The comic book superhero cult is becoming a new fundamentalist-type religion in the West. The fans (AKA fanatics) approach the movie story of their hero in tights with memories of past comic books, going over the character’s history like scriptural literalists cross-checking every passage. A misplaced comma might be equated with blasphemy. Most amusingly, literal faithfulness and realism are often demanded in movies about characters who started off wearing underwear outside of their pants. If a critic dares to say something negative about the funny-paper deity, they may receive death threats, as did the first professional critic who publicly panned Dark Knight Rises (and never mind that said critic was right). Of course, the fanboys may only resort to mockery, as they did with Roger Ebert, ridiculing him for dying of cancer, when he dared to give a negative review to Thor (2011). These are the Marvel and DC Taliban; their behavior is so nonsensical it is mind-boggling.
It is perhaps ironic (or perhaps not) to find as much of a level of obsessiveness over characters created by modern Westerners as over those created by ancient Jewish writers. Primitive figures spun from tribal tales have been replaced by Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. We get just as offended by liberties taken with the Caped Crusader as we do liberties taken with Noah. We root for Hulk to wallop puny false gods with the same hip-hip-hooray we afforded Mel’s Lethal Jesus taking one more bloody blow to prove how much of a true “guts and glory” God he is. Ben Affleck as Batman is as heterodox as a wimpy eco-friendly deity who has the audacity to care about the world he created.
Spiderman should be the hero least prone to this type of obsessiveness. He is not like Superman, doused in all that sloppy pious savior mythology. Nor is he is a brooding billionaire crusader for truth like the Dark Knight. Peter Parker, as created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, was an idiosyncratic angst-filled teen who had everyday problems like the rest of us. He was never destined for canonization .John Semper, producer of “Spiderman: The Animated Series” (1994-1998) perhaps said it best: “It does not matter who Spiderman’s villain is. What matters is Peter Parker can’t pay the rent and has girlfriend problems.” That’s pretty simple advice to remember, which Spiderman 3 (2007), with its smorgasbord of villains, failed to heed. Director Sam Raimi had already delivered two financial, critical hits. Rather than trust Rami’s track record, Sony interfered, and the result was franchise implosion. Amazingly, Amazing Spiderman 2 (2014) failed to learn that lesson, and delivers the worst film to date about a super arachnid.
The first sign of a here-we-go-again bad omen with Amazing Spiderman 2 is the presence of seven writers credited for the screenplay. That many writers working on Green Lantern (2011) indicated movie-making by committee, and it turned out to be just that. The plethora of chefs here deliver a stale Snickers bar with the guts squeezed out, which is surprising since the Amazing Spiderman (2012) at least seemed to be aware of what had gone wrong in Spiderman 3 and went some distance towards correcting the misstep.
Andrew Garfield returns as Peter Parker, and he has angst in his spandex regarding girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). In the first film of the reboot series, Stone’s Stacy proved a better love interest than Kristin Dunst’s self-pitying, eye-lash batting Mary Jane. At the end of Amazing Spiderman, it seemed that Parker’s promise to distance himself from Stacy had been resolved. However, in the sequel, we are subjected to an extended rehash of that promise. Parker also has the backstory of his parents to contend with. That backstory was the reboot’s most pointless addition, but at least it was kept to a minimum. Here, it receives full blown treatment. Aunt May (Sally Field) has become a suburban bore, but she solicits more sympathy than her nephew, who has already lost much of his charm. The scenes with Parker and Stacy are what the film is really about, or rather, should be. However, that set-up is mostly squandered for something that begs description. Pressed, a synopsis could possibly be found, by why would one want to?
Amazing Spiderman 2 is akin to Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin (1997): an aluminum Christmas tree on circuit overload. Seldom has so much excess been thrown onto a screen. The answer for such a mess, at least the answer for returning director Marc Webb, is big-name stars. Here, Jamie Foxx, as Electro, fills the same sort of shoes Sir Arnold wore as Mr. Freeze. Joining Foxx in the super-villain team-up is Paul Giamatti as a metallic rhinoceros and as an emaciated Goblin. Webb proves as inept as Schumacher or Zach Snyder at handling action sequences, and we feel his lethargy, gorging on AC/DC colored CGI. With a solid dramatic base, such gluttony would be forgivable, except the dramatic elements here are as apathetically handled, with far too many witless one-liners used as exclamation points. Stone, who was the freshest thing about the first film, is wasted here.
It would be easy to dismiss this as a video game (as opposed to a movie), except that games are supposed to be fun. The only people who may find any joy in Amazing Spiderman 2 are unimaginative, in-denial Marvel fundamentalists; but whether those folks are really human or not is open to debate. Amazing Spiderman 2 is a movie for blithering idiots.