Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro

I finally saw Amazing Spider-Man 2!  (Thanks to all that recent air travel that I’ve done).

I wish I could say it was a great movie, but I can’t.

Of course, I almost always wish the movie I am watching is great (I mean, who wants to see a bad movie?), but in this case, it’s a particular shame because parts of the movie were great.

Not just good…they were great.  They were outstanding!

I’m thinking mostly of stuff to do with Andrew Garfield actually playing Spider-Man.  You know, climbing walls, hopping around, making wise-cracks, spinning webs and catching crooks, just like flies.  That sort of thing.

Amazing Spider-Man 2

And saving people.  Spider-Man really goes out of his way to use his powers to save people, which is probably one of my non-negotiables for a good superhero character / movie (Man of Steel could have learned a thing or two here).

All those scenes are well directed and beautifully choreographed, smartly written, and just a boatload of fun.  Better, probably, than it’s been in any Spider-Man movie up to this point.  Really, I could almost just watch two hours of this stuff.

But then the parts of the movie that don’t work begin to creep in.  A little part…called the story.

Ooo, pesky story!

Or should we say stories?  Because really there are four distinct and competing plotlines running through Amazing Spider-Man 2:  Rise of Electro, which only occasionally intersect and only sometimes play well together.  Perhaps it should have been called Amazing Spider-Man 2:  Rise of Electro, the Descent of Harry Osborn, the Mystery of Peter’s Parents, and the On-Again, Off-Again Love Life with Gwen Stacy.  Because they are almost all given equal weight and screen time.

Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man 2

By far, the worst one is the whole titular Electro thing.  All of scenes featuring pre-Electro Max Dillon are tedious, repetitive, and derivative of Jim Carrey’s early bits in Batman Forever, which honestly is not something you should be using as source material.  Max Dillon is another disgruntled employee who becomes unhinged, and also has a ridiculous accident falling into a vat of killer electric eels (I only wish I was making this up) and emerges having been changed into Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen.  He becomes a dangerous threat who is obsessed with destroying Spider-Man because, uh…well, just because he’s crazy, I guess.

Later, he is joined by Harry Osborn, Peter Parker’s ex-best friend who has foolishly injected himself with a secret formula and has turned into a dangerous threat who is also obsessed with destroying Spider-Man because, well, he’s also crazy.

That’s it.  No other reason.

(Oh, you know, there’s an excuse given – “I’m mad at you because you wouldn’t give me your blood to cure my disease, so I went and found another way to do it, and yes, it did terrible things just like you warned me it might, but now I hate you because you tried to stop me from turning into a monster, you selfish jerk,” – but it doesn’t make any sense, except for the “he’s crazy” part).

Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man 2

Why in the world does everyone have to be obsessed with Spider-Man?  Why can’t there be any villains who just want to rob banks?

Some people complain that one of the problems with the Superhero movie is the obsession with telling origin stories.  That was a big comment when the first  Amazing Spider-Man came out.  But I tell you, as repetitive as those heroic origins can be, there’s nothing more boring than watching a half-hearted super-villain origin.  I hope I never ever ever again have to watch a movie where some crazy guy injects himself with some strength-giving formula only to have it turn out to drive him nuts instead.

On top of all of this, you’ve got this detached subplot about Peter’s parents, which if you remember was the opening hook of the first movie.  It takes up a fair amount of time here as well, and while it’s not boring to watch, it basically goes nowhere, and is absolutely irrelevant to everything else going on.  I heard from someone that there was going to be post-credits “stinger” which would have kept that thread alive, but thankfully they left it off, and so hopefully if and when the third movie is made, it will completely ignore that snore-fest of a plotline and allow us to focus more on Spidey being Spidey.

And finally there’s the thing with Peter Parker and his improbably brilliant girlfriend Gwen Stacy, which in spite of the tedious story survives almost completely on the strength of the very good chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.   They are really nice to watch together, and so (Spoilers ahead, if that’s still a thing) her death is pretty sad, even though we all expected it.

Emma Stone Amazing Spider-Man 2

When I say we expected it, I mean we fans familiar with the comic books, where Gwen Stacy’s death back in the 1970’s was one of the most shocking and deeply impacting comic book non-origin-related demises ever, all the more meaningful as it has never really been undone (unlike, say, Bucky, Jason Todd, Barry Allen, etc.)  So we knew going into this movie that there was a very good chance that Gwen Stacy was not going to make it out alive, once we heard that there were Osborn’s flying around.

But I wonder how that moment plays for the non-comic audience.  Surprising, I suppose, just because it’s so not the norm for mainstream Hollywood.  But maybe just a little abrupt?  A little random?  A little meaningless?  Her death doesn’t really serve anything in the story itself – it just sort of happens.  There are no real implications to it in the movie, except that it necessitates a brief story beat around Peter finding some hope again, months later.  We, the comic book reader, know that it makes a huge difference in Peter’s life, and maybe that will somehow come in up in the presumed sequel, but in this film itself, it’s quite lightly glossed over, and almost comes across as a production necessity (as if the actress had quit or something) rather than something intrinsic to the story.

On the plus side, it allowed room for a fantastic little piece of direction where we see Peter standing over Gwen’s grave in a series of dissolve shots that take us through the year.

Amazing Spider-Man 2

See?  There is so much good film-making here.  It’s really unfortunate that that couldn’t pick up the material and make it into a good film.

3 Faces

 

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2 thoughts on “Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro

  1. I enjoyed the film but certainly wouldn’t try to argue it is particularly good beyond the two lead performances. As you rightly point out, there are too many plotlines and villain origins here.

    My feeling from watching interviews with the creative team is that they just simply have not learned from the lessons of Spiderman 3. It is like they are impatient to throw every idea they are excited by into the same movie regardless of how well they fit together. The result is another unfocused mess which is a shame – it blows my mind just how badly these guys have handled the Spiderman franchise to date. Particularly when you consider the success Marvel Studios have generated with less high-profile heroes.

  2. Yeah, I guess you can say there are shades of the overcrowded Spider-Man 3, but that movie had a lot of other problems as well, including really really poor handling of pretty much all the characters, kind of irredeemably so. Here, at least Peter and Gwen and some of the supporting cast come off well. Plot-wise, Max Dillon is very silly, and Harry Osborn just needed some polishing to make a bit more sense. But the parents-story, though fairly well written, seems irrelevant. It almost feels like the film makers need to make such a big deal about it (in both this film and the previous one) simply because it will distinguish them from the original trilogy.

    Yeah, the relative success (artistically and otherwise) of this vs. the Avengers franchise vs. X-Men vs. Green Lantern vs Fantastic Four vs. etc. really goes to show that it’s not really the characters, it’s the film makers that make the difference.

    These guys do know how to bring Spider-Man to life – they just need to put him into a better story.

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