By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The inevitable sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, spins its elaborate web at the corner of More Is Less and Been There Done That.
And with that the summer movie season gets off to a low-flying start.
When The Amazing Spider-Man surfaced as the first installment in the rapidly (and unnecessarily) rebooted superhero franchise in 2012, with Spidey slingshotting through the vertical maze of Manhattan skyscrapers, we were already so blasé about the airborne pyrotechnics that it was not the special effects but the romance at the heart of the movie that mostly charmed and affected us.
The film was watchable, certainly, but it was not an improvement on director Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy in 2002, 2004, and 2007.
This wasn’t a sequel or a prequel but a redo from the ironically named director Marc Webb, best known at the time for his only previous feature, the romcom (500) Days of Summer.
Webb is back at the helm of this sequel, sort of a “(500) Daze of Summer,” which is less engaging and less exciting than its immediate predecessor.
It’s Andrew Garfield who inherited from Tobey Maguire the role of the bullied high school dweeb whose parents suddenly disappeared and who was bitten by a genetically modified, radioactive spider, after which he evolved into a devoted-to-society crime-fighting vigilante.
Originally titled “The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro,” this sequel to the 2012 adventure finds our high-flying, web-slinging hero still fighting crime in New York City. And Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego, continues to protect his identity, investigate his elusive family history, and stay away from Gwen Stacy because of the promise he made to her father.
To keep New York safe, spandexed superhero Spider-Man must do battle with supervillains Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon and his alter ego, the electric generator, Electro; Dane DeHaan as Peter’s childhood friend, Harry Osborn, and his alter ego, the Green Goblin; and Paul Giamatti as Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich and his alter ego, Rhino.
None of them quite shines: Foxx and DeHaan overact and overstay their welcome, while Giamatti is underemployed and underwhelming.
The screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner, based on the story by the three of them and James Vanderbilt -– which is itself based on the Marvel Comics series by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko –- is an investigation of sorts into the need for heroism in contemporary post-9/11 society. But it is overstuffed with subplots and plot strands and action set pieces, leaving Webb to direct traffic at a busy intersection of story elements.
And the film bends itself into a pretzel setting up the inevitable subsequent sequel.
More than once, including at the conclusion, Webb lets the tone switch abruptly. And the strained attempts at humor fall very flat indeed.
What keeps us focused is the central romantic relationship, which Garfield and Stone again deliver (as they did in the first outing) as a standalone strength with their pleasing chemistry.
But, at well over two hours, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is bloated and enervating, no matter how impressive the swinging special effects. At five films in and counting, 2004’s Spider-Man 2 remains the pick of the arachno-litter.
So we’ll design a web of 2 stars out of 4 for the summer movie season kickoff, the popcorn sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Amazing? Not really. Especially if we accept that “with great power comes great responsibility.” But not a great sequel.