Review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ Falls Victim To Its Own Ambitions

Somewhere, deep in the Sony vaults, is the first draft of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s elegant. It’s simple. It probably revolves around the Green Goblin and the close friendship between Peter Parker and Harry Osborne before it all goes horribly wrong. It would have made a great movie. It would have cemented the franchise as something different, lighter, funnier, but willing to get serious where it mattered.

Too bad Sony decided to step in and ruin it.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 should really just be retitled Sony Licks All The Spider-Man Donuts So Marvel Doesn’t Try To Take Any. Again and again, what shines through in this movie is that Corporate wanted this Spider-Man stuff on lock, so they could have their very own Avengers-like franchise, and who cares what it does to the actual movie? Cram Electro in there before he’s announced as the main villain of Dr. Weird or something! We can’t afford Shailene Woodley anymore thanks to those Divergent movies? Better make sure Black Cat’s worked in there then!

The result is a disjointed, overstuffed mess with a severe case of mood whiplash. This is a movie that swings from goofy wise-cracking action sequence to teary break-up within five minutes. That’s the opening, and it just gets worse from there. Is this movie a corporate thriller? A goofy light-hearted action flick? A teen romance? A corny family drama? Hell, why not all four? At once? Constantly?

This is a movie so cheesy that the dramatic fight between Spidey and Electro can’t just black out the whole city, there has to be two airplanes on a collision course who just barely miss each other at the last second. It’s a movie so maudlin Peter can’t just fire a web line to try and save Gwen Stacy, that web line has to unfold, at the tip, into a hand desperately reaching for her, in slow motion. It’s a movie so corny Spidey can take a time out to chat with a fan while the Rhino is standing there eager to shoot him in the face. And it’s a movie so cliched that when the Chameleon is introduced, they use his Dr. Kafka alias and give him a Hogan’s Heroes-type German accent.

The sad thing is that there’s a good movie in here, but it never has room to develop. Harry Osborne, in this movie, is cursed with a terrible genetic condition that’s rapidly killing him; everything he does, he does simply because he doesn’t want to die. He’s got every right to be angry at Peter, his supposed best friend… which the movie undermines because it’s never really clear why, precisely, Peter can’t just fork over a vial of blood with a bunch of notes along the lines of “This is insanely toxic and dangerous and will probably kill you! But good luck!”

Would that we could say the same for Jamie Foxx’s obsessed, creepy Spidey fanboy; Foxx plays Dillon’s emotional neediness and dweebiness so over the top it’s kind of a relief when he falls into that vat of eels. Which, again, it’s never explained why, precisely, Oscorp keeps a bunch of what are obviously genetically modified electric eels in a vat near their power grid. Come on, there’s not any OSHA laws in the Spidey-Verse? If you’re going to have a villain origin, at least bother to make it logically consistent.

Foxx does at least make a credible growly villain, despite being on the receiving end of just about every bad idea this movie has. There’s a moment where Foxx’s turn to the dark side is scored to him chanting through a vocoder that’s even dumber on screen than it sounds, and later on, during a fight, he plays Itsy Bitsy Spider on power transformers. Seriously, I thought he was going to get his own Disney villain song.

At least he’s not Paul Giamatti, whose entire job is basically to mug and sound Russian. I bet if you zoom in on his tattoo, the words “They gave me a check that paid for my house twice over” are woven in there.

In the rare moments where Marc Webb is left alone by the demands of studio executives and toy manufacturers, he shows why he’s a good director for this franchise. The extreme-sports styled footage of Spidey swooping through New York is exhilarating, and when Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are allowed to just be a cute couple, it’s adorable. If the studio ever just got the hell out of his way and let him actually do his damn job, he might just deliver a great movie!

Hopefully, this either tanks so hard Sony returns Spider-Man to Marvel in disgust, or makes such a ridiculous amount of money Sony is forced to give Webb autonomy in the franchise. Despite how wrong this movie goes, it’s not unsalvageable. It just needs to stop being a product to sell merch and start being an actual movie.