The Amazing Spider-Man 2 presents great promise for Peter Parker, but not for Spider-Man. Emotional turmoil plagues Peter. His girlfriend from the first movie, Gwen Stacy, is going to Oxford (a university that takes both Peter and Gwen some time to realise resides in England). Peter keeps seeing Gwen’s father everywhere (if you recall, Gwen’s father died at the hands of the Lizard in the first movie), which is usually Hollywood’s way of reminding its characters of a past promise being betrayed. And then there’s the Peter Parker chestnut: His buried past, and his father’s lingering leather bag.
All this is great for Peter’s development as a character. Unlike many other superhero alter egos, Peter is perhaps the only one who is constantly at war with his present and past at the same time. There are a lot of people in his life he needs to care about. There’s Gwen (Emma Stone). There’s his precious Aunt May (Sally Field), who in this film finally reveals her true feelings about Peter’s parents. If you’re a follower of the Spider-Man comics, you will know that J. Jonah Jameson and his news team are also in Spidey’s witness protection programme. Later on, Mary-Jane Watson will become his primary love interest, and he’ll have to worry about her too. On top of all this, he has to constantly question the reason behind his parents’ departure and figure out who he really is.
Next to all this drama, Spider-Man seems insignificant, especially in this movie. How can a web-slinging hotshot with no discernible weaknesses compete with the trials of being a teenager in a world so hostile that no one seems to care very much that their streets are always under attack? Spidey has always been known for his quick wit. His one-liners are usually corny and cliched, but they work because the character is also corny. He is played by Andrew Garfield for a second time, and Garfield is good at the sarcasm. His voice has a sweetness to it that Tobey Maguire lacked in the earlier versions. But sometimes too much sweetness leads to rotten teeth, and when Spidey takes the scene and rounds up some bad guys, his condescending punch lines are more perplexing than funny. It also doesn’t help that the personalities of the people of New York are reduced to random recorded lines like “Hey it’s Spider-Man!” and “Go, Spidey, go!” Who are they cheering? The man in the costume, or the broken teenager living a double life?
What’s also very disappointing about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are the villains. People say that movie trailers show off the best parts. This is true of the bad guys. The trailer gives us copious amounts of Electro, the Green Goblin, and Rhino, and they all look very impressive grunting and growling and causing havoc for no apparent reason. I’m sure all the fanboys — including myself, to a degree — must’ve been excited. And then you walk into the movie, ready for Marc Webb to undo Sam Raimi’s mistakes, and nothing goes according to plan. No, not even Dane DeHaan’s hair.
I’ll start with the Green Goblin. He is Harry Osborn (DeHaan), son of multi-billionaire, Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper). We know all this from the comics. He is also Peter’s best friend, which is a small miracle considering they haven’t seen each other in 12 years. On his deathbed, Norman warns Harry of a genetical disease that eats away at the body from the inside out. Harry is afraid. He is too young and handsome to die. So he does some research and discovers his father’s work on cross-species breeding and whatnot. Cells can rejuvenate on their own. His plan: Capture Spider-Man and use his mutated blood to cure the illness. When Spidey refuses, well, you can deduce what happens. Harry has always been a crybaby. This movie also makes him stupid.
And then there’s Electro (Jamie Foxx), who is more a triumph of motion capture visual effects than good characterisation. After a nasty accident at Oscorp, invisible electrical technician Max Dillon becomes souped up with enough voltage to challenge the lightning. What was once a meek, friendly and genuinely likeable guy is now a hateful human-sized taser. What boggles me the most about this man are his motives. Why the sudden change? You were such a nice man. All it takes, I suppose, is a little spectatorship to turn even the best guy sour. And look how sour he becomes.
This is the best way to describe The Amazing Spider-Man 2. There is no plot, only a string of villains to make up some sort of cohesive story. The best scenes are shared between Peter and Gwen, probably because they are the only real people in the film. Paul Giamatti’s minuscule appearance as the Rhino is over-the-top and ridiculous, and his suit looks like a cross between a tank and a Pokemon character. Electro is disappointing because he has no motive. The Green Goblin is pathetically shallow. Spider-Man is no more than a hopping, soaring, jumping leotard of sarcasm. And was I the only one hoping to see J.K. Simmons return for a Jonah Jameson cameo?
Best Moment | Some of Garfield’s lines as Peter are good. The laundry scene with Peter and Aunt May is perhaps the smartest. And funniest.
Worst Moment | It’s a tough fight between the webbed “I LOVE YOU” sign across the bridge and the preposterous X-Men plug during the end credits. I don’t care if this is a spoiler, because it’s downright stupid.