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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Peter Parker has some issues. He jerks around (and later stalks) his girlfriend, saying he wants to be with her but can’t; he lies to his aunt, who is his only real family left; he seems completely at ease with chaos and destruction around him, seeing it a time for comedy instead of gravity.

He also dashes the wistful beliefs of an ignored scientist and turns his back on a best friend in need, and you better believe that’s going to come back and bite him.

It’s all just a bit of history repeating though with Spider-Man 2, a messy, incoherent sequel to a reboot of a trilogy not 15 years old. Though Parker and his flame Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) have graduated high school and are staring at their futures, only the latter has grown up. Parker and his alter-ego Spider-Man, despite the havoc wreaked in the first film and the death of Gwen’s Police Chief father, a man’s who’s dying wish was that Parker stay away from her for fear of danger, has not changed a bit.

That very well may inform how you feel about a film that fails to balance a folksy, cheesy tone with one of seriousness, that crams in a slew of characters and manufactured melodrama  – it’s not enough to have a battle playing out, there has to be a ticking clock and a potential plane crash looming.

To open, you have a maniac in a truck plowing over cars and shooting a machine gun randomly in the air through the streets of New York City, but then you have Spider-Man’s immense confidence and need for cracking wise and embarrassing evildoers. You have a bunch of deathly situations playing out in public, but you have a public that can’t help but watch and cheer on instead of running in fear – apparently bullets don’t cross those metal railings.

Parker should be likeable, and indeed, director Marc Webb wants him to be a conflicted teen, but it doesn’t work as he never seems to grow or learn at all.  Instead of rooting for the webslinger, it’s easier to get behind the villains of the film – at least two of the three. Or is it four?

Among them is Jamie Foxx’s awkward nerd Max Dillon, a man who has no friends, gets picked on at work, and adores Spider-Man. His life is saved by his idol, and Parker spouts some platitudes about how Max is great, filling his mind with some unrealistic expectations. As it happens, Max becomes yet another casualty of a workplace accident– this happens a lot at the ominous Oscorp –and turns into an electrically-charged super-human.

Shunned by Spider-Man this time around after accidently destroying property in Times Square with his newfound uncontrollable power, Electro (who could find a job in the Blue Man group if being a villain fails) joins forces with another betrayed soul.

Enter Dane DeHaan, who brings some levity to this generic fare, as Harry Osborn (formerly played by James Franco), the heir to Oscorp and a young man who is already dying. In need of help from Spider-Man, he too is over-looked and now vows revenge.

Amid all that, Spider-Man 2 is still a sentimental and slow rom-com dressed in superhero tights, as Parker can’t decide what to do with Gwen, letting her instead take charge, only so he can respond. And that’s pretty much all he does: reacts. Andrew Garfield, in his second go as the titular superhero, hardly seems troubled or self-aware, as Parker just goes around cleaning messes he himself has made.

It’s too another bombastic finale where things blow up and bystanders run in fear. Despite all the incoherencies, there is actually a fascinating film for about 20 minutes towards the end, but it doesn’t justify the mess that came before, and it certainly isn’t aided by an unnecessary epilogue of sorts that just drags things on and on.

Exhausting and out of control, Spider-Man 2 is an overlong and muddled lead-up to the inevitable third film, one that already promises some more villains and hopefully a bit of maturity. Get it together, Parker.

[star v=2]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.