The modern summer time at the movies has developed a tradition where a superhero movie or two is released that can please both a general audience looking to be lost in a fantasy and a comic book crowd that’s counting to see if everything is properly represented.
Before the 2000s, most of these adaptations took two different paths that separated these crowds – either something that’s more playful with bright colors like Superman or the original Spider-Man that’s self aware that it’s campy and silly. And then there’s the dark and dramatic route that Batman and The Crow took with an atmosphere that’s cold but stylish, and bolder character development.
Most superhero movies today tend to go with the latter. The idea behind this is that with every caped crusader, there has to be some big epic story with how they got there and the dilemma they must be going through, doing their typical “saving the day” routine.
The previous Spider-Man trilogy had more of a campy route with occasional scenes of dramatic character arcs. The recent reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man gave our friendly neighborhood hero a re-imagining that was darker, but still the same wisecracker we loved. It took me by surprise, so it made sense that I was hyped to see where the story would go in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
So, what’s going on? The real question is, “What’s not going on?” as the movie tries to put a lot into its story.
Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield) has settled into his role as New York’s favorite hero as he catches thieves, thwarts dangers, and saves an occasional life, including that of an electrical engineer named Max Dillon (played by Jamie Fox). What Spider-Man doesn’t know is that Max is a big fan of the web slinger and dreams of being just as important and wanted.
An accident with electric eels causes Max to mutate into a living electric generator. His debut is met with disgust and horror. In a spectacular action sequence, Max calls himself Electro and starts to destroy Times Square, finally releasing his personal anger with the world.
You would think that Spider-Man would have enough trouble with this guy, but Peter also has to deal with discovering that his father may have been hiding top secret research work from evil, his best friend Harry Osborn (played by Dane DeHaan) returning to take over his dad’s company, a relationship with Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone), and even the beginning of submitting photos for The Daily Bugle newspaper.
There’s a lot more plot to tell, but I don’t want to lose focus. That’s the biggest problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – it tries to tell a lot of story. Since they got the origin story out of the way in the previous film, I thought that this movie would be ready to give us something that was different from the previous trilogy. In truth, I found myself making a lot of comparisons to the okay-received Spider-Man 3.
It shares the same problem of adding in too many villains and rushing most of the development in place for uninteresting story and jokes. I can only blame the less than average screenplay as the acting here is really good. The material with Electro, with his back-story and the battle sequences, was so good that I don’t know why they simply didn’t settle on that for a movie. There’s nothing wrong with a superhero film that’s only 90 minutes long. I can tell that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a result of a director’s vision clashing with Sony’s corporate idea of setting up a franchise. It never meshes enough for a solid story.
I’ll give this two and a half comic book Electro’s out of five. This movie has impressive acting, impressive visuals, and impressive cinematography, but it’s badly put together story lacks true excitement that I got from the previous franchise. Ugh…it was close.
Robert T. Nickerson is a film critic. His work can be seen at mastermindfilmproductions.com.