I go to the theater with the intention of enjoy whatever movie I plan to see. It is too expensive to go see something that I expect to hate. I’ll experiment with something unknown now and then, or go when someone else is picking the movie. But if I’m not reasonably certain to enjoy something; I tend to wait for a rental or Netflix. The other day, by the time Amazing Spider-Man 2 started I was not ready to enjoy anything. During the previews a large amount of Code Red Mountain Dew ended up out of it cup and into my lap. I kind of wanted to just leave then and there, but I was already in my seat and had paid for my ticket. In the end, I don’t think it made a difference. I all but hated Amazing Spider-Man 2 and even if I weren’t soaking in soda, I doubt I would have enjoyed it. The whole thing was overstuffed and undercooked. It is exactly what people accuse Spider-Man 3 of being, though without even the redeeming features of that movie. ASM2 has many elements of a good movie, but no attempt seems to have been made to make sure any of the pieces actually fit together.
It does some things right. Casting, for instance. Jamie Foxx is great when he has something to do and Emma Stone is simply great. Andrew Garfield brings out the wise-cracking side of Spider-Man that the Raimi movies never even attempted to show. Top to bottom, the cast does really well with the material they had to work with. The special effects are also well done. This is to be expected in superhero movies nowadays, but ASM2 does have some really good looking moments.
Otherwise, though, it is a mess. The relationship between Gwen and Peter is well done, but all movement there is finished after their second scene together. After that it is just rehashing what they’ve already learned. There are some great moments with Aunt May, but they are almost divorced entirely from the rest of the film. The same goes for the mystery of Peter’s parents and exactly what they were up to. It is there, but it doesn’t inform any other part of the movie at all. All it does it set up the rather stupid notion that only Peter could have become Spider-Man, instead of anyone who happened to have been bitten by one of the spiders. Harry shows up and has a completely unearned intimacy with Peter. They are friends that haven’t seen each other for almost half of their lives, but immediately become best friends again.
It is also tonally inconsistent. The film can’t decide if it wants to be a serious drama or a fun goofball hero story. So we get serious drama between Peter and Gwen and Aunt May, and a little with Harry, then we get secret subway car science labs and a man getting electric powers from falling into a vat of electric eels. The problem isn’t any of these things in and of themselves; it is that it appears that no time was spent trying to make these elements fit together. The whole thing feels patchy and cobbled together. It also feels like it is trying to cash in on things from the comic without earning those moments. Why are Harry and Peter friends? Because they were in the comics. Why does BIG SPOILER THING happen? Because it did in the comics. They aren’t afraid to go away from the source material when they want to, but they find their way back for things that haven’t really been established. One last note, I need to say that way SPOILER was handled almost made me laugh in the theater. The grasping hand of Peter’s web as it shot toward its target was one of the most inappropriately ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. They are trying to play that moment for all of its dramatic worth, but it still can’t rise above the level of a cartoon. They attempt ends up feeling pathetic.
So I didn’t like it at all. And the longer I sat in that theater not liking the movie, growing ever more sticky and uncomfortable, the more I didn’t like. This may not be my most fair take on a movie ever. I don’t care. I did not enjoy a single part of my trip to see Amazing Spider-Man 2. While it has moved out of the shadow of Raimi’s Spider-Man movies that engulfed the first of these reboot Spidey movies, it didn’t move anywhere interesting. I would rather have had another pale imitation of a decade old movie than the mess that I watched. Maybe they can buck trends and actually make the inevitable third movie the best of the bunch, but I won’t be seeing it. I think I’ll go watch the old Spider-Man movies to wash this bad taste out of my mouth.