The latest entry in Sony’s Spider-Man franchise has arrived, The Amazing Spider-man 2. Released nationwide this Friday, May 2, 2014, it features Spider-Man, again played by Andrew Garfield, this time facing three separate super-villains. Read my review of the first Garfield film here.
But before I get into the plot too much, let me give a word of warning. I don’t want to be “that guy,” the asshole who issues spoilers without warning, so let me say up front, there WILL BE spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen it yet, bookmark this page, go see the film, then return here and see if you agree with my assessment.
Let me ask you a question. We all know the legend of Spider-Man from the comics, and previous incarnations. What was the one greatest lesson Spider-man learned? The one mantra he lived his life by, fought his battles under, the credo that shaped his very existence through a sad lesson-learned?
“With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.”
We all know it. Stan the Man taught us well. It was, perhaps, the greatest single line in any comic book, Marvel, DC, or otherwise. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.
And you see, that’s a lesson this version of Spider-Man goes out of its way to avoid. THIS Spider-Man is obsessed with the mysterious fate of his parents, who died in the original comics. But not in this film. In this one his parents not only were alive until he was , from the looks of the kid playing a young Peter, around age 8. Then they unceremoniously dumped him at his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben’s house and left. And Peter is tortured by this, and must learn the truth of what happened to them.
We meet a man named Max Dillon, played by Jamie Foxx, who also works at Oscorp. He is an electrical engineer, and a major nerdy guy, in the awkward, goofy, over-the-top tape on the bridge of the glasses kind of way. He is also a really big fan of Spider-man, and when he has his life saved by the wallcrawler he becomes obsessed with him, plastering the walls of his apartment with pictures and newspaper clippings of him.
Spidey saves him from being run over by a truck that is driven by a criminal with a barb wire tattoo across his forehead. He’s stolen a truck from – you guessed it – Osborn Industries – which has a bunch of vials with glowing yellow liquid inside.
The criminal driving the truck is a man named Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti). Spidey manages to stop the truck and captures Aleksei, who is transferred to a prison called the Ravencroft Institute, which is a kind of poor man’s Arkham Asylum.
Peter is tortured by the ghost of Gwen’s dad, Police Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), who died in the first film. He warned Peter to stay away from Gwen in that film, and his ghost keeps showing up to remind him to keep his distance. Peter breaks up with her to get peace of mind.
Meanwhile we learn that Max Dillon has had his designs usurped, used without any credit given to him. He is ordered to stay late one night, which happens to be his birthday, and fix an electrical problem, there is an accident and he is electrocuted and falls into a vat of electrical eels (?), which bite him and somehow give him super powers. It’s all pretty nebulous, but he steps out of that vat glowing bright blue and tossing bolts of lightning out of his fingertips. He learns that he can sap electricity from wires, and heads for the heart of town to drain as much power as possible.
Spidey confronts him, and Max is at first flattered and glad to meet his idol. He isn’t sure what’s happened to him and needs help. Spidey tries to talk to him about it when a police sniper takes a shot at Max, and he snaps. In a VERY quick turn of motivation, he suddenly decides he hates Spidey with all his might and wants to kill him. He spends the rest of the movie trying to destroy him. Spidey defeats him, by spraying him with water from a firehose, which short circuits him.
Meanwhile we get this on-again, off-again love relationship going on with Pete and Gwen. Peter learns his parents were really scientists for Osborne, and had uploaded corporate secrets to a secret base called “Roosevelt.” This is an underground facility under the subway tunnels. He finds it, and finally discovers the truth of his parents.
Harry, however, has been ousted from his own company in a corporate takeover. He is forced out, and as a last ditch effort visits Max Dillon in the Ravencroft Institute which, oh yeah, is also owned BY OSBORNE INDUSTRIES. He teams up with Max, who has inexplicably started calling himself Electro now, and they decide to team up – so electro can get Spider-Man and Harry can get his blood, which he’s become convinced can cure him as he’s learned his powers came from Osborne labs.
Electro causes a blackout, and Spidey has to go stop him. He defeats, and kills, him – with the help of Gwen, by overloading his power and causing him to “blow up.” BUT – Harry shows up, because he has now become the Green Goblin. You see, his dad also had a top secret lab where he was building super villain armors, and there was a suit of armor and jet flyer there (that just so happened to fit Harry perfectly), and also, conveniently, had a healing mode that fixed his wounds. Oh, and he injected himself with spider venom from the spiders that bit Peter too. It’s all confusing. Somehow that helped cure him of the disease. But it didn’t either. It caused a backlash that almost killed him, but the armor’s healing mode… saved him… I think.
Anyway, he’s the Green Goblin now, and flies in to battle Spidey, and captures Gwen, and takes her to the top of a clock tower, where Spidey and he fight. And in the process Gwen falls to her death. Spidey defeats the Green Goblin, who is taken – you guessed it – to the Ravencroft Institute. A mysterious man in a hat visits him in jail – we saw this dude in the first film too – and he releases Aleksei Sytsevich, and gives him a suit of armor. It’s a giant mechanical Rhino armor. And the film ends with Spidey squaring off against the Rhino, undoubtedly defeating him.
That is, in a nutshell, the new film. Osborne Industries runs everything in New York City. Among the armors we saw in the underground laboratory at Osborne Industries were also a vulture suit and Doctor Octopus tentacles, which were moving of their own accord and “alive” much like the ones in the Raimi version. Osborne Industries is a big, giant catch-all for any plot device needed. It is lazy, amateurish screenwriting, truth be told.
