The 2014 summer movie season begins with a disappointing thud as the fifth Spider-Man blockbuster in over a decade falters the same way Batman did in the '90s: too many villains, a rushed script, and mayhem for mayhem's sake silliness.
In a world where the Dark Knight feels cinematic and the Avengers ditch the need for secret identities, the masked wall-crawler is a bug that needs less radiation, more inspiration.
The sequel reteams director Marc Webb with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and the adorable Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. Coincidentally, the best moments rely on those three. The 500 Days of Summer helmer has a gift for relationship material even amongst $200 million spectacle. Stone is still the perfect comic book girlfriend: charming, witty and all smoky breath. Garfield is even more jokey while battling Electro, Green Goblin and more. It's the more that's the problem.
On the plus side, the new red and blue suit is the best we've seen yet.
While a $90 million opening is nothing to scoff at, it's less than the original made when Marvel's most famous superhero made his big screen debut back in 2002. Ages 8 to 80 will certainly be checking out this out, but something feels off with the latest installment:
1. Richard Parker's Underwhelming Secret Revealed: Left over from the last film, Peter finally finds out why his parents Richard (Campbell Scott) and Mary Parker (Embeth Davidtz) disappeared. We won't spoil, but the way it's told is so very tired: a video diary.
2. Too Many Villains: As Electro, blue-glowing Jamie Foxx looks too much like Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin. Foxx's performance is much stronger as we easily sympathize with the Oscorp engineer Max who falls into a vat of electric eels to become pure energy. You read that right. While Foxx and later Dane DeHaan (Lawless) as Harry Osborn/Green Goblin give solid performances, their motivations are pretty goofy. Harry suffers from Green Goblinitis, while Max is upset that Spidey forgot his name. Still, the Time's Square confrontation between Electro and Spidey is the best action scene in the film. The less said about Rhino's appearance the better. But we'll do it anyways...
3. Rhino's Appearance Unintentionally Too Similar to The Underminer's: Pixar's The Incredibles is one of the best superhero movies ever. So borrowing a scene isn't an awful idea, in theory. In practice, though it makes us wish they had hired lovable John Ratzenberger instead of such a hammy Russian-accented Paul Giamatti.
4. Everyone Keeps Sobbing: Back in 2012, fans scoffed at the idea of rebooting the webslinger so soon after Sam Raimi's trilogy ended, but many fans now feel that Garfield and Stone are a far more engaging pair than Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were since the newest lovebirds are looser, less self-conscious. Most of the time, Peter's pretty glum about that promise he made to Stacy's dying dad at the end of the last film insomuch that he keeps seeing Denis Leary at the most inopportune times. This leads to a lot characters bringing on the water works, which is less amazing, very sorrow-filled.
5. All the Slow-Motion Gets Old: From a technical point of view, there's no arguing the visual effects in Amazing 2 are the most visceral death-defying web-slinging moments yet. A shame that nearly every big action scene is repetitively done: stopping the action to the 300-level crawl to focus on every web shoot, every electro shock. Over and over.
6. The Promise of Two More Films Feel Tacked On: What's next for Peter Parker and his alter ego remains a mystery since there are no Easter egg bonus scenes. We assume we'll meet Mary Jane. As for the much-touted Sinister Six baddies, it's a brief moment that barely registers. A blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot shows what looks like Vulture's signature wings. The bigger question is whether moviegoers will be clamoring for more.