Caught in the Web: The Latest ‘Spider-Man’ Is a Tangled Retread of Old Material

There is nothing amazing about this 'Spider-Man.'

Spider-Man is played by Andrew Garfield this time around.

I don’t know why fans and reviewers alike call The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a sequel. This knuckle-headed bore is the fifth (and silliest) movie based on the Marvel comic book character, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, who was bitten as a teen by a genetically modified spider that enabled him to grow muscles, scale skyscrapers with the aid of computerized spider webs and save the world from evil. It is not a sequel, just another retread of tired material in a franchise that is more than ready for the big comic book bonfire. And why the title? There is nothing amazing about it.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ★★
(2/4 stars)

Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci and Jeff Pinker
Directed by:
Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Jamie Foxx
Running time: 142 min.

The first three Saturday matinee adventures of Spidey, starring wimpy Tobey Maguire as shy, awkward Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man), were directed with some flair by Sam Raimi. Now the high school nerd has become the college nerd, played by Andrew Garfield, who still lives at home in the New York suburbs with his widowed Aunt May (Sally Field instead of the great Rosemary Harris), who has nothing to do, so she tries to act busy washing out Spidey’s underwear. Gone is Spidey’s girlfriend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), who was replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard as new girlfriend Gwen in Spider-Man 3, and has now morphed into Emma Stone. Gone, too, is James Franco as Spidey’s best friend Harry Osborn, which makes this one of the few films of the year that James Franco does not appear in. He used to be the tortured son of the evil Norman Osborn, founder of the mysterious organization Oscorp, where Spidey’s father worked and died under suspicious circumstances after Mr. Osborn turned into a super villain called Green Goblin. 

Peter and his pal haven’t seen each other for 10 years, but now Harry returns as anemic, baggy-eyed Dane DeHaan (so good in The Place Beyond the Pines), who inherits Oscorp, discovers he has the same disease that killed his father, and believes an injection of Spidey’s radioactive blood is the only thing that can save him. Spidey, of course, refuses to surrender his valuable DNA, which forces Harry to get out the old Green Goblin costume, wreak CGI havoc on Manhattan, and scheme to incinerate Gwen in the process. Spidey has to act fast because Gwen is leaving for Oxford with a scholarship in molecular medicine. Huh?

But first, there’s a new villain du jour called Electro (a wasted Jamie Foxx), actually just an electrical engineer at Oscorp named Max, pumped full of enough electricity to send the East Coast into a blackout. There’s one fun scene where he blows up Times Square, which serves to distract the audience from the sorry fact that nothing else is going on. Spidey ventures underground to an abandoned subway station hiding the spider venom his father was working on when he was murdered, then crashes onto the top of the bridge to JFK in time to warn Gwen not to go to England because “they never caught Jack the Ripper.” But first there’s a total blackout and the only person who knows how to re-set the power grid is…Gwen? You have to wonder what everyone was smoking.  

The dialogue seems to have been written on Big Chief tablet paper with a No. 2 pencil. Electro, before blowing up New York: “It’s my birthday. Now it’s time for me to light my candles!” Gwen to Spidey: “So you’re Spider-Man. I love that. But I love Peter Parker more.” Basically plotless, nothing in the criminally wasted $200-million budget is on the same plane as previous Spider-Man movies. No villain is as demented or threatening as Doc Ock. The romantic chemistry between Spidey and Gwen is tantamount to two people attaching price tags in a yard sale. The special effects are uninspired. The action is exactly what you might expect from the new trend of staging scenes on a TV monitor from another room. It’s a shame to see Andrew Garfield, the talented actor who played Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son in Mike Nichols’ acclaimed Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, blankly going through the paces in his red Spider-Man suit like he’s wondering when it all will end. I was wondering the same thing as my watch was creeping up to the 2-hour-and-20-minute mark. (There’s already a sixth installment in pre-production.) This one is supposed to be about the spiders, but it’s really for the birds.

Caught in the Web: The Latest ‘Spider-Man’ Is a Tangled Retread of Old Material