The Surprisingly OK Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man’s poor direction and over-the-top script combines with Spider-Man 3’s overcrowded, clustered feel to form…

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Electro (Jamie Foxx) adds a great current of cool and a subtly dark undertone of sadness to the film. Photos courtesy Columbia Pictures.

…a surprisingly decent movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s story threads (ha ha ha, spider-man threads) are almost endless. The movie is way too long because it features way too many different plot points. Among them: Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) reconcile their inability to keep their hands off each other with Parker’s fear that his presence endangers her; Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) has a blood disease; Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), a lonely electrical engineer who becomes obsessed with Spider-Man after the webslinger gives him a self-esteem boost, has an industrial accident involving electric eels and becomes Electro; and Richard Parker (Campbell Scott) does some weird governmenty-sciencey stuff in the past as part of the reboot series’ cheap gimmick where he’s somehow an important character. Also, Rhino (Paul Giamatti*) is in this movie.

Normally what happens when a movie is this crowded is none of its aspects are allowed to breathe and they all fall flat, but this movie is mostly saved by sterling performances. Garfield and Stone have palpable chemistry, and context provided by the first movie is helpful. Foxx displays the acting range of a fixed-wing bomber in this movie, coming fresh off strong action leads in Django Unchained and White House Down to play an insecure, bumbling nobody in this film. He’s lonely, he’s sad, he’s angry, he’s schizophrenic and he’s the very epitome of cool after he becomes Electro.

While those two storylines make up the majority of the movie and are quite strong, no thanks to the writing and direction, the other bits just, sort of, exist. Despite featuring heavily in advertisements, Osborne and Rhino don’t feature heavily at all and are mostly superfluous to this movie. Their only function is obviously to foreshadow the Sinister Six in the next one, scheduled for 2016.

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It could have been even more crowded, with Shailene Woodley shooting a handful of scenes as Mary Jane Watson, all of which were cut.

Similarly, Richard Parker’s whole thing is a weird gimmick that’s supposed to make you want to see the next one, but is actually a five-minute sideshow added to each film.

The Amazing Spider-Man was terrible, but its existence made The Amazing Spider-Man 2 better, so there could be a payoff from these subplots down the line. But it would be better if Sony could make movies that stand on their own.

I’m beginning to sour on perfectly-named director Marc Webb. His first feature, (500) Days of Summer, is excellent because of charming leads, a good soundtrack and games he plays with the timeline, but those games become more and more obvious with each viewing. It’s also one of those movies that’s reliant on the viewer being sad and lonely. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just OK, and would have really benefited from better direction. The first one is dog shit. Webb is set to direct the 2016 movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 features great lead performances — there really isn’t enough that can be said about Foxx here — and a bizarrely effective overarching theme. It’s definitely a passable time at the movies.

Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a senior staff writer for the NT DailyWolf of Wall Street is on Youtube.  For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at reelentropy@gmail.com. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for.

*Paul Giamatti is quoted as saying “Russians are always good villains” about this role. Paul Giamatti is racist.

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One Response to The Surprisingly OK Spider-Man

  1. Pingback: The Ballad of Spider-Man in Film | reelentropy

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