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Reeling it in: Webslinging sequel falls flat

Posted: May 7, 2014 - 5:06pm  |  Updated: May 7, 2014 - 7:49pm
This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jamie Foxx, left, and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures - Sony Pictures, Niko Tavernise)  AP
AP
This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jamie Foxx, left, and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures - Sony Pictures, Niko Tavernise)

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

Marvel Enterprises

2 hours, 22 minutes

Traditionally, the second film in a multi-film series (trilogy, really — they’re all trilogies these days) is the best of the bunch. Series from “X-Men” to “Lord of the Rings,” and going back as far as the 1970s with “Star Wars,” and “The Godfather” all saw the second film as the highlight of the group. Even the previous “Spider-Man” trilogy peaked with number two.

For that reason, I was pretty sure that this week’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was going to be world’s better than the first film, which was not bad, but not all that good either. Looks like not every series follows the trends.

I wanted to like “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” I really did. I like Andrew Garfield in the role of Peter Parker, and Emma Stone is awesome as Gwen Stacy, Peter’s beautiful egghead love interest. But the film is such a mess, such a confounding mess of noisy action set pieces with no impact, that I just had to leave the theater shaking my head.

In the film’s opener, Spidey is chasing escaped Russian convict Aleksei Sytsevich, played unbelievably badly by Paul Giamatti, and his hijacked shipment of plutonium. Though Spider-Man looks pretty cool, Giamatti is playing it like a cartoon and our hero’s innate zaniness doesn’t help matters.

It’s at this point that we are introduced to Jamie Foxx’s Max, a low-level electrician working for the omnipresent Oscorp. After Spider-Man rescues him from the path of an out-of-control semi-truck, Max becomes obsessed with the webslinger, even to the point of having imaginary conversations with him in his sad little apartment. Max, as you may have guessed from the myriad trailers for this movie, will soon become Electro, terrifying master of electricity.

But Electro is only a subplot and the problem is that there is no primary plot — just a whole lot of threads that really go nowhere. Another subplot involves the introduction of Harry Osborne, inheritor of Oscorp and eventual Green Goblin, into the mix, while another deals with Parker and his relationship with Gwen Stacy. Events in the film sort of stumble along concurrently though independently, none particularly affecting the others. Some plot points are dropped while others seem to appear randomly. For example, Spidey goes from being a universally revered hero to a media pariah with no explanation.

At the center of it all is Andrew Garfield’s Parker, who, while I like him generally, seems to overplay the snarky loner role, often alienating the audience.

The best part of the movie, for my money, is Emma Stone, who seems to perfectly embody the comic book character of Gwen Stacy, and who has genuine chemistry with Garfield. This can’t make up for the bellowing, braying, and/or cackling we get from the trio of villains in this film, however. Both broad and confused, “Amazing Spider-Man 2” lurches forward like Frankenstein, unsure of where it’s going but willing to make a lot of noise on the way.

I’d like to say the director, Marc Webb, and I just have a different vision of this character, but there was almost no vision to be seen. I read this from an online critic, and it’s true: you could completely remove Electro from the plot and it would make almost no difference to the story.

As well, the Green Goblin/Oscorp stuff is sinister enough, but never really amounts to anything more than a set-up for the next movie. Even the mid-credits surprise sequence is random and disconnected. As a result of contract negotiations of some kind between Sony and Twentieth Century Fox, there is an out-of-the-blue teaser for “X-Men: Days of Future Past” right in the middle of the cast and crew for “Spider-Man.” It’s not cross-promotional, by the way. Sony execs have assured us all that Spider-Man with never cross over into any of the other Marvel movies, so why the “X-Men” teaser? It’s pointless, like much of the rest of this two-and-a-half hour slog.

I really had to struggle to stay away at times, I’ll admit. The problem is that enough other superhero movies have done it so right, that there’s little room for error anymore. Marvel Studios has clearly marked the path — whether other studios will follow it is another story. It’s been announced that Sony plans a film dedicated to “The Sinister Six,” a super-villain team that often gave poor Spidey fits. I can’t imagine how that will work, considering this current film already feels bloated with only three (two-and-a-half, really; Paul Giamatti’s “The Rhino” is only onscreen for a couple of seconds).

I really like the idea of “Spider-Man,” but the last few attempts to bring him to life have been more trouble than they’re worth.

Grade: C-

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is rated PG-13 for cartoon violence, mild language, and frightening sequences.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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