The movie isn't without its charms, but considering we're currently on our fifth Spider-Man movie in 12 years and Webb's second, what's most shocking is how many of the same old traps it falls into. Here's a rundown of some of the things that unfortunately keep "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" from being, well, more amazing.
It's painfully cheesy.
Not every superhero movie needs to be Christopher Nolan-level dark. But "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" goes so far over-the-top, it's almost a non-stop cheesefest. Even if you're willing to give Paul Giamatti a pass for his goofy Russian accent in a briefer-than-advertised role as the Rhino (which you should), there's enough in here to make your eyes sore from all the eye-rolling. Case in point: during the climactic final battle, Jamie Foxx's Electro tosses Spider-Man against giant power coils to the tune of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," while our hero quips "I hate this song." 'Nuff said?
It doesn't make the most of its strengths.
Webb's sequel works best when it relies on the charms of its main cast to carry the film; Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are both charismatic enough to get laughs no matter how hokey or expository the dialogue gets. And even more impressively, they somehow manage to avoid the usual chemistry problems of other movie couples dating both on- and off-screen. When the movie takes time out of a massive car chase for our hero to make irreverent small talk with a pedestrian he just saved, that's when "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is firing on all cylinders. Which makes it even more of a shame when the movie subsequently cuts back to a scene of cliché Russian bad guys hijacking a talking safe filled with plutonium lifted straight from every mediocre '90s action movie ever made.
It didn't spend enough time on the villains.
Just to be clear, we're not talking screentime -- at 142 minutes, the movie's already more than long enough as is -- but if the plan really is to build a Marvel-esque universe with spinoffs for iconic Spidey villains like Venom and the Sinister Six, it would've been nice if they were more than just a mash-up of supervillain clichés and tired overused tropes. It doesn't help that Foxx's Electro sounds just like Jim Carrey's Riddler (and looks very similar to Dr. Manhattan from "Watchmen" ... or the Blue Man Group), or that the main defining characteristic for Dane DeHaan's Green Goblin is a superhuman ability to throw temper tantrums. If they can't manage to be particularly compelling in 10-minute chunks here, what's going to happen when they get their own movie?
It's cartoonish in all the wrong ways.
Whereas most modern superhero movies aim to ground their stories in the real world, Webb's sequel heads squarely in the opposite direction. Car chases involve what seems like the entire NYPD, and there's a truly weird scene featuring an Electro meltdown in Times Square, where the score features some kind of bizarre rap/schizophrenic break. And while it's hard to call out a movie about a teenager with the abilities of a spider for being unrealistic, we find it hard to believe even a crowd of New Yorkers would heckle a clearly deranged individual who's just proven he has the ability to shoot lightning bolts out of his hands. Or at the very least they'd be more clever than yelling "Boo, blue guy!"
The tone is all over the place.
The bigger issue is that this is a movie that never quite knows which direction it wants to go, careening from sweet rom-com to goofy action to genuine drama. One minute, Garfield and Sally Field share an emotional scene about who really raised young Peter, the next, they have a three-minute argument about who gets to do the laundry. When the movie calls for drama, the cast is certainly capable of delivering, but the shifts can be jarring. And the opening flashback to Peter's parents feels like it's out of another movie, from the queasy shaky camera to the clunky espionage dramatics.
It's got one too many endings.
Despite the unevenness, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" still manages to build to a satisfying, logical climax -- only then, the movie just keeps going. Part of that could be the four credited writers, or the need to set things in motion for all the planned sequels down the line, but Webb's film could've gone out on a much more powerful note if it'd just stuck to its natural ending (even if it's one most comic fans could've seen coming since the 1970s). But really, that's the most disappointing thing about this latest "Spider-Man": those moments when it all works just make the scenes where it doesn't that much more glaring.
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is now playing in theatres.