“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” Movie Review

     With “Spider-Man 2” and “The Dark Knight” widely considered the two best super hero films of all time, one can see the clear importance of producing a strong sequel to follow the origin story.  This has been done with varying levels of success by Marvel already with “Thor: The Dark World” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” being examples of a good sequel and an even better sequel.  No other Marvel title has the challenges facing the Spider-Man franchise with the series being rebooted just two years ago after a trilogy of critically acclaimed box office smashes starring Tobey Maguire ended just five years before in 2007.  For their part, Marvel and Sony accomplished what many said they couldn’t, recreating the Spider-Man origin story for a second time with Andrew Garfield in the title role.  What they promised was a more character driven story and less of a special effects spectacular.  With a budget dwarfed by “Spider-Man 3”, director Mark Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” was a hit over July 4th weekend in 2012, eventually amassing over $750 million in global box office and paving the way for the franchise to continue.

     Sequels are always a tricky proposition, as it is thought audiences crave a bigger and badder version of the original and thus studios tend to supply a bloated budget and filmmakers tend to create a film that is overdone.  With a reported budget of $200 million, more than twice the 2012 film, it is clear Webb and his army of seven screenwriters set out to stuff “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” with enough villains, action set pieces, and utter silliness for an entire trilogy of films.  It’s overlong running time of 142 minutes provides such a visceral workout that you may find yourself checking out mentally after about 90 minutes.  With no less than three villains to contend with, along with both family and girlfriend issues, Peter Parker and Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield is busy and overworked from the very beginning until the end.  It’s a good thing he has self healing power because to say the kid lives an active life would be the world’s biggest understatement.

     After the events of the first film, Spider-Man now finds himself in a very similar circumstance to Batman in that his actions are now tried in the court of public opinion with the help of the news media.  This, of course, doesn’t stop him from doing what he feels is right and that means showing up late for his college graduation because he’s needed to thwart the robbery of an armored vehicle by a group of cinematic thugs who are ripe for being our hero’s fodder.  Within minutes, Webb establishes a cartoonish tone that let’s us know nothing in this film should be taken seriously.  In truth, the target audience for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” falls somewhere in between Saturday morning cartoons and your average “Power Rangers” episode.  We know this because when our hero finds himself amidst a police pursuit of the armored vehicle, he hitches a ride on the front of one of them and takes a phone call from his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).  Never mind he pulls the phone from some hidden pocket on his suit and is alerted of the call by a ring tone that is the “Amazing Spider-Man” theme from the 80s cartoons, the conversation he has occurs as bullets are flying, police cars are piling up (I guess they really shouldn’t follow so close to one another), and baddy Aleksei Sytsevich (a completely wasted Paul Giamatti) is rumbling full speed ahead on a busy Manhattan street.

     Everybody wants to be loved in some capacity, others would be satisfied with a little bit of attention.  Ultimately, the villains in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” just want people to acknowledge them as they contribute to society in their own way.  Oscorp employee Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx rehashing nearly the same character from “The Soloist”) is an electrician who has a horrible accident within the bowels of the Oscorp building and somehow becomes the film’s central villain, Electro.  It’s really never explained why such a gentle and seemingly harmless human being would instantly become Spider-Man’s arch nemesis, but once the transformation occurs, all the screenwriters have for an actor of Fox’s talents is a collection of truly lame one liners like “It’s my birthday. Time to light some candles!!”.  With his blue head and body, combined with ridiculous dialogue, I instantly conjured up the image of none other than Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze from the deplorable “Batman and Robin”.  I have to assume Webb is a fanboy of some type and if that’s the case, he had to see this too!!  If you’re making a superhero film of this magnitude, the absolute last thing you would want is for an audience member to be reminded of the what is quite possibly the worst superhero movie ever made and certainly one of the dumbest villains.  It’s a good thing Electro finds some shorts to wear after he escapes a mental institution half way through the film, otherwise he also would’ve become a dead ringer for Dr. Manhattan from “Watchmen” as well!

     In addition to Electro, the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) figures into the proceedings late in the film, creating another excuse for a needless action set piece at a point where you may be hoping the film would end.  As if that weren’t enough, yet another villain is introduced called the Rhino and yes, this calls for more mind numbing action.  I would imagine grade school age kids will eat this film up, as the story requires no thought whatsoever and the characters audiences are there to see simply quip laughable one liner type dialogue back and forth to each other in what is likely an effort by the filmmakers to inject continuous humor into scenes they know would fall flat otherwise.  While the effects heavy scenery may seem impressive at times, Webb’s film settles for following the standard summer tent pole sequel formula, taking a major step back from the solid foundation laid by his 2012 retelling of Spider-Man’s story.  GRADE: D