The thing this film gets right is Spidey himself in the suit. The logos are different, and there is an arbitrary cutout section in the red across his back, but otherwise it looks pretty good. There is still a stupid basketball texture to his suit, and a lame explanation for why he can take so many direct blasts from Electro without dying – his suit is apparently made of a type of rubber – and therefore can sustain blasts of millions of volts of electricity. Aha. But the look and feel of Spidey – wise-cracking and flipping around, is otherwise dead-on.
There isn’t, inexplicably, any WALL-CRAWLING in this film! Spidey is seen swinging, flipping, and sticking to things, but only in one scene is he actually crawling on a wall, while trying to, weirdly, take off his costume hurriedly before Aunt May comes into his room, he crawls onto the wall? Anyway – other than that they try to avoid having him wall-crawl. Maybe to be different from the Raimi versions?
The effects of Spidey swinging are fantastic. Special effects have really progressed, and I give huge praise to the effects team. That is top notch.
Gwen is done really well. She looks like she stepped right off the page. Excellent casting there. And when Gwen dies, in a fall from the top of the clock similar to the one in the comics from the bridge, she is wearing almost the exact outfit from the comics. Nice touch there. Wish they'd stayed as true throughout.
BUT offsetting the brilliant casting of Gwen is Andrew Garfield, who is SO WRONG as Peter Parker. He is an awful, terrible, horrible choice as Peter. I can’t get emphasize too strongly how much I despise his casting as the lead of this film, and likewise the portrayal of the character in these films. In High School Peter was never the cool, hip, swing in at the last minute and kiss the Valedictorian in front of the entire school to wild applause kind of guy. This Peter is a hipster – to put it bluntly. Hipster and self-centered, and kind of unlikable, honestly.
Captain Stacy in the comics loved Peter. He knew Pete was Spider-Man yet kept it a secret to his dying days, to protect his identity. His dying words were, “Take care of her son. She loves you so very much.” In these films they’ve perverted that. Stacy now HATES Spidey, and upon learning he was Peter, told him to stay away from her. This changes the entire dynamic, undercutting another iconic moment of Spider-Man mythos.
Perhaps the biggest miscue of all in this movie is the villains. They completely DESTROY the villains. And here’s the thing – Spider Man comics have the greatest villains of any book, period. Batman is a close second, but Spidey’s are tops. All you have to do is be faithful to the comics. BUT - They screw up EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING about them. Electro is a white man in the comics – they have Jamie Foxx play him here. That in and of itself isn’t that big a deal – but why the arbitrary change? He isn’t a dorky nerdy guy in the books. He didn’t glow bright neon blue. And he didn’t fly or move through electrical wires. And later, when he and Harry team up, he suddenly has a snazzy black rubber looking suit. Where the hell did that come from? Oh yeah – of course! Osborne Industries!!
When the Green Goblin appeared onscreen I laughed out loud! I mean,come on!! That’s the best design you could come up with for Spidey’s arch-nemesis? Cheap-looking armor, lame makeup, and all so goofy looking! In fact, he looks just like Beavis, from the Beavis and Butthead cartoon!!Hilarious!!
Rhino was equally laughable. Looked like some kind of reject from the Transformers. Really lame looking.
Holy Shades of Schumacher, it just occurred to me. You know what this film was? This film was a modern-day equivalent of BATMAN FOREVER. You had the dorky, nerdy guy who works at a major Giant industry (Wayne enterprises) in which everything in the city seems to revolve around. He is obsessed with the town’s superhero (Batman) but, through a bizarre twist of fate, becomes instead rejected and turned into a super villain (the Riddler). Both were played by comedians (Jim Carey and Jamie Foxx). Both teamed up with another super villain to get revenge on their arch rival. It’s the exact same plot!
The music in this film was absolutely atrocious. It was so abrasive, so – BAD – that at one point I turned to my son and remarked at how dumb the score was at that moment. When Foxx’s character is onscreen before changing they play this dumb theme, dorky and playful and cartoonish, like something straight out of the Schumacher films. The main theme is a type of almost non-music; progressive chords that build and go nowhere, sort of reminiscent of the Superman theme in the new film. And there are arbitrary techno scores and sounds thrown in throughout the film, like bad rave music. Cheap sounding and very, very hip, I suppose. At one point Peter puts on headphones and listens to some total hipster song, a happy-happy tune called Gone, Gone, Gone by a guy name Phillip Phillips. It is truly terrible and plays right into Pete’s hipster vibe. And in the end credit there is a godawful rap song thrown in. Just really, really terrible choices of music.
By the way, Sony makes sure to jam in your face their logo and brand as often as possible during this film, from their logo front and center on electrical devices to the Vaio logos on the backs of every laptop, including Pete's parent's in the beginning of the film. You definitely won't forget who made this thing.
Finally, most egregious of all, Pete’s uncle and his death are really unimportant. As we discussed before, THE ONE event that shaped Spidey’s character is an afterthought in this film. Oh, his aunt plays lip service to it, mostly while packing away his things so she can move on. Forget about him. Like Peter did, apparently. Because, you know, in the first film, he never caught Ben’s killer. He just let him go, never sought him out, tracked him down, made him pay. He just disappeared and that was it. And he doesn’t do so in this film either. That is old news, apparently.
Peter never said the words “with great power comes great responsibility,” because he never learned that lesson. And unfortunately, neither did the producers of this film.