The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Profit Margins!
★★★
☆☆
Released: 
2014
Director: 
Marc Webb
Starring: 
Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan
The Setup: 
Series of impactless scenes that revolve around Spider-Man, generally.
Discussion: 

Count me in with the cynics who saw no reason for this new reboot of the series, or who, rather, see the movies as representing their real reason to exist: namely that Sony has to release a new movie every few years or lose rights to the character. The last movie was, you know, fine, not that I can remember much about it, and this one is worse. It's just a series of scenes that don't tell much of a story and don't generate much interest. The best review I've read said something to the effect of: "'Amazing' is a word so overused as to have lost all meaning... which makes it the perfect adjective for this movie."

This one begins with a rehash of scientist dad being pulled away from Peter as a child to vanish in the night, then has him and mom on a private jet trying to upload some kind of crucial information [on airplane wifi ten or so years ago. Yup, you remember that airplane wifi, ten years ago]. They are soon doing midair combat in a scene straight out of one of the Roger Moore Bond films, then crashing, but not before dad can upload his crucial whatever. Then we have Spidey rescuing some weapons-grade plutonium [that is stored in Manhattan] and saving Jamie Foxx's Max, who is a put-upon nerd, and finally getting to his own graduation, where his grilfriend Gwen is giving a foreshadowing-heavy graduation speech.

From here on out we have variations on a number of scenes. Peter and Gwen break up because he promised her dad he would stay away from her, then they get back together, then they have drama, then they flirt, etc. He has scenes with Aunt May which are initially "comic," then in the second half, they don't speak at all except to have Deep Meaningful Conversations. Meanwhile, Max--you'll notice that only Peter and Gwen are the good, nice, decent people who remember his name--falls into a vat of eels and turns into a ball of energy. And Harry Osborn has shown up in town, and was apparently Peter's best friend, although we didn't hear about him at all in the last film, and they reconnect. He has a chronic illness he comes to believe that Spider-Man's blood will kill him. Then Peter unearths some secret laboratory and views a secret tape of Dad's... which kind of says nothing significant and doesn't resolve anything.

So it's all going along, until it gets to about an hour in and you say to yourself "This is genial enough, but not very involving." And then you might check in with yourself every 30 minutes, saying "There is no momentum and no compelling story here," and finally, "This is just a bunch of hot air," and when it's over: "That was just a series of barely-connected scenes." It's a movie that skates along okay, until it starts dawning that it's not coming together, and the feeling creeps over you that it never IS going to come together. And indeed it does not.

Peter has angst, but we never go into it in enough depth for any of it to register. He does have chemistry with Gwen, but their scenes are such pale rehashes of rom-coms, they have no spark. His obsession about his father also didn't have any urgency, the big reveal told essentially nothing, and then had no impact whatsoever afterward. Villain Max as Electro--what does he want? He is written with a cool-kid's approach to nerds: "They're just, like, nerdy because they're total weirdo social outcasts, but we should feel sorry for them, cuz you know..." That is to say, it has no sympathy and certainly no insight. He was obsessed with Spider-Man before--because he's such a loser nerd, right?--then he's obsessed with Spider-Man, and getting attention [because all nerds really want to be noticed], but he's just a big ball of anger with no purpose or plan.

Oh by the way, this movie's Manhattan geography is crazily wrong... numerous scenes start in midtown, turn a corner, you're updown, turn a corner, you're in Dumbo, turn a corner, you're in SoHo. There are also several outrageous product placements, notably that every computer is a Sony, and there is a Whole Foods sign across the top of the screen for one entire scene.

SPOILERS > > >
So Harry hooks up with Electro as his muscle, and late in the film takes radioactive spider venom that turns him into a green psycho, who just then happens upon a glider at Oscorp, and poof, he's the Green Goblin. Then Electro makes New York black out--oh no! Power failure!--and the movie strains hard to show this as more than a minor inconvenience. This leads to the big confrontation, which is just a big fight at a power station, and soon enough Electro is killed. So he just came, had some destruction scenes, but no plan or purpose, and was dispatched with, having almost no impact on full story. Then the Green Goblin comes in, fights Spider-Man, and is also dispatched with. So he amounts to little more than an extraneous element whose story has little resonance--and also no impact on the larger narrative, if there was one--and is killed within five screen minutes of becoming a villain. And does Peter have any mixed feelings about killing this guy who was supposedly his lifelong best friend? Not that he lets on.

Now let me once again point out that were are in the spoilers, a place in which, as the name suggests, spoilers might appear. The biggest one for this movie is that--final warning--they kill off Gwen. And the big surprise behind that is that they kill off this major character, responsible for almost all of what little character motivation is in the film, as just another story beat. Here's what all gets squeezed into the film's final ten minutes: The major villains gone, Gwen is killed. We have a funeral scene, flash forward a few months, learn that Spider-Man has disappeared, see Peter staring at his mask--apparently having some kind of life crisis, although we have absolutely no idea what he's thinking--then a new villain appears, and so does Spider-Man, back to his old wisecracking self and none the worse for wear, and we're out. So we are told that Gwen's death caused a huge crisis of conscience, it's just that we can spare no more than two minutes for this crisis. Then--back to business as usual!
< < < SPOILERS

So overall, pretty sad. It's less a movie and more a series of studio notes and franchise imperatives placed one after another, with only the barest connecting material. Peter's angst and emotional turns with Gwen come to nothing. The villains have no motivation and no plan, cause a little destruction, and are easily dispatched. One of them is supposedly Peter's best friend, but their relationship has no depth, and his death causes not a moment of reflection. A major character is killed as a minor story beat that inspires a two-minute, extremely generic crisis [part one: feeling bad! part two: over it!], then back to the grind! You know those superhero movies that tie everything into a thematic character test for the hero, including a villain who tests the hero on the very point of his weakness, moving the character further along and leaving one with a sense that something momentous has occurred? Yeah, well, that's not this movie. This is product and nothing more--now pay up.

Should you watch it: 

You really don't need to.