The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I went into this movie not really expecting much, which usually means that I have a good chance of being pleasantly surprised at some point. It worked all right for the first movie in this new franchise, but not so much this time. Somehow, this one managed to be both horribly rushed and terribly plodding at the same time, and I'm still not quite sure how that happened.

Let me sum up the plot first, because that's pretty simple. Electro (Jamie Foxx, White House Down) is created, Peter and Gwen break up and get back together a lot, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, Lawless) is awkwardly shoved into the continuity as Peter's retroactive best friend / future worst enemy, and huge hints are dropped about how the Sinister Six will be the villains in the already scheduled Amazing Spider-Man 3. Doesn't seem like enough plot for a whopping 142-minutes, does it? That's because it isn't, so it drags along a lot of the time.

On the other hand, the entire plot with Harry / Green Goblin, which was spread out over three movies in the original movie trilogy, gets jammed into about half of this movie, so it seems terribly rushed and contrived. Instead of seeing that he and Peter are best friends, they just tell us that here, and somehow we're still supposed to feel terribly upset when that friendship falls apart. There's a reason that the old, "Show, don't tell" line is used so often in creative writing classes, but apparently these writers never heard that bit of advice.

Anyway. There are some little references to established comic continuity, as usual, like the
psychiatrist Dr. Kafka at the Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane, except she's a he here, played by Marton Csokas, who was also in Noah somewhere. And the Rhino appears, sort of -- he's played by Paul Giamatti (Shoot 'em Up) and is mostly like he is in the comics except he has a cyber-rhino suit instead of one grafted to his body. Unfortunately the suit is pretty silly -- it's incredibly top-heavy and looks like a stiff breeze would knock him flat -- so he's hard to take seriously.

It's hard to take the entire movie seriously, really. They seem to have done exactly the same thing they did with the first movie, namely do a huge reshoot / re-edit at the last moment to change everything around, and it worked out even more badly this time. Almost nothing from any trailer I saw made it into the final cut. They filmed a bunch of scenes with Mary Jane and threw them all out. It looks like they tried to make Harry into something more than a two-dimensional villain, with some success, and also tried to make Oscorp less obviously evil, with more limited success. I also suspect that the Sinister Six were originally meant to be the focus of the film, until someone realized that introducing six villains at once would be a bit much to handle in a movie less than five hours long and decided to stick with just two. Well, one and a half. Rhino doesn't get to do much.

I was expecting to be bothered by the fact that Peter is somehow one of the popular kids and Harry has been turned into the highly intelligent science geek in his place, among other such weird changes. But the thing that bothered me most was something I would never have guessed: namely, the movie goes out of its way to remind you that you're watching a movie every ten minutes or so. Three or four times the action comes to a dead stop just because Spider-Man needs to have time to talk to Gwen or some random little kid. They wedged in that horrible theme song from the old cartoon version so many times I was ready to throw something at the screen. The only adjective anyone uses is 'amazing'. One character even says, "They should call you 'The Amazing Spider-Man,'" so we won't forget the title.

I wanted to like something about it, I really did. And I know, everyone else seems to think it's wonderful. Sorry, 'amazing'. But the best I can do, and I'm reaching here, is two and a quarter out of five. Now I need to go start bracing myself for Spider-Man 4. I've only got four years.

Electro pleading silently for respect. But this movie respects no one.


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