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"THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2"
(2014) (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action: A genetically enhanced superhero must contend with a new array of villains, all while trying to sort out his feelings toward his girlfriend who might be leaving him.
PLOT:
Having previously saved New York City from a genetic hybrid monster, teenager Peter Parker (ANDREW GARFIELD) continues to moonlight as the superhero Spider-Man, thanks to superhuman powers he gained following being bitten by a genetically altered spider. With webs that spurt forth from contraptions on his wrists, Peter/Spider-Man is able to swing through the city on long strings of web, all while stopping most of the city's criminals. In his downtime, he still lives with his Aunt May (SALLY FIELD) and is graduating from high school along with fellow classmate and current girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (EMMA STONE).

She works at Oscorp Industries, a large corporation that has its hands in various fields, including experimental genetic research. Its new leader is Peter's former childhood friend, Harry Osborn (DANE DeHAAN), who's inherited the company from his father who's recently passed, much to the chagrin of Oscorp's board, including its chairman, Donald Menken (COLM FEORE).

Like Peter, Harry was abandoned by his parents as a boy and thus carries around that emotional baggage, something that may or may not have also happened to Max Dillon (JAIME FOXX). He's an electrical engineer at Oscorp and a delusional one at that, an otherwise invisible to most man who believes that Spider-Man is his best friend. He ends up the victim of an unfortunate accident at work that transforms his body into that of a highly charged, electrical being known as Electro, a development that Peter senses can't be a good thing.

That worsens when Electro comes to believe that Spider-Man is his archenemy, which becomes yet another reason for Peter to feel guilty about Gwen's late father, Capt. Stacy (DENIS LEARY), telling the teen to stay away from his daughter. As Peter contends with that and Electro, he must also deal with Harry -- who's suffering from a genetic disorder that will soon kill him -- experimenting on himself, thus resulting in him turning into the villainous Green Goblin.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
I've said it before and I'll say it again until I'm blue in the face, but a film's hero (and thus the movie as well) is only as good as his or her antagonist. A weak villain or foe -- be that physically, intellectually or what have you -- results in less conflict and thus less interest on the part of the viewer. After all, imagine if Rocky Balboa's big fight at the end of "Rocky" was against some 80-year-old, half-blind pugilist.

I exaggerate, of course, but the point is valid. In that scenario, we wouldn't doubt for a moment that Rocky could win and thus there'd be no doubts or worries about the outcome. Slam dunks might be entertaining to watch in basketball, but in terms of drama, they're not that much fun to behold. In that same vein, if said boxer opponent was equal to or even greater in terms of experience, prowess and skill, that would make things more interesting. But if we ended up knowing next to nothing about the guy, that would rob the bout and thus film of an even greater level of viewer engagement.

Such is the case in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," the second installment of the rebooted Spidey franchise that pushed the Tobey Maguire version aside in order for a fresh start in 2012. Despite the lack of enough adequate spacer time between the sets of films or a valid reason for the new one beyond a simple money grab, I enjoyed the first flick.

Then again, it was an origins story and most any second installment offering suffers from the sophomore curse of not really doing anything interesting enough with the material as a follow-up. Sam Raimi's 2004 edition of "Spider-Man 2" bucked that trend (as did the recent "Captain America 2"), but this edition of the Spidey chronicles feels bloated (clocking in at 142-some minutes), uneven in tone (goofy and light in some action scenes, and more serious and hard in others), and features a lackluster and boring if literally electric villain.

Whereas Raimi's part deux featured Doc Ock as the baddie (having already dispensed with the Green Goblin in the preceding/introductory film), this one seems to be setting up Harry Osborn's (Dane DeHaan) transformation into the Goblin character. While that indeed does eventually occur, returning director Marc Webb and his trio of scribes -- Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner -- instead opted to choose another character as the lead villain.

He's the lesser-known comic book villain Electro, played here by Jaime Foxx who turns from a mild-mannered and put-upon if wildly delusional electrical engineer into a super-charged, highly electrified dude who both sucks up and discharges electricity like a deranged power grid. Although that makes him potentially dangerous to Spider-Man in battle ("Holy electrical outlet, Batman" -- sorry, wrong superhero), the fact that we know next to nothing about him removes most of the thunder from his literal and metaphorical lightning.

When not battling him in the standard bash each other around mode far too common and thus rote nowadays in such films, Peter (a returning Andrew Garfield) is undergoing a number of personal crises. For one, he's still haunted by the fact and lack of details about his parents (seen in an opening, action-based sequence) abandoning him as a boy. The fact that sort of a similar thing happened to Harry's character introduces an interesting dynamic between the friends-about-to-become foes relationship, but that ultimately doesn't pan out to a greater extent.

He's also conflicted about dating his girlfriend (Emma Stone) not only because of occasionally seeing visions of her late, police captain father (Dennis Leary) who warned him to stay away from his girl, but also due to her needing to lead her own life. Thus, we end up with an angst-ridden high school graduate who just so happens to be a crime-fighting web-slinger.

Unfortunately, the filmmakers don't work with that disparity enough to truly make it interesting (or heartbreaking or tragic, etc.). That said, I liked the non superhero moments better than the action bits, even if the special effects crew went to extra measures to make the swinging through the city scenes look like Tarzan on steroids via the point of view shots.

Perhaps if the pic had been considerably edited down to an easier to consume duration and Foxx's character was either excised entirely or built up to make him more than just a one-note creation, the overall offering might have matched the original (2012 version) in terms of enjoyment. Alas, it doesn't, and thus "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" isn't amazing too. It rates as just a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed April 28, 2014 / Posted May 2, 2014


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