Saturday, May 3, 2014

Spinning a Web of Confusion with The Amazing Spider-Man 2

       If you weren't tired of the character Spider-Man after the atrocious third installment of the Tobey Maguire trilogy, surely you must be close now. We're already on the second movie of the reboot series with director Marc Webb and star Andrew Garfield (who is 30 years old), and though the first film had a few fresh approaches, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffers from that notorious illness that many other comic-book sequels have experienced: too many villains, too many plot lines, too much annoyance. Sure, it has awe-inspiring visual effects and CGI. And some of the smaller moments between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) inject some needed sweetness and chemistry (probably because they're a couple in real life). But these moments are not enough to overcome the murky plots and the (seemingly) dozens of villains.
     The film starts with an exciting and tense flashback plane sequence where Peter's parents are flying out of town with secret and important information. Much of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is downhill from there. Spidey still patrols the city, taking down bad guys (the first being a way-too-over-the-top Paul Giamatti). Unfortunately, it seems like he's also a failed stand-up comedian, spouting out extremely unfunny one-liners before shooting people with his white sticky stuff. Him and Gwen are now officially a couple, but if you remember the first film (which you probably don't), her dad's (Denis Leary) dying wish was for Peter to stay the hell away from Gwen--to protect her by leaving her. Peter thinks about this a lot, and he even sees visions of Leary all over town giving him threatening glances.
      But the real threat lies with a few different aspects of the Oscorp company: Peter's childhood friend, Harry, has taken over the corporation after the passing of his dear old dad, but he's inherited the same disease that could lead to his demise too. He thinks a dose of Spidey's blood could cure him, and he'll do anything to try and get it. There has also been a major accident at Oscorp: an under-appreciated employee named Max Dillon (Jaime Foxx) has fallen into a tank of experimental electric eels, becoming a powerful villain named Electro who can harness the power of the entire city's electrical grid. Our red and blue hero has a lot in his web. Too much, and the film suffers because of it.
     The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has absolutely incredible special effects. The dazzling colors and action flash across the screen like a theme park ride. But top-notch CGI just simply isn't enough anymore. If this film had been released 10 years ago, you'd hear non-stop praise about it. But since Hollywood effortlessly puts out visual splendor (usually bypassing a cohesive and exciting story) on a weekly basis--especially during the summer movie season which this film signals the start of--it has become less of an event and more the norm. The visuals that a big-budget blockbuster provide just aren't enough (except for last year's Gravity) anymore.
      This Spider-Man is also too long. It's one of those films with a few false endings, and by the time it's actually over, you wish it had been over 15 minutes ago. If The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is any indication, this summer is going to be full of unoriginal blockbusters that look like a million bucks but feel like only a dollar or two. And in a couple of years, when The Amazing Spider-Man 3 is announced, I'll meet that news not with a smile but with a shrug of the shoulders.     (C)

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