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08 May 2014

Spidey Squished: Too Many Villains and a Mishandled Plot Doom 'Spider-Man 2'

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Jamie Foxx in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Jamie Foxx in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

In my review of The Amazing Spider-Man two years ago, I suggested that director Marc Webb was not a good choice to helm a big-budget blockbuster.

After seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which Webb also directed, I can say he’s a truly bad choice to direct a blockbuster.

Webb mucks it up big-time with this second film featuring Andrew Garfield cracking wise in Spandex. While Webb proves adept at drama and romance—Garfield and Emma Stone, as Gwen Stacey, are adorable—he botches the action elements and tries to juggle too many bad guys.

This movie features a goofy villain called Electro (Jamie Foxx), the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and the robotic Rhino (Paul Giamatti). Electro gets the majority of the villain screen time—an unfortunate circumstance, given that he’s the most uninteresting of the three bad guys.

Electro starts off as Max Dillon, a geeky electrical engineer who gets transformed into a bluish, see-through monstrosity after electrocuting himself and falling into a tank of electric eels. He has the ability to move and stop things with electricity (which makes no sense), and disappear into wires and sockets (which also makes no sense). Yes, this is a comic-book movie in which impossible things are routine, but this stuff is just stupid.

Foxx is clearly trying to break out and do something memorable with this character. Given the sheer magnitude of characters vying for time in this mess, he’s winds up underdeveloped and uninteresting.

DeHaan, an actor I can’t stand at this point, makes me really, really miss James Franco as Harry Osborn. DeHaan speaks as if he just digs his own voice, even if it sounds like he has a sinus infection.

However, he is not completely to blame for this film’s mishandling of the Green Goblin. The blame mostly lies with Webb and his makeup folks, who come up with something tragically bad for Goblin’s looks. He basically has oily hair, like he hasn’t showered in a while, and a horrific skin problem.

Here’s something else that annoyed me: Harry, who has inherited Oscorp from his father Norman (Chris Cooper), is dying because he is slowly becoming a lizard, or something like that. He goes into some secret chamber at Oscorp to discover a possible cure using spider venom. He has a major reaction to the injection, and saves himself by crawling into the Goblin suit, which he is seeing for the very first time. Harry then takes to the skies, expertly, to battle Spider-Man, without reading a training manual or doing some practice flights. Again, I know I’m supposed to accept the outlandish with these movies, but come on!

Garfield and Stone annoyed me in the first movie, but I liked them this time out. Had the movie focused more on their relationship, and perhaps jettisoned a villain or two, this might’ve been something.

A big, dramatic occurrence happens deep in this film. That sequence is the best thing in the movie, and the film certainly should’ve ended directly after it. Instead, Webb and his writers forced a terrible, final battle with Rhino that destroyed any of the dramatic tension that was building. After a big shocker, Garfield just goes back to cracking jokes and fighting villains.

More bad news: Webb will be back as director of the next installment. All seems to be lost when it comes to Spider-Man for the foreseeable future.

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