I’ll be honest right up front, I didn’t like the first Amazing Spider-Man movie. In fact, I pretty much hated it. I thought Andrew Garfield was completely wrong for the part, I couldn’t stand Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, I thought they played the character of Peter Parker completely and totally wrong. It wasn’t anywhere close to accurate to the comics, it was Emo Spider-Man.
So now that I’ve finally got the Blu Ray for the second movie, is it any better or is it just as bad as the first? Let’s find out as I delve into The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Knowing I’d be watching this movie, I sat down and re-watched the first one. I didn’t like it the first time I saw it, I was hoping that maybe seeing it again would increase my enjoyment. I was wrong.
As I said, I didn’t really care for how they portrayed Peter Parker in the first movie. He was a geek in the comics, a super-smart loser that got picked on and bullied because he couldn’t identify with his peers. He was a character that a lot of comic geeks could identify with, identifying his pain while at the same time dreaming about his powers. That’s what made him such a hit in the printed page, he was the everyman, at least the everyman that was reading comics at the time, as well as wish fulfillment for geeks who wanted to be special and powerful heroes. The first movie never did that. They made Peter Parker a jerk. He was a complete asshole. He picked on other students, he spent all of this time being emo, I couldn’t stand his character at all.
This time around though, they made him somewhat better. Not perfect by any means but he wasn’t quite as much of an asshole. One thing the comics made central to the character was Spider-Man quipping as he swung around town and Toby McGuire, in his trilogy of movies, did the same thing, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. The first movie didn’t bother, this time around they at least made an effort. It showed that Peter had come to grips with his abilities and role as Spider-Man. It certainly wasn’t perfect but it was a step in the right direction.
Now for the problems and central among them are the villains. There simply are too many. Amazing Spider-Man 2 falls into the same old issues that plague many superhero sequels, they assume that if one villain was good in the first film, two or more are needed for the second and subsequent films and it never, ever, ever works out well. We start off with Electro, who I think Jamie Foxx does an admirable job portraying. Max Dillon, a tech for Oscorp who is almost entirely ignored, he wants to be seen, understood and liked by those around him. A chance encounter with Spider-Man boosts his confidence, but after he’s struck down by an accidental dunking in a tank of electric eels (yes, that is a stupid idea), his twisted mind decides that Spider-Man must die. I actually enjoyed a lot of the sequences with Electro, I think they could have done the whole movie with just Electro and been fine with it. Unfortunately, they had to half-ass two other villains into the flick as well.
The first is Harry Osborne, who is told by his father, on his death bed no less, that he has a rare genetic disorder that just so happens to start at the age that Harry is now. Almost immediately, Harry’s health starts to go downhill and he slumps into a deep depression that he’s dying. Never mind that his father lived another 30-40 years beyond Harry’s age, never mind that his father left Harry with a wealth of information he had gathered to fight the disease, Harry goes from being one of Peter’s best friends to a complete douchebag almost instantly. And wait a second, how is Harry one of Peter’s best friends when they hadn’t seen each other, or even talked, in 8 years? Well, anyhow, Harry becomes convinced that the key to his survival is Spider-Man’s blood, but when Spider-Man refuses to just hand it over, Harry too decides Spider-Man must die. I sense a theme here. Of course, the whole exchange is ridiculous and Spider-Man digs his own metaphorical grave. For a genius, Peter Parker really is stupid. Instead of telling Harry that he’ll help him find a cure, that he’ll donate blood for testing, but not for Harry to shoot up with, he just says no and jumps out the window. Maybe Peter has Asperger’s or something, he sure has no clue how to deal with other people.
Then you get the biggest waste of screen time, Rhino shows up at the very end, after Spider-Man has been absent for 5 months following the death of Gwen Stacy and this brings Spidey out of retirement. Paul Giamatti shows up for a couple of minutes as Aleksei Sytsevich, a crazed Russian mobster who gets a suit of robotic armor and decides to take on the entire NYC police department for no real reason. That was really a complete waste of time. I mean, I like Paul Giamatti, but come on.
I mentioned Gwen Stacy’s death, which was a big deal back in Amazing Spider-Man #121-122, but I don’t think most people in the comic world really remember the emotional impact it had back in the day. Okay, Gwen is dead. It was a pretty decent sequence but we’ve already been told that she comes back in one fashion or another in Amazing Spider-Man 3, so what’s the point?
Another thing that I find pointless is the ongoing mystery surrounding Peter’s parents. In the first movie, they dropped him off with Aunt May and Uncle Ben before flying off into the wild blue yonder and dying in an airplane crash. This time, we get to see that crash, we get to see them running from something at Oscorp and Aunt May tells Peter that his father might have stolen technology. Peter finds that his father had a secret lab in an abandoned subway line, but honestly, it reminded me a lot of Harold Finch’s setup in Person of Interest. After all of that, they just drop the whole idea for the rest of the movie. Why? Because they want to set up Amazing Spider-Man 3, of course. There’s a ton of that here. We get shots in the super secret Oscorp lab of Doc Ock’s tentacles, the Vulture’s wings and, of course Rhino’s robot suit. Clearly, they’re setting up for Sinister Six film. A little bit of that I don’t mind, but there was far too much in this movie.
I think this is a better movie in a lot of ways than the first one, they listened to the fans who totally lambasted the first flick, and made Peter a better person, at least to a certain degree. They just went down the sequel rabbit hole, adding more villains and more irrelevant nonsense to set up another movie and it just wasn’t necessary. They could have had a really cool film if they had stuck with Electro, expanded him into a three dimensional character and left the rest on the cutting room floor.
After writing most of this review, I got to thinking about the whole Norman Osborne thing and how it really made no sense. In the first movie, even though you don’t see Osborne, we’re led to believe that he has some sort of disease requiring Curt Connor’s lizard serum. When Connors refuses to move to human trials, Osborne’s lacky fires Connors and takes a vial of the serum, presumably to use on Osborne. After all, as Harry says, what does he have to lose, he’s dying anyhow. I guess we’re supposed to think he didn’t use the Connors serum, after all, he didn’t turn into a lizard, but he knew he had the venom from the spiders in storage, he had to, I’m sure he’s the one that ordered it. The only thing he was lacking was the formula from Peter’s father, which Peter gave to Connors in the first movie. Unless Connors kept the formula completely out of Oscorp’s computers, which seems unlikely since that’s where all of his work with the spiders was being done, Osborne had to have access to the formula and the venom for a significant amount of time. After all, they don’t seem to respect privacy in the workplace, they were all over Harry’s account and forged his signature and authorization. So why didn’t he do anything with it? Or did he try and it didn’t work? But just the regular venom had some curative effects, as we saw with Harry, so again, why didn’t it work on Norman, or why didn’t he try it? That’s really what I hate about these movies, nobody asks the really absurdly simple questions.
Are these movies getting better? I don’t know. In some ways, probably, in others, no. I see the next movie, slated to come out in 2018, suffering from the same issues that other sequels do. Complexity for the sake of complexity, multiple villains for the sake of mindless action, upping the odds, just because that’s what you do in these things. It’s what Sony did with the first Spider-Man trilogy, I can only see the reboot going exactly the same way. It’s a shame because these could be really good movies if they’d get out of the comic book movie mold and just tell a compelling story.