Allow me to cut the crap and tell you right now that I didn’t like “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
Part of the reason why I didn’t like this movie is because I don’t like Spider-Man as a character. He’s mopey, neurotic, and chronically self-pitying in spite of the fact that he manages to live comfortably in New York City on a meager freelance photographer’s salary, had a succession of gorgeous girlfriends, and has a head full of thick, wavy hair. Is he supposed to be a superhero or a grating personification of first-world problems? Additionally, the guy never shuts up and is compelled to quip and riff on everything as if he was Robin Williams in 1978 and he just unlocked the magic of cocaine.
But the inherent loathsomeness of Spider-Man is only a small part of why “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” didn’t work for me. The film failed because it’s a mess. An unfocused, bloated, scattershot mess. A film so terrible it will have you running to “Spider-Man 3’s” house in the pouring rain to shout forgiveness at its bedroom window, to let it know that you were wrong and it was never really as bad as you made it out to be to all of your friends. But you hurt “Spider-Man 3” too badly and now it has moved on.
Frequently feeling like a bad cable series that was awkwardly edited into a vaguely movie-like shape, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s” storyline is difficult to explain without the benefit of a flow chart or several overhead projectors going at once, but I’ll try. Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) is very sad – so sad that his face is frequently scrunched up in grotesque Muppet-y anguish. Apart from the fact that he must endure constant spookings from the stern-faced ghost of Denis Leary, he also must unravel the mystery of his parents’ disappearance as he painfully muddles through an on-again, off-again relationship with his girlfriend Gwen (Emma Stone). Meanwhile, a broad, ill-defined nerd character from an old “In Living Color” sketch (Jamie Fox) turns into a supervillain when he’s bitten by a school of electric eels. As that’s happening, a pale young man with an off-putting haircut that’s part early Justin Bieber and part late-period Hitler (Dane DeHaan) will turn into a man-goblin if he doesn’t drink Spider-Man’s blood or whatever.
At any rate, all of these plot points are barely connected and loudly clang against each other with so much undue effort that you can practically feel director Marc Webb’s desperate flop sweat raining down on you. Or maybe that was just the spittle and tears from the outraged nerds that were sitting behind me. Whatever the case may be, I now have meningitis.
Let’s get this straight: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is not a movie. It’s an extended preview of “The Amazing Spider-Man 3.” The film is so preoccupied with setting up the events of the next movie that it forgets that it should have a coherent story of its own. Character development is rushed and frequently nonsensical. Everything is merely a means to an end to ensure that the franchise keeps mindlessly chugging along. It’s a cynical cash grab of a movie that never seems aware of how stupid it really is. Say whatever you want about “Spider-Man 3,” but at least it didn’t include a scene where Spider-Man wanders around in a fire helmet for no particular reason. At least in that film Spider-Man didn’t use Google maps to uncover a secret lab (that runs on old subway tokens, apparently). At least Sandman or Venom didn’t become Sandman or Venom because they were bitten by a school of electric eels. At least Phillip Phillips’ vomit-inducing “Gone, Gone, Gone” appeared nowhere on the soundtrack.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a triumph of corporate synergy over quality filmmaking. If not for the presence of Stone’s oh, so pretty face, this muddled disaster would be receiving no Ws.