happen? In many cases, exploring a new avenue should be celebrated in an extremely saturated, cookie-cutter-plagued genre such as the superhero niche, but it should also work in order to be included. Ingenuity for ingenuity’s sake is really not ingenuity at all, is it?
True enough, superhero movies have become the behemoth of movie theaters across the world. Since the early 2000s (though there were many before), when X-Men and Spider-Man hit the silver screen on a large scale, superhero flicks have been extremely profitable. Surely, one factor has to be the youngest generations pleading with their parents to go see the latest adaptation or drop them and some friends off at the theater to see their favorite fictitious paladin fight off the bad guys. But this hasn’t been the only source of the films’ success. In order to set box-office records (as the first three Spider-Man movies did), the pictures had to appeal to more than just the youngest adolescents. And they have. Most superhero films, though sometimes poorly executed, have an underlying message that speaks to overall humanity. That is one aspect that all Spider-Man films, both the Sam Raimi series and the Marc Webb series, succeeded in. Unfortunately, that was one of the only success stories of The Amazing 2.
Most people will also remember that Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) were met with praise from both critics and viewers alike. CGI and technology in general had finally enabled Hollywood to make a superhero movie that included all of the unbelievable stunts thought to be impossible. Spider-Man did a great job revamping the Spider-Man legacy, letting the viewer know that while the film would be duly admired by young people, it would also offer fresh perspectives on large looming life questions.
A rare occurrence in a series, Spider-Man 2 was even better than its predecessor. There are few trilogies or sagas in which the middle movie shines brighter than the first installment; save for, of course, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. However, Raimi was able to build off the serious nature of the first film, capitalize on advancements in technology in the two year gap, and create a compelling story that spoke to all ages. Some may argue that the first film was better than the second, but there is one thing most everyone agrees on: the first two movies were far better than the third.
Spider-Man 3 was widely considered a failure by viewers. The biggest complaint came from Peter Parker’s descent into melancholia, or as many of my peers cleverly liked to say, “He turned emo.” I, for one, didn’t mind Peter Parker’s radical personality change too much. Some of the scenes were overwrought, but I thought it added an extra layer of complexity and story. And it was true to the comics – something that the rebooted Spider-Man series has used as its modus operandi. My biggest issue was that Raimi did go back to the comics. Although Raimi was a devoted fan of the Spider-Man comics, he spent the first two flicks developing his own nuanced version of the friendly neighborhood crime fighter. When he decided to veer back to comic-based storylines, it seemed unnatural and uninspired. Furthermore, the third movie had no sense of flow which left some scenes feeling rushed when they should have been fleshed out more, and others stalling when there should have some haste. Finally, almost everyone agreed that there were an absurd amount of villains that convoluted the plot, and discouraged honest character development. I thought it was everyone until I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and realized that Marc Webb must have missed the lesson.
When a director makes a mistake or a movie flops, generally future filmmakers try to avoid making the same mistakes. For whatever reason, Webb thought he was above this logic and decided to attempt to create an intricate web of storylines, interweaving with one another, creating different ending points but all sharing a similar thread. The main villain The Amazing Spider-Man 2 offered was Electro, played by Jamie Foxx, who, before he was “Electro,” offered timely comic relief and many laughable moments. Unfortunately, Foxx’s transformation into “Electro” was the end of his comedic contribution and also his transition into having very odd scenes. One particular scene that comes to mind was when Electro and Spider-Man first meet. Max Dillon (Electro before he was Electro) was a huge fan of Spider-Man, mostly an admirer because he wished he could demand attention like the infamous web-slinger. When a series of unfortunate events pits Electro and Spider-Man against one another, a bizarre song, doubling as Electro’s thoughts, arrests the audience (note: I never view being arrested as a positive thing). The foes meet numerous other times in the film, and just after their final battle, when I was wishing the movie would end, another villain flies onto the screen: Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin. Wait, didn’t this happen once? Yes.
Well, then the Green Goblin has his moment fighting Spider-Man and – surprise! – he loses. But wait, there’s more! Of course Harry is not executed gang-style (like he maybe deserves), rather he is kept in solitary confinement where he is plotting to use Oscorp’s extensive military-grade weapons and suits to create an army of deadly villains to wreak havoc upon NYC. The first volunteer is Rhino, a criminal from the very beginning of the movie who, despite being played by the brilliant Paul Giamatti, was too over-the-top for my liking. Aren’t you exhausted from just reading my summary? I left the theater and yawned countless times on my drive home. But it wasn’t a good tired. It was a why-the-hell-was-that-so-exhausting kind of tired.
There were some good qualities. Andrew Garfield adequately played the role of Peter Parker/ Spider-Man, adding the quirky humor found the Spider-Man cartoons from my childhood. Obviously Emma Stone was a general boon to the film, she oozes with charisma. As previously stated, Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon was fun, though the use of humor in general was overplayed throughout the film.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a disappointing chapter in the seemingly-infinite Spider-Man saga. The positives that made The Amazing Spider-Man a success, including: the fresh faces, the dedication to a new brand of Spider-Man, distance from the Sam Raimi series, and the tighter storytelling, were mostly undone in its successor. The film left a familiar taste in my mouth, and it wasn’t a savory one.
Brent Glass is a Michigander who graduated from Eureka College in May of 2013. He spent time at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, IN (a non-partisan think tank) where he worked on political economy pieces for Detroit, MI and Elkhart, IN. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, working on social media management. Currently he is creating a social media management business (Connect You Consulting) and working full-time as a Management Assistant to the owner of a car dealership. He plans to further his education in the fall of 2014 in pursuit of a Ph.D. in Urban Development.