Mangled Web: Spider-Man goes up against a misused power grid, and if this looks like a cheesy cartoon to you, so will most of Webb’s film.
I could use this space to tell you what happens in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (lots), and how little of it makes sense. I could use this space to decry Hollywood for bringing us this retread only a decade after Sam Raimi's generally well-regarded Spider-Man 2. (Sony had to produce the 2012 Spider-Man reboot to retain rights to the lucrative Marvel property.)
I could use this space to lament Hollywood's increasing reliance on cartoonish 3-D spectacles that translate well to foreign markets, or the ever-shrinking number of original properties that reach theaters each year. I could parse the differences between this franchise helmed by director Marc Webb and Disney's Marvel movies, noting that Captain America: The Winter Soldier contains action that occasionally obeys the laws of physics enough to convince you the characters are in danger.
But it's all been said before, and no one cares. People around the world have still flocked to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and will flock to its sequels until they start getting bored with movies like this.
So, because the summer is sure to bring (much, much) more of the same, I'll instead use ASM 2 as an opportunity to inaugurate a long list of Stuff in Blockbusters I Would Be Happy Never to See Again:
1. Wham! Bang! The movie opens with exciting action that doesn't matter. In the first installment, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) acquired his arachnoid superpowers when he was bitten by a GMO spider created by his missing dad's employer, the sinister Oscorp. At the opening of this one, we learn where Peter's folks went. It's exciting! But far from essential. In fact, very little of the backstory unfolded in this film seems to matter. It's a time waster that knits the action setpieces together.
2. The life of a superhero is too dangerous for dating, but love conquers all. Peter and his high school sweetheart, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), are cute together. No doubt about that. If only the relationship didn't consist mostly of Garfield furrowing his brow as peril-prone Spidey tries to dump Gwen for her own good, over and over and over. Garfield's stuttery, emo-adolescent take on the character felt at least different in the first film. Now it's a series of method tics.
3. You know what would be hilarious? If the superhero saved the city and his girlfriend still pouted because he cared more about the city than about her. It's not hilarious. Real people don't do this. Even the most stylized genre movie needs the occasional infusion of real-person behavior.
4. When an antagonist becomes a supervillain, his brain appears to devolve into that of a tantrum-prone 3-year-old. Jamie Foxx's Max Dillon is supposedly a put-upon tech whiz, but he never exhibits much in the way of smarts, before or after he starts terrorizing the city with electricity and howling, "It's my birthday, and I want to light my candle!" Dane DeHaan is campily creepy as the heir to Oscorp — until he, too, becomes just another special effect.
5. Let's just make this entire battle CGI. When action scenes have no convincing simulation of gravity or materiality, it's hard to care which primary-colored blob whoops the ass of which other primary-colored blob. Digital technology can be used to craft remarkable illusions, and Webb occasionally does do something cool: He freeze-frames the animation so we can follow one of Spidey's threads through a scene that would otherwise be an incoherent sparkly blur. If only it had been coherent to start with.
Here's where I channel this movie's ear for terrible quippage and suggest you stay out of its web. Not that it matters. Whether you buy a ticket or not, this saga will spin out for years to come.
Director: Marc Webb Writer: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkne Producer: Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Stan Lee, Marton Csokas and Chris Zylka
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Margot Harrison is the Associate Editor at Seven Days; she coordinates literary and film coverage. In 2005, she won the John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.