The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is one of the most telling examples of Robert Browning's quote about best laid plans.  After Spider-Man 3 underperformed with both critics and audiences Sam Raimi wanted to produce a fourth movie that would make up for it.  What Sony wanted, unfortunately, was to stick their noses into his business and pretty much end up messing Spider-Man 4 up as bad, or maybe even worse.  Their solution when Raimi left was to reboot the whole thing using a different Spiderverse, and so Tobey Maguire was out and Andrew Garfield was in for The Amazing Spider-Man

While the movie did a good job despite going over well-worn territory it did have some problems.  A good portion of The Amazing Spider-Man was about Peter Parker accepting his powers and learning to live with them.  The romance with Gwen Stacey was there, but unlike the original trilogy it wasn't to make her a damsel in distress or cause dramatic tension outside of Parker being concerned about his lifestyle inadvertently causing her harm.  Unfortunately a Spider-Man film needs a villain, and in this case Dr. Curt Conners, a former associate of Parker's father, decides to inject himself with lizard DNA and thus becoming a giant lizard.  Wanting to share his discovery he attempts to turn New York into giant lizards before ultimately being stopped by Spider-Man. 

That last third involving Conners felt like part of an entirely different movie had been suddenly pasted on at the end.  It had good action scenes and everything, but Conners never made a good villain.  Bringing in someone a bit more down-to-earth like Kingpin would have made sense rather than a big CGI lizard.  Still, for the most part, the first film worked, and to its credit still allowed the first three movies to exist in their own place and time. 

Unfortunately, Sony didn't learn their lesson from Spider-Man 3 and why Raimi bolted.  They envisioned the Amazing Spider-Man series to be a competitor in the superhero universes with Disney's MCU and Warner Bros.'s DCU, planning at least two more movies after this one as well as a Sinister Six spin-off.  Instead of letting it happen organically, though, Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci were tasked with sticking as many villains into The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as possible in order to set up all the plots that would happen in the next two sequels as well as the spin-off.  What they ended up making was an overlong directionless mess that managed to kill off all their plans and force an uneasy deal with Disney to fit Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) are graduating high school and about to go off to college.  Unfortunately, though they maintain a strong love for each other, Parker's role as Spider-Man often complicates things due to him not wanting to get her involved.  Despite his relationship troubles he goes on doing what he needs to do and, on the way to his graduation, rescues a man named Max (Jamie Foxx), a put-upon nebbish that works for Oscorp.  Unfortunately Max takes Parker's words of encouragement a little too much to heart and becomes obsessed with the web-slinger.  A series of accidents during the course of his job leads Max to becoming imbued with the power to control electricity, thus making him New York's latest supervillain: Electro.  When Parker tries to talk him down things go awry, and Spider-Man goes from being a hero to a nemesis for Electro.

Meanwhile, Parker's old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to take over the company after his father's death.  Finding out he has the same disease Harry asks Peter to get Spider-Man to donate his blood to be used as a cure, something that Parker (as Spider-Man) later refuses.  Enraged, and finding himself thrown out of his father's company, he teams up with Electro to get him into the Oscorp Special Products vault where a number of discontinued experiments, including the genetically altered spider venom, resides.  The venom, rather than saving Harry, turns him into the Green Goblin, who eventually decides to go after Spider-Man as well and take care of him if Electro fails. 

In addition to Electro and Green Goblin there are hints that Doc Oc would be appearing in the future and, in a completely useless and tacked-on ending, Paul Giammati shows up as the Rhino.  Sally Fields is once again Aunt May, and given even less to do this time around, while Stone continues to be wonderful as Stacey.  Dane DeHaan, unfortunately, inherited Tobey Maguire's Dark Spider-Man haircut from Spider-Man 3, and also seemed to be little more than a rich brat, with no real arc leading to him becoming Green Goblin other than through a series of random events.  He also appears out of nowhere a a great friend of Parker after having not appeared, or even been referenced, in the previous movie. 

Electro would have been enough.  Jamie Foxx has proven he can do comedy and drama, both of which he gets to do here, and the story of a man who has been ignored an trampled upon throughout his life suddenly making the world take notice is an interesting one.  All the other garbage that happened, from the introduction of Harry Osborn to the interrogation by Dr. Kafka (Marton Czokas) never needed to happen.  The Electro plot sets things up for an ambiguous resolution such as with the Sandman in Spider-Man 3.  Instead, there was too much time spent building up to movies that would never happen, but definitely could have if the focus of the movie had been Parker, Stacey and Max the whole way through.  There had been plenty of Green Goblin in the previous films, so no one was asking for more in this one.  Max Dillon was a much more interesting villain than Curt Conners, and yet everyone dropped the ball.

Because there is so much going on the movie drags.  There are parts that don't seem to matter, other parts that seem like they are from a completely different movie, and then an ending that could have been the start of a third movie to bring Spider-Man back after the emotional trauma he suffers in this one.  It is the second film after all, so a darker tone and a downbeat ending would have been par for the course and so much better.  It would have at least had fans demanding that a third one be made to tie up loose ends instead of, after The Amazing Spider-Man 2, most people not caring if they ever saw another movie with the character again.  The third Raimi film may have been flawed and had some of the same problems as this one, but at least it brought the initial story to a close.  This did nothing but spin its wheels.

In retrospect, rebooting the series was not a good idea, but ending it after this second entry was.  Despite all the blatant attempts to get a universe going there was nothing here that hinted things would get better down the line.  When the character did come back for a third time just two years later with Tom Holland in the role the writers of the MCU wisely re-introduced Spider-Man as a secondary character in Captain America: Civil War before giving him his own standalone movie and, even then, just assumed everyone knew about the character that there wasn't a reason to go over it again.  He fit in better with the MCU than he ever would have continuing on his own.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Time: 142 minutes
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan
Director: Marc Webb

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