It’s a feeling that I simply couldn’t shake when I watched 2012’s reboot The Amazing Spider-Man: this movie isn’t necessary. Yet it was. If Sony Pictures wanted to keep the rights to the Spidey brand (and did they ever), a new pic had to be produced. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst weren’t interested in a fourth entry so the franchise was started over just ten years after it began.
However, that didn’t mean it felt necessary… Sony’s financial consideration aside. Too often The Amazing Spider-Man felt like a remake of 2002’s original and there was no reason to have one. There were silver linings. The chemistry between Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spidey and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy was stronger than the Maguire/Dunst dynamic. Come to think of it… that was about the only silver lining in director Andrew Webb’s playbook. The rest of the pic was reasonably entertaining but familiar… way too familiar.
This brings us to the inevitable sequel in which the filmmakers (Webb returns behind the camera) inexplicably make the same errors that sunk the original trilogy by the time the mediocre Spider-Man 3 entered multiplexes in 2007. Too many villains. Too many subplots you don’t care about. It’s the same problems that have hindered Batman and Iron Man flicks in their weakest entries, too.
New characters include Jamie Foxx as Electro/Max Dillon, an Oscorp employees who worships Spider-Man and then finds himself as his nemesis when an electrical accident turns him into a super villain. His character is not terribly interesting and Foxx’s performance is not among his strongest.
Dane Dehaan is Harry Osborn, who takes over his Dad’s corporation following his death. Harry finds out he’s terminally ill and believes he needs Spidey’s blood to keep him alive. He doesn’t know his best childhood friend Peter Parker is also… well, you know. Complications ensue and an iconic baddie from Spidey lore enters the picture. Dehaan gives the role his all, but by the time his metamorphosis occurs, you’re checking your watch.
There’s also Paul Giamatti in a curiously small role as a Russian mobster who you won’t care about and where the character’s incredibly talented and Oscar nominated actor hams it up pretty embarrassingly.
And Sally Field is back as Aunt May with Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz returning in flashback sequences as Peter’s parents. Denis Leary as Gwen’s late father is also seen, but not heard.
The picture’s only strength lies in the genuine chemistry of Garfield and Stone, just like in the first. It’s not enough. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has that unmistakable whiff of needlessness that plagued its predecessor. There’s a sequence in the beginning when Gwen and Peter are having a quarrel and she sadly says, “You have done this again and again, Peter Parker! I can’t live like this.” We’ve seen that scene between Spidey and his girl again and again… and again… and again. We’ve seen the breakup of Peter and Gwen… and Peter and Mary Jane. And we’ve seen it too much in the past 12 years. Sony Pictures needs to keep the gravy train rolling, but I can live without this fading franchise.
** (out of four)