|"Seriously? THAT'S The Green Goblin?"|
Having made a promise to Gwen Stacy's late father (Denis Leary) to stay away from her, then totally said screw it and reneged, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is having second thoughts, mainly because he keeps seeing Denis Leary in random places (Leary, for his part, looks vaguely annoyed that he had to drive all the way to set just for a couple seconds in each scene). So he tries to break up with Gwen (Emma Stone) but she has finally had it and breaks up with him first. This after she's given a high-school valedictory speech about treasuring life because it ends in death, or as the screenwriters (everyone's favorites, Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman) might put I, "We know you know we know what happened to Gwen in the comics. Do you dare us to go through with it?" If you miss Gwen's speech the first time, don't worry...it gets replayed at the end.
Webb, who seems more of a natural with romantic stuff, plays the initial will-they-or-won't-they break up scenes strongly, with palpable confusion and sexual tension. At heart, it's a dilemma anyone who works long hours will get - there were certainly times in my own life when I thought to marry would be unfair given how much time I have to devote to work rather than personal time, and I nearly, stupidly ended it out of supposed concern for my then-fiancee. But would Peter be stupid to end it? If you assume that the comic storyline is followed to its logical conclusion, Gwen's dad would be 100% correct, and this Peter a selfish bastard.
"I watch you shower." "What?"
But even taking that out of the equation for the moment, because I don't want to spoil the ending any more than Sony already has on their posters and in their trailers, Peter becomes a creepy stalker for most of the movie. I'm talking to an extent that Brandon Routh's Superman would find uncomfortable. After spying on her constantly, Peter at one point shows up to screw up Gwen's interview for an Oxford scholarship program, babbling nonsense about how his name is John Hopkins and he's a professor. Garfield is so one-note out of costume that it's hard to know what he's thinking with all of that.
Then Harry decides, sans conclusive evidence, that Spider-Man's blood will cure his Goblinitis, and he recruits Electo - who's mad at Spidey for forgetting his name (yes, really) - to obtain said plasma. Fighting ensues, and there's more backstory on Peter's parents that isn't all that important, although it does explain why Oscorp doesn't just make more radioactive spiders, and give Peter a chance to cover the walls of his bedroom in crazy flow charts like A Beautiful Mind's John Nash (a pre-Electro Max Dillon does likewise with Spider-Man pictures, in a manner that feels like lazy Hollywood shorthand for crazy, not unlike the way desk overturning signifies rage).
Many things in this movie look cool, from the power pulsing inside Electro to a crazy scene in which Spider-Man has to juggle plutonium canisters in the back of a speeding truck. But nothing is thought out, from the silly villain origins to the way the old cartoon Spider-Man theme is integrated. Remember how Sam Raimi got that in his movies? He had a street musician come up with it as a tribute, which was a clever way of sourcing the tune. Garfield's Peter, on the other hand, has it as his ringtone, with no explanation. It's symptomatic of the film's general references without reason style.
Oh, and lest it wasn't obvious from the advance photos, DeHaan post-transformation is just awful. What I wouldn't have given to see James Franco smack him in the back of the head and go, "Settle down, Beavis!"
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 never goes full Batman and Robin - it's not bad enough to be camp, and the stunts are genuinely well done and fun to watch. There's an incredible 40 minute 3D Imax sizzle reel hidden somewhere within this two-hour-plus misfire. If only we could inject good story DNA into it somehow, maybe we could save this franchise's creative life...but more likely it'd wind up like Harry and turn into an uglier mess instead.