The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
★★ / ★★★★
If I could put a finger on the pulse of what is essentially wrong with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” directed by Marc Webb, it would be the bloated, lacking in priority, and distractingly syrupy-cute screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner. The experience of watching the picture is like swimming through cotton candy: delicious visually and initially full of verve but as it attempts to come off compelling or moving, a lack of real substance is revealed on our taste buds.
The first mistake is the execution of the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). While it is critical that the material explores the struggle between the two young lovers trying to stay together, it does not mean that Peter’s relationship with everyone else should be left on the sidelines to rot. Notice the lack of impact of the most important scene between Peter and Aunt May (Sally Field). It is a turning point in the film because the conversation reveals a certain perception about Peter’s father. However, it does not work because there is a lack of a convincing build-up of elements that will eventually push Aunt May to reveal what she has been keeping a secret for most of her beloved nephew’s life.
A similar problem lies in the friendship between Peter Parker and Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). If one is feeling generous, one can claim that there are only two scenes that hint at the depth of Peter and Harry’s relationship. The dialogue mentions that the two have been good friends since they were kids but the screenplay does not do an adequate job in convincing us of the connection. One or two scenes that shows the lighter side of their friendship is not a big enough canvass for us to appreciate the eventual betrayal and the ultimate ruination of what they share. It does not help that their rivalry takes center stage in the latter half—when it is too late and most underwhelming. Still, I liked the overall chemistry between Garfield and DeHaan.
The action sequences are executed and edited with a lot of energy but I was left unimpressed most of the time. I enjoyed watching Spider-Man soaring through the sky with the aid of his powerful web (and releasing joyous hollering) but when colorful beams of electricity begin to take over most of the shot, the frames turn to an eyesore, like looking at a very busy cartoon aimed toward really young children. This made me wonder if choosing Electro (Jamie Foxx), referred to Max Dillon prior to his tragic transformation, as the central villain was a good idea.
First, the electrical engineer’s admiration-obsession over Spider-Man is not milked for all its worth. I caught my mind referring back to Jim Carrey’s portrayal of The Riddler in Joel Schumacher’s “Batman Forever.” By comparison, the latter performer has done a much better job in conveying a creepy mad obsession. Second, Electro’s story—the man who often feels ignored, under appreciated, and powerless—is not written in such a way that underlines his humanity in a genuine way. There is a reliance on showing quirks and behavior but not enough psychology. As a result, the villain is not really all that interesting. He glows but there is not much going on inside.
More discerning viewers will recognize that the heart of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a young man’s quest to get to the root of his father’s secret. It is most unfortunate that the writers were not aware of this. If they were, they would have given our protagonist more substantial things to do—more specifically, a lot less mawkish scenes with his high school sweetheart and more investigation of what Oscorp Industries is really capable of and how far those in charge are willing to go with their scientists’ experiments and discoveries to remain a billion-dollar company.