Written by Guest Contributor: Jefferey Pinkos -Dustin: Jeff, you want to watch The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for us, eh, buddy?
-Jeff: Dustin, you are a son-of-a-bitch and I love you, but I won’t do that.
-Dustin: Stop quoting Meatloaf, you idiot. I know your passion for complaining about the first one —
-Jeff: That fucking lizard-mouse, what happens to it? Does Peter dispatch it? Did he imprison it? Why include it all?
-Dustin: Unimportant. Go see it. Write up a couple hundred words. After that, we’re square.
-Jeff: …’kay. Hey, do you think I can grow a beard someday?
-Dustin: Up to Steven.
-Steven: Absolutely not, you twerp.
Well, here we are, days later and there’s no The Amazing Spider-Man 2 write-up. Dustin has been sending me daggers online and Steve keeps sending me gratuitous videos of him grooming himself. I need to get on this.
I outright hated The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). You might know that if you read the conversation that totally happened above. I’m no Spider-Man fan-boy, no foot washing pilgrim at the mount of Dunst-Maguire-Raimi. While the lizard-rat scene irks me, it’s among the lesser offenses the picture commits. It is violently bland. The storytelling is as color-by-numbers cynical as anything I have bore witness to. Need emotion? Kill someone close to Peter —4 times, it happens 4 goddamned times. (Maybe, just maybe, the writers think they can kill enough people to make us like Peter Parker.) There’s so little care put into the pieces of the picture (like the lizard-rat), that when it occurs it’s goofy. And as charmed as the critics were to the Garfield-Stone nexus of cutesy mumblecore teenage first blush romance hype, it left me chafed and bored. (Then again I hate the young.) But enough complaining. That was then, this is now. Let’s complain about now.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 picks up where its predecessor left off. Dr. Curt Connors is gone. (By the way, this post-credits scene? Yeah. Still doesn’t make sense.) OsCorp is sweeping it and every other man-animal experiment under the rug. Meanwhile Norman Osborn is dying from some mysterious genetic ailment and warns his erstwhile latchkey heir to the OsCorp fortunes Harry, while the OsCorp board scoffs and grumbles and hatches a plan to unseat the young yuppy upstart. Gwen is doing great, delivering the most foreboding valedictory speech in the history of high school graduation and on her way to study science stuff in England. She wants to make it work with Peter, but the disapproving ghost of her father (Denis Leary straight bringin’it, staring, stewing) is cockblocking him with guilt from beyond the grave. Will those kids work it out? Buy your ticket like the rest of us schmucks. (Kidding. You know she dead.)
Besides Gwen, Peter deals with two other narrative threads: his parents and Harry, both of which end at OsCorp. For a major motion picture summer tentpole blockbuster there is a surprising dearth of action sequence and a large number of dialogue-driven narrative threads. Which is fine. Maybe a little refreshing post-Transformers. Writers Orci and Kurtzman (formerly of the famed Orci and Kurtzman duo) wove a overlong, convoluted, uninspired web (see what I did thar). Nothing is as punchy, and I mean that semi-literally, as it ought to be. The length and the compounded astigmatic focus drains the potency whatever dull-as-ditchwater clichés the two want to hock at us. You’ll know it when you see it, near the end.
Bet you wonder where Electro fits into all of this. In fact, the way he figured in Sony’s marketing, you might think he starred in this picture or something. Electro, aka Max Dillon, aka Jamie Foxx, whose death/transformation is primo golden-age silliness, is a setpiece. He doesn’t actually matter, plot-wise —a cruel and ironic twist there, Orci and Kurtzman. That Schumacherian campiness is underscored by the pitiful performance by Foxx. Here Electro is Jim Carrey’s Edward Nygma (the scene in his apartment is almost a shot-for-shot reduplication of Nygma’s in Batman Forever, I can almost guarantee you that) but with a pathos that’s without any sort of grounding or humanity that, rather than allow audiences to empathize with this obviously miserable, unbalanced man, we are forced to laugh at his experience. The final fight scene between him and Spider-Man is insane. Expect a dub-step “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
What we can take away from ASM 2 is there is always ASM 3. Let us throw the blame of it on the fact that it takes place in a transitory period in the Spider-Man life. What happens between his origin story and the origin story of his greatest foes is a lot of nothing. I mean, what’s her face dies –you know, to make us like Peter —but I mean, he’ll get another girlfriend. Whom he’ll inevitably be guilt-trip cockblocked by the combined forces of unhappy Denis Leary and unhappy Gwen Stacy. The real issue is who will they kill off next in order for us to like Peter Parker? Watch out, Sally Field, your days are numbered.
Director: Marc Webb Writers: Alex Kurtzman, Alex Kurtzman, Jeff Pinkner and James Vanderbilt Studio: Sony Pictures Run-Time: 142 Min