Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, directed by Marc Webb (142 min.)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffers an identity crisis almost from the get go, undermining any good work the film manages to do with the character.  There are strong elements here, and there is some fantastic action, but there are also too many plates in the air and too much confusion for a superhero movie.  Spider-Man 3 suffered this disease but to a much greater extent.  This is no where near the disastrous mess that final Raimi/Maguire picture turned out to be.  There are things to enjoy here, and director Marc Webb captures the essence of Spidey with great humor and agility.  I only wish they would have simplified where they decided to complicate.

Andrew Garfield is back and even more comfortable in the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man.  Garfield handles the whimsy and cheesy humor of the character to perfection in the early action scenes.  Parker is graduating high school along with his crush, Gwen Stacy, in a role reprised once again by Emma Stone.  A great deal of the film covers the relationship between Peter and Gwen, as they struggle to find a way to have a relationship.  Peter loves Gwen, and vice versa, but the words of Gwen's departed police-chief father (Denis Leary) linger in his mind.  Being with Gwen puts her in danger, and this becomes the main conflict in their affair.  And later on, when she is accepted to Oxford, things grow even more difficult between them.  There is a great deal of time spent on the relationship between Gwen and Peter, too much if you ask me.

While Peter struggles to find common ground with his lady, villains are forming all over New York City.  The central villain, and the most interesting, is Max Dillon, played by Jamie Foxx.  Max, after falling into a vat of electric eels in a typical super-villain genesis narrative, becomes Electro, glowing neon blue and feeding off electrical energy to gain power.  The film does a good job early of creating empathy for Max, who was a nobody doing grunt work for Oscorp.  But once Max/Electro turns on Spider-Man in a rather abrupt scene, he becomes nothing more than a special effects prop.  There is also Harry Osborne, the spoiled rich kid played by young Dicaprio clone Dane DeHaan.  His rise and fall takes about ten minutes it seems, as he becomes the new Green Goblin and is swiftly dispensed in the third act.  Oh yeah, and there is also Paul Giamatti, getting about three minutes of screen time as Rhino in a completely wasted role.  Too many plates in the air.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has moments of joy for the audience, mainly in the opening scenes where we ride along with Spidey shooting webs across the city.  But before long the entire focus of the film shoots off in more directions than a web.  We are here, then there, then we get long moments of exposition that don't truly explain anything.  There is a good 45-minute stretch in the middle of the picture where we don't see Spider-Man at all.  I am all for development and attention to character, but not dialogue simply for dialogue's sake.  Garfield and Stone have obvious chemistry, and Foxx is interesting for a spell as Electro, but the entire thing just ends up messy and confusing, and twenty minutes too long to care.