Movie review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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That faint cheering sound you hear during The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t coming from excited audiences. Instead, it’s echoing from the offices of DC Comics as their execs realize there may be a chink in the armor of Marvel’s movie universe.

While the screenplay for director Marc Webb’s previous Spider-Man reboot was ploddingly pedestrian and ridden with plot holes, it was preferable to this insipid, insufferable script by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (check their writing credits for the ugly details).

On the occasion of their high school graduation, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) just can’t seem to figure out their relationship. With the apparition of Gwen’s dead dad (Denis Leary) appearing at irregular intervals to leer at Peter, he and Gwen break up and reconcile—without much logical explanation—three or four times over the film’s 142 minute span. Their scenes together are spent exchanging cute nothings more befitting of Dawson’s Creek.

While Peter and Gwen are busy channeling Pacey and Joey, Webb provides an unfortunate approximation of director Joel Schumacher. While the comic book Peter Parker is a renowned wiseacre, the incessant nattering every time Garfield's Spidey dons his mask feels forced and foolish.

More trouble comes in the form of Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), the sort of super-smart, maladjusted hero-worshiper who usually becomes an arch-villain—most recently, think Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3; more satirically, think Buddy Pine in The Incredibles. Thanks to the most outlandish origin story this side of Poison Ivy in Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, Dillon falls into a tank of mutated electric eels and emerges as the power-absorbing/shooting Electro.

Meanwhile, Peter’s old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns—apparently from a Bernardo Bertolucci set, judging by his manner and appearance—to bury his decrepit father Norman (Chris Cooper) and discover he’s inherited dad’s deadly genetic disease. Despite the fact that young Harry has a billion-dollar multinational corporation devoted to scientific research at his disposal, he decides that his lone lease on life resides in injecting himself with Spider-Man’s blood.

When Spidey refuses to donate—for reasons that are never elucidated or, frankly, justified in the moment—Harry springs Electro from the asylum where he was being probed by a German cliché actually named “Dr. Kafka.” Harry and Electro join forces to cure Harry and vanquish their enemies, chiefly Spider-Man.

As if this tangled storyline needs any more confusion, Peter is still trying to solve the mystery of his own father’s vanishing. In one of the film’s more ludicrous scenes, an agonized Peter assembles a wall-sized arrow diagram designed to divine the contents of his father’s old leather satchel—a chart that for some reason incorporates snapshots of Gwen and a mosaic of Franklin Roosevelt.

While it’s not enough to salvage the silliness, the film’s CGI visual effects are seamless and eye-popping, particularly Spidey’s web-slinging and Electro’s power-flinging. Unfortunately, it's all set to the head-throbbing strains of a soundtrack by concocted by Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams and several rock guitarists. It makes Zimmer’s Steve Jablonsky's Transformers scores sound melodious by comparison.

There’s a shocking, emotional gut-punch late in the film that nearly redeems the storyline. However, it’s immediately undercut by a corny coda that seems inspired by the last scene in The Incredibles—and the bad PR generated when Garfield purportedly backed out of an appearance with Batkid at the Oscars.

Indeed, any reference to prior film parodies—both intentional and otherwise—is apt, as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 resembles a mass-produced, synthetic superhero movie full of tropes and little else. Moreover, it compares woefully to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, the best Spidey movie to date, released just 10 years ago. The shame is that Garfield and Stone are a far better onscreen duo than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.

The film surrounding them, however, is anything but amazing.

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