|Ain’t that a true statement. Just not the way they mean.|
The first question you need to ask yourself is this: were you pining for the days of pre-Christopher Nolan Batman, when comic-book movies were structured around big setpieces and only really gave lip service to the source material?
And then know this: the setpieces in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, especially in 3D Imax, are indeed as spectacular as their protagonist has been known to be in comic-book titles. With big swoops and drops, villains who can levitate or fly, and judicial use of bullet-time spider-senses, the major battles of the movie are immersive and literally do make you feel like you’re on a motion simulator ride. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll be happy…periodically, anyway. Unfortunately, they’re part of a larger movie which isn’t very good otherwise.
There have been many interpretations of Electro and the Green Goblin over the years (Rhino has about as much influence in this movie as The Underminer in The Incredibles, so he’s not really worth talking about). And indeed, it’s hard to point fingers and call anything stupid without acknowledging that one of the characters you’re dealing with originally wore green spandex and a giant yellow star-shaped lightning-bolt thing on his head. So, without any judgment whatsoever (for the moment), let me set one particular scene for you, that happens early enough in the movie that it’s fair game to mention.
Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) enters a darkened room to meet his dying father Norman, lying in bed. See, daddy dearest (Chris Cooper) has a terminal disease, and it’s genetic, so Harry’s gonna end up getting it too.
A disease that makes your skin turn green and warty, and turns your fingernails into claws.
Let that sink in. Read it again. THE GREEN GOBLIN LOOKS LIKE THAT BECAUSE HE’S SICK WITH SOME KIND OF GREEN GOBLIN SYNDROME THAT APPARENTLY OCCURS IN NATURE. Also the city’s richest man can’t spare the cash to procure a nailclipper.
|“My name iss Freeze. Lyuhn it well, for it iss da chilling…Wait, wrong movie.”|
Then Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) becomes Electro by falling into a vat of mutant electric eels while holding a live power cord. And you’re all, like, Marvel managed to make fucking Thor credible, but Sony can take a guy in a scary mask and a costumed dude who shoots electricity, and actually make them stupider than they ever were on the page. Okay, maybe not ever – there have been some dumb Spidey stories. And I can hang with the idea that once you go with the pure energy version of Electro, he can disintegrate and reappear.
But how do his rubber shorts do that? And where does he suddenly pick up that snazzy bodysuit with the lightning bolts on it? Oscorp just had that lying around in case they ever made an electric person?
|“It’s meaningless. A hydrogen atom would be more appropriate.”|
All that said, Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan do the very best with what they’re given. Foxx is convincing both as a pre-villain neurotic nerd and post-transformation demigod, while DeHaan does the desperate, angsty thing real well at this point, even if director Marc Webb clearly did saddle him with cheesy directions along the lines of “Flip over that table! Everyone will really know you’re mad when you do that!”
But this isn’t called The Amazing Electro and Green Goblin Jr. (though a movie with that title is surely coming at some point, given Sony’s plans to milk this thing like it’s a seventeen-tittied dairy cow). It’s The Amazing Spider-Man, and Spider-Man kinda sucks. Wait, no, scratch that. Spider-Man is cool. Peter Parker sucks.
|“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.