by Bob Garver
May 5, 2014. Here’s how much affection people have for Spider-Man. Last night, while coming home from work, I paid particularly close attention to the various posters in the 49th subway station. Almost all of them had been defaced. People had scratched out the subjects’ eyes, drawn moustaches and beards on them, and given a few of them captions that I don’t care to relay. But the only fraffiti on the “Amazing Spider-Man 2” poster read simply, “My Boy Spidey.” Positive graffiti – a true New York City honor.
The film is of course a sequel to 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” not to be confused with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy of 2002-2007. The 2012 film basically restarted the series, which meant that we had to watch Peter Parker get his superpowers from a radioactive spider bite and endure the Uncle Ben saga all over again. The prevailing opinion was that the story didn’t need to be told again with the 2002 version still relatively fresh in everyone’s minds. I’m happy to report that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” doesn’t fall into this trap. I suppose a few plot points late in the movie are inevitable (I’m told this is especially true if you’ve read comics from 40 years ago, which I haven’t), but at no point does the film feel like a pointless remake.
As the film opens, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is enjoying life as a costumed superhero. He’s even starting to get a little drunk on his own celebrity. He lazily foils a weapons robbery by a Russian gangster (Paul Giamatti, hardly ever in a clear shot for some reason) and in the process saves wimpy electrical engineer Max Dillion (Jamie Foxx, playing a nerd caricature that would be more at home in a Joel Schumacher Batman movie), who turns into a somewhat creepy Spider-fan. Peter has fun in the moment, but he has some tough choices ahead. Does he pursue a relationship with the love of his life, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), despite his promise to never put her in danger? Does he use his mutated blood to save dying friend Harry Osbourne (Dane Dehaan)? Does he want to know the ugly truth about his father (Campbell Scott) and his mysterious disappearance several years earlier?
The film likes to throw setups our way, but doesn’t concern itself enough with payoffs. It keeps hinting at great action sequences to come, but except for the opening and a relatively early one in Times Square, they all come off as rushed and anticlimactic. For every villain whose story plays out (like Max Dillon, transformed by an accident into the electricity themed Electro), there are about a dozen more that the film basically promises to get around to in the next movie. Or should I say upcoming movies, if the third installment is as uninterested in rewarding its audience as this one.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” does conclude one major storyline, and to its credit, it is a powerful and heartbreaking sequence. It’s an excellent way to distract us from the fact that this film has been disappointingly short on action. The final fight sequence especially seems like a rip off. The film ultimately falls into a trap that a lot of second films in a series do – it serves as an expensive commercial for the third movie without amounting to much on its own.
Two stars out of five
NOTE: Marvel Comics movies have become known for featuring bonus scenes during and after the film’s credits. I’ll save you some time and say that there are no additional Spider-Man-related scenes in the movie. There is a preview of the upcoming “X-Men” film during the credits and nothing after.