Super Movie Monday: Amazing Spider-Man 2

So yeah, I am way behind the curve on getting back to the blog, because I’ve spent six months trying to figure out what I want to do for my next big project, and guess what? Still not there yet. But I’ve had this sitting around for a few months waiting for the time I was ready to start up again, and I figured, what the hell? Let’s finish off the Spider-Man stuff before Spider-Man: Homecoming comes out.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out in 2014, two years after Sony rebooted the Spider-Man series with Amazing Spider-Man. Marc Webb returned to direct, with Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner providing the screenplay this time. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone also returned as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. There seems to be a general consensus that Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the worst of the Spider-Man films, even worse than Spider-Man 3. So let’s see what I think upon re-viewing.

The film opens with gears in a watch. Not sure why that’s relevant right now, but we see Peter’s dad deleting files from a computer, killing a bunch of spiders in glass jars, and being trapped in the lab when his card doesn’t work. So he puts on his coat and leaves by a different way (which means that maybe he wasn’t trying to get out before, but if the film can’t tell the story clearly in the FIRST MINUTE, we may have a problem).

Next, we see him recording a video message about how he might be regarded as a monster in the future or whatever, when he is interrupted by Peter calling from upstairs, which takes us back to the opening of the first film, where he walks into his home office and finds it ransacked. Except that if you remember the other end of this story from the previous film, Peter and his dad were playing hide-and-seek. So Dad’s in the middle of a rainy afternoon game of hide-and-seek with his son and figures, “What the hell? I’ve got a few minutes. Why not record a video about what a monster I am?” Am I getting this right?

Mom and Dad drop Peter off with Aunt May and Uncle Ben, then we see them on a private jet, where Richard is uploading the files from his laptop to someone called “Roosevelt,” and hey, Richard Parker’s using a Sony Vaio (thanks for the synergy, Sony Pictures). There’s a bit of violent business with a flight attendant who’s actually a hitman, which ends with everybody dead and the plane crashing, but the files got uploaded, thank goodness (I guess).

Cut to present day, where Spider-Man appears to be skydiving, but is apparently just doing his normal webslinging with a bit of poetic license thrown in. We hear a radio transmission that plutonium has been stolen, so Spidey swings into action. There’s a gigantic tow truck pulling an armored car with about a million cop cars in pursuit.

Spidey jokes around with the driver, a crazy Russian played by Paul Giamatti, when he sees a pedestrian in danger. So before stopping the Russian, Spidey saves Max (Jamie Foxx) from being run over, and when Max protests that he is a nobody, Spidey gives him a harmless little pep talk. “You’re not a nobody. You’re a somebody!”

Thus are the seeds of a Shakespearean tragedy planted.

So there’s a lot of crashing, and some comedic business with Spidey trying to catch a bunch of bouncing plutonium vials, and it’s funny, but also happening so quickly, with so much else going on, that the joke doesn’t really land the way it should, and then he’s hit by a truck and has to take a phone call from Gwen who sez oh by the way, he’s late to graduation, lol, AND he’s being haunted by the ghost of Captain Stacy and oh my god I’m tired of this movie already. Seriously, take a breath, movie.

So Spidey stops the truck and catches the bad guy (and leaves him webbed up with his pants pulled down, because he’s wacky like that) and let me get one compliment out of the way early on by saying that this is probably the most perfect Spider-Man costume (in terms of being true to the comics) to appear on film yet.

Meanwhile, at the graduation, they’re getting close to announcing Peter’s name, and both Aunt May and this guy are getting nervous.

After the first film’s brilliant Stan Lee cameo, this one is kind of a let-down.

So after graduation, Peter’s supposed to meet with Gwen’s family, but he’s feeling such guilt over his promise to Captain Stacy that he can’t bear to go in. So he and Gwen have an angsty argument about Peter being unable to bear Gwen getting hurt because of him, and my God, with that yellow trenchcoat, she looks so much like classic comic book Gwen that it hurts.

Oh, and she breaks up with him, with a little nod to the Seinfeld Pez Dispenser episode. “I break up with you.”

Spidey montage! Peter throwing himself whole-heartedly into web-slinging now that there are no more icky girls in the way, as we hear radio commentary about whether Spider-Man is a hero or menace. And who should be one of the callers but our old friend Max, who says that Spider-Man is now one of his best friends. Could that be true?

Or could Max be a little bit crazy? We see that Max has built a crazy-ass shrine to Spider-Man in his apartment, where he pretends to have conversations with him (doing both voices, of course).

And hey, it’s Max’s birthday! He’s just getting ready to light the candles on the little cake that Spider-Man didn’t bake for him when the power goes out. Look, Max, the whole city is celebrating, waiting for you to light those candles!

Max heads to work, where he is an electrical engineer working on the new Oscorp power grid (which he claims to have designed and which Oscorp apparently stole from him). And he has violent fantasies. And he meets Gwen, so of course, that’s bound to be a thing.

And while we’re waiting for it to become a thing, let’s meet Harry Osborn, son of Norman. Harry comes home to visit his father’s deathbed.

If you remember from the first film, Curt Connors’s research was intended to find a cure for Norman Osborn’s unspecified illness (it is here retroactively given a name, “retroviral hyperplasia”). Now with that research gone bust, Osborn is dying. And so is Harry. It’s genetic, you see, and it seems to not only be killing Osborn, but to have turned his skin slightly green and given him claws. This isn’t “foreshadowing,” it’s more like “fore-brick-to-the-head-ing.”

Time for some quick plotty things. Peter sees a news report about Norman Osborn dying and Harry having returned to inherit the empire, and hey, Peter knows that guy! Funny he never mentioned being Harry’s former best friend in all the Oscorp related goings-on last movie. Gwen gets a call from an Oxford scholarship program, and Max is told to work late on his birthday, because there’s a problem with the new electrical grid that Oscorp has installed (apparently related to that blackout in his apartment earlier).

So Max goes to the electrical lab, where we learn that the new grid is not fueled by coal or natural gas, not by wind or solar or nuclear fission or fusion, but by vats of huge electric eels. Oh, what the HELL, movie?

Max finds a sparking cable that has come loose, stands on a handrail in a patently unsafe, non-OSHA-approved manner, connects the cable without shutting down the power first, which of course shocks him (this is the brilliant electrical engineer who designed the whole thing, remember, and not some random janitor) and knocks him into a vat of eels, which attack him with more electrical shocks until the entire thing explodes. And all the while, he’s been singing “Happy Birthday,” because symbolism.

This can’t be good.

And that’s where I’m going to stop for now. Part 2 next week.

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