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The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Villains Deep, But Depths Shallow

By Jim Rohner · May 5, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is logically called so because it just so happens to be the next in line in a series of movies about Marvel's superhero, the former of which was called the slightly more syllabic friendly The Amazing Spider-Man. However, if the filmmakers were to have been honest with us about the quality of the movie they were naming, a more accurate title would've perhaps been The Easily Forgettable Spider-Man (they could've dropped the "2" like how Burton went with Batman Returns instead of Batman 2).

You see, here's the thing about Spider-Man. He does whatever a spider can. He spins a web of any size that catches criminals just like flies.  Between this film and the series' previous installment, director Marc Webb hasn't been shy about depicting your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man web-slinging through the high rises of New York City and, admittedly, those sequences are visually pretty impressive.  But this time around, the filmmakers decided that acrobatics and fighting villains weren't enough for the wall crawler, so they piled on more teenage angst and more uninteresting villains and more development into the backstory of Peter Parker's (Andrew Garfield) parents, which was the least interesting aspect of the reboot while also paradoxically being the most important.

After the events of The Amazing Spider-Man in which a human lizard formerly employed at Oscorp attempted to something something snore, Peter is still haunted by the memory of Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), specifically Peter's inability to adhere to his promise to leave Gwen (Emma Stone) out of his shenanigans. If that weren't bad enough for a recent high school graduate, Peter also must deal with his aunt taking on a second job to make ends meet, his girlfriend contemplating a life-changing move to Oxford and a new villain, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), dubbed "Electro" for his ability to somehow control electricity after he fell into a tank filled with electric eels. Had I known this kind of osmosis existed, perhaps I could shrug off concerns about my love life by arranging a pool party with porn stars.

Anyway, in the midst of an on-again/off-again relationship with Gwen and fighting off a Mega Man villain with a man crush on him, Peter must also deal with the return of his childhood friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who has returned to New York to inherit his father's fortune thanks to also inheriting the viral disease that killed dear old dad (Chris Cooper). Harry, with his emo haircut and daddy issues, is apparently in a winner take all angst match with Peter, the winner of whom will win Spider-Man's radioactive blood. Odds are on Peter seeing as his blood courses through his veins, but stakes are high for Harry since he assumes the results of Oscorp's genetic experiments will undoubtedly help cure what ails him. So confident is he in this belief that he's willing to adopt his father's life work (in the form of a certain battle suit and glider) to achieve this goal.  

The tagline for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 reads "His Greatest Battle Begins," which would lead one to believe that the emotional and physical stakes for the web slinger are to be so high that Peter Parker will be facing his own personal apocalypse come the end of Act II.  However, the only way for viewers to believe that anything like this is occurring on screen is if they both A) cared at all about the mystery behind Richard Parker's (Campbell Scott) disappearance and B) were emotionally invested in Peter's personal relationships. While The Amazing Spider-Man has excelled at B – thanks in particular due to the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone – it has failed to draw any meaningful significance from A, due partially to the fact that it was always obvious what Richard Parker's secret was and partially to the fact that the origins of Spider-Man have always been and will always be the least interesting aspects of his character by far. Webb and co. have succeeded by leaps and bounds in making Spider-Man's high flying antics exciting and action-packed, but have never quite made Peter's external battles seem as important as his internal. Not helping The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the fact that the villain with the most screen time is one who never seems to grasp that he has God-like powers and thus is largely neutered in his clashes with a guy who can shoot webs and climb walls.  

Steps are taken to further the world building of the Spider-Man franchise and its larger narrative implications, but with a world that's limited only to the immediate sphere around Peter (as opposed to Marvel's The Avengers which tied in the hopes and fates of many worlds and characters), it's hard to care if you weren't immediately on board with the new vision of Spider-Man from 2 years ago.