The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just as convoluted and overwhelming as it seems. The film follows up 2012’s reboot of the Sam Raimi trilogy that existed roughly a decade ago, and the familiarity of the stories makes these new endeavors feel unnecessary and unfulfilling. This time around, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is dealing with the loss of his uncle and the internal struggle he faces from the orders given by Gwen Stacy’s (Emma Stone) father. He told Peter to keep Gwen out of these affairs because he doesn’t want her hurt, and Peter understands that balancing Spider-Man and her might not be possible. Peter and Gwen have both graduated high school and she is looking at future career paths, which leads to Peter trying to take his own responsibilities and live his own life while Aunt May struggles to hold down a house by herself. While that may seem like enough plot to make for an engaging character study, director Marc Webb and writers think the film needs a bit more. A lot more, even.
Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is an engineer at Oscorp that developed the city’s power grid but no one notices him. Spider-Man saves his life one day and that leads to an obsession that Max uses against Spider-Man once Max almost kills himself in an accident. This leads to him becoming Electro, a powerful man that can absorb power and use it to wreak havoc across the city. This leads into Harry Osborn’s (Dane DeHaan) story, who finds himself dying of the same thing that led to his father’s death. The film attempts to balance these narratives with the central conflict with Peter and Gwen, but they never balance well together. Tonally the film jumps from optimistic to pessimistic to heartwrenching to downtrodden to suicidal. Mostly, the actors are asked to work within a narrative that convolutes its plot with unnecessary actions backed by underdeveloped supporting characters.
My biggest problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, though, is that it wastes the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. They play off of one another with ease, reminding me of Webb’s directorial ability to capture characters in their most natural interactions. When the film focuses on character development past the simplistic notions of retribution and fairness that the villains face, it works. There’s a moment in the film when Peter and Gwen are trapped in a maintenance closet and interact with screwball comedy quips for the next few minutes. The film feels innocent and quaint in those moments before bombarding the audience with explosions and loud exchanges that never feel sincere to the landscape of these characters and their emotions. The film does commit to a huge element of the comic books and doesn’t shy away from its effect on Peter, yet that happens in the final moments with only one facet of the narrative building toward it. Instead of feeling like a wholly realized effort, the film’s a conglomeration of ideas and villains that never send a coherent message.
Grade: ★★ (out of 5)