Okay, let’s just all have a heavy sigh. Okay, done? Good. Let’s get to the movie then. After a promising outing on the previous film, everything seemed poised for a great follow-up. But, boy, oh, boy, did the wheels ever come off? There are myriad problems with the movie, but before I get to all those, let me just talk briefly about the things that actually do work in the film. Dane DeHaan is a young actor that I’ve liked in a lot of things prior to seeing him here and I think his performance here is really great; he brings a brooding intensity to Harry Osborne and when he has the tables turned on him by his second in command, it’s easy to feel real sympathy. And also a word for the score. I’ve always found it interesting. Whatever its problems, it was Hans Zimmer really going outside the box to do something totally different, particularly in regard to the Electro related music. Hearing it in concert with the movie again, after giving it a few listens on disc a couple of years ago, I honestly think it’s kind of great, if flawed. Using the voices to comment on Electro’s emotions is something I’m still not sure about, but the way Electro’s music goes from an off-kilter, rather childish march to the full on dubstep drop is really striking. Johnny Marr’s guitar riff is menacing and memorable. I kind of think that’s all really great. And it does feature most heavily in the one sequence that I think the film gets absolutely, exactly right which is the lengthy sequence of Electro in Times Square. That sequence is striking, intense and it lands the wow moments that none of the rest of the movie does; when Electro lets out that first big wave and flips all the police cars, it’s exhilarating and when he comes out of the rubble, floating in the air for the first time, with that massive wall of music behind it, it’s a genuinely chill-bump inducing moment. It’s a really brilliant ten to fifteen minute reprieve in the midst of a movie that mostly doesn’t work in the least.
I think the biggest problem really is that it has no idea where it’s going tonally. It wants to be light-hearted, broadly comedic, deeply emotional, incredibly dark and more and it just doesn’t succeed at anything really. The Peter-Gwen relationship is hamstrung here by a labored “will they-won’t they” plot and it’s utterly tiresome and, what’s even worse, it keeps Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone apart way too much and when they are together it’s in a series of deadly serious, “deeply felt” conversations about their relationship. There’s none of the sparkling chemistry that they had in the first film. Jamie Foxx is another huge problem. I don’t lay it off entirely on him; he’s a really fine actor, so clearly he was being directed to play his character the way he plays it. But the film wants to create in Max a tragic character that we can also laugh derisively at and those two things just don’t work here. It’s hard to really take Electro’s suffering seriously later when Foxx has been hamming it up with a horrible comb-over and a tooth gap. Ironically, the character feels most like a cartoon before he turns into the comic book supervillain.
But let me dig down from the big picture to get at the real sloppiness that defines this movie. You get the distinct impression that this movie was made with desperate haste; it feels like it was being written on the day and shot very quickly. It’s like no one thought through what was happening or the continuity. Like how in the “let’s be friends” conversation, we find out that Gwen Stacy has this ADORABLE habit of scratching her nose. Of course, she never did it in the entire first movie or in this one until it’s brought up for two lines. And then she never does it again. Because, who cares, right? Or when Gwen demands to come with Peter for his final confrontation with Electro and she argues that he should let her because she knows all about the city’s electrical grid. Why does she know this? In what possible context could she have learned this information? Never mind, who cares? Later we see Electro finally achieve total fusion or something by turning totally into electrical impulses. He can completely electrify himself to the point that he is only an electric charge in the air. That’s pretty cool, but what’s even cooler is his wardrobe abilities. He can be wearing a black jumpsuit, transform himself into pure electrical energy, travel through a power outlet across the city in the blink of an eye and then when he rematerializes, out of thin air, mind you, he also manages to still be wearing the jumpsuit. And can we talk about the part where Electro is most mentally tormented, when he is most alone and suffering the greatest pain? You know, that super-dark scene where suddenly a mincing, painfully annoying doctor enters the film, wearing a fabulous make-up job. This performance would not be out of place on the Adam West Batman show and here it is in this very dark, mostly serious movie.
Or, God, can I just start an entirely new paragraph to talk about the goddamn Rhino? I’m starting a new paragraph. Honestly, it’s hard to forgive this movie for Paul Giamatti’s performance. Because I used to say things like, “Paul Giamatti is good in everything he’s in” or “Paul Giamatti is always good.” And now I can’t say that because he is a ******* disaster in this movie. And I might just point out that the trailers teased the hell out of the Spider-Man/Rhino fight and then the movie DID NOT ACTUALLY EVEN BOTHER SHOWING US THE FIGHT. Everything that could even be considered part of the Rhino fight was already in the trailer. The final shot of the movie is in the trailer. In the theater where I saw the movie, there was an audible noise of disappointment when Spider-Man & the Rhino met on the field of battle, Spider-Man took his first punch AND . . . the movie ended. People might say I’m nitpicking and maybe I am, but I think these kinds of issues, which I’ve barely scratched the surface of, are indicative of the real problem with this movie.
Bottom line, this movie has a real disdain for its audience. It’s the same problem I had with The Dark Knight Rises, though not nearly to the degree of this movie, of course. The idea is that people will flock to this movie in droves because it’s a Spider-Man movie, regardless of whether it’s particularly good or not. So why should it be good? It’s not that they are invested in making it bad, but when it is bad, there’s no reason to go out of your way to fix it. It’ll make hundreds of millions of dollars whether Jamie Foxx is terrible or not, so let’s just go with that first take instead of actually trying to make a believable character. Yes, there are horrible tonal shifts that we could attempt to fix by putting in hours of rewrites or reshoots or whatever, but, let’s face it, it’s going to be a huge hit either way, so why should we kill ourselves? I mean, these people are intelligent. The Doctor Kafka scenes didn’t slip in there without a full eighty to ninety percent of the production team realizing that it was as ******* stupid as ****. But who cares? There’s this deep sense that most everyone involved on this movie thought the intended audience was filled with idiots and, even more disturbing, that once they had our money, they didn’t care. I think it’s extremely obvious when it comes to the Rhino. There is no possible way that it wasn’t completely clear to everyone on the team behind this movie that audiences would be incredibly disappointed when the film ended without actually featuring the biggest fight that the trailers promised. But, you know, two and a quarter hours into the movie, you know what? They already had our money. So, they could choreograph a big fight, stage it, run it through CGI, spend a lot on a big, epic climax. Or they could just, you know, not. And they get our money either way. Honestly, how could they not screw the audience over when you put it like that? It’s practically a foregone conclusion, if you take integrity & pride in your own product out of the picture.
And, despite the fact that this movie killed the franchise and resulted in YET ANOTHER reboot, the movie did make a solid four-hundred million dollars profit at the box office, so . . . lesson learned? Well, in case the chronology of all these comic-book movies is confusing you, let me point out that Batman v Superman, Fantastic Four & Suicide Squad came out after The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, all in all, just another brick in the wall. Disdain for the audience dies hard. 1 ½ stars.
tl;dr – a couple of good elements, but this film disdains its audience & it shows as it devolves into a tonal nightmare, filled with sloppy mistakes & flat out bad decisions by the filmmakers. 1 ½ stars.