When I was 12-years-old, I would sit on the floor of my bedroom with the latest issues of X-Men, Spider-Man, Daredevil and other Marvel titles, and I’d think: Wouldn’t it be cool if they would make a comic book film, only with real people? Not an animated film that looked like a cartoon, but a bona fide movie with human actors. That was 1981, and the technology didn’t exist to make a credible comic book film. Instead, I got Raiders of the Lost Ark, and who’s gonna complain about that?
Now at the age of 45, I sit in front of my laptop and wonder: When are they going to stop making comic book films and give some of these characters a much-needed rest? It seems I have Marvel Fatigue, and it’s only the first tent-pole film of the summer. A new X-Men film is only three weeks away. And then there’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and 2015 will see the launch of 10,000 Marvel series on streaming Netflix and then … well, you get the idea.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 offers a second (or if you count Mr. Raimi’s films, fifth) 21st century helping of our favorite web-slinger tangling with another misunderstood genius turned supervillain. If not for clumsy scientists bungling experiments, the Spider-Man universe would be surprisingly tranquil. This time around we get Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), an electrical engineer who survives a fluke accident that turns him into a living electrical current known as Electro, one of the biggest snoozes of a supervillain to ever grace the big screen. Electro grimaces, screams, makes things go “boom” and grimaces some more.
Andrew Garfield reprises his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He does a better job of capturing the humor of the role than Tobey Maguire who played Peter Parker as a wide-eyed hayseed who didn’t seem to have the sense to come in out of the rain. Garfield’s approach is more modern, more relatable and captures some of the whimsical tone of the original comics. Any faults the film may have don’t stem from his performance.
Emma Stone brings personality to the limited role of Gwen Stacy and Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) shines as Harry Osborn a/k/a The Green Goblin. DeHaan effortlessly projects clean-cut menace, and the film sags under the weight of its blandness when he’s not on screen. His turn as The Green Goblin seems like a dress rehearsal for more super-villainy to come. If the Spider-Man franchise needs a sixth installment in the 2000s (which is seriously debatable), having DeHaan reprise this role would be a welcome development.
When it comes to summer action spectacles, a film editor becomes an oxymoron. Less isn’t more in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Every minute of footage shot and every moment of CGI make their way into the final cut. At two hours and twenty-two minutes, it feels like the War and Peace of comic book films. Everyone remember Tolstoy’s doorstopper from your college world lit class? Yeah, I didn’t think so. If you feel compelled to break the two-hour mark with every Marvel film, at least have the courtesy to bring Thelma Schoonmaker (The Wolf of Wall Street) on board, since she knows how to propel a lengthy film to a gratifying conclusion.
Just one month ago, audiences were given Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a solid addition to the Marvel canon. So what does Cap have that Spidey doesn’t? Winter Soldier was an interesting synthesis of ‘70s spy films, James Bond action sequences and comic book mythology. It managed to put an original stamp on a comic book film even with all the water that has passed under that cinematic genre. With a healthy dose of humor, Winter Soldier didn’t take itself too seriously and delivered a good time at the theater. Unfortunately, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is lowest common denominator filmmaking. We’ve been there and done that better.
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.