Spider-Man is essentially a two man act. Peter Parker is the straight man; a mild mannered young man with a day job and all the trivialities and challenges that face every young man as he finds his way in the world. Holding down a job, dealing with girls, being a lad outside but a good boy in front of mum.
But after being bitten by a radioactive spider (long story), Peter is also the second guy. By wacking on a red and blue suit he becomes Spider-Man, an athletic freak capable of frankly too many amazing feats to worry about.
Peter is the story. Spider-Man is the show.
And it’s been that way for countless comic book issues and now it seems around… I’ll say 37 films. Peter goes on about his way with minimal fuss while Spidey pounds the bad guys and saves the day again and again.
As the film opens Parker and his class – including one Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) – are graduating college. Parker and Stacy have gone public with their love, and Aunt May (Sally Field) couldn’t be prouder of her boy, even though he acts like a git 87% of the time.
In Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 Peter Parker went off the rails a bit. He got cocky. Frankly for a short while he was a dick. People didn’t like it. Well in The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is back being cocky 24/7, both in the blue booties and out – and I for one don’t like it.
And when the story is unlikeable, and the show has been seen before many times, there aren’t too many crowd pleasing surprises to bust out.
Take the initial meeting between Spidey and (soon to be Electro) Max (Jamie Foxx). Not only is it such a walk in the park that Spider-Man can save a man from death with seemingly little effort, he walks away whistling his own theme tune. That’s drinking your own kool-aid right there.
Of course further muddying the water is the fact that once Max turns Electro – in an over the top combo of being electrocuted first by electricity, then by electric eels for good measure – he decides that he wants the spotlight, and the only way he can find it is by zapping people just like Raiden dressed as the blue naked guy from Watchmen.
Foxx might get prominent guest billing, but his pre-transformation role is relegated to muttering nervously, and his post-change is a blue blur of crackling effects and trite dialogue. Harry Osborne is also back for another go around, with his character losing all shading to emerge as another full time arrogant smarmy git. Of course Parker/Spidey will have to deal with both over the next two hours.
But don’t go waiting for the action sequences to save the day. There isn’t anything here to differentiate it from the predecessors. Nothing with the exhilaration of the first discovery scenes in Raimi’s first Spider-Man where Parker tested his powers. Nothing with the gravity and kinetic energy of the train-stopping sequence in Spider-Man 2 which left Parker exposed and exhausted.
Everything comes so easy to him here. And he has bullet time now. Regardless of the foe it almost seems unfair in Spidey’s favour… something out of whack with the nature of the character.
The only scenes that will move you in any way are the relationship moments between Parker and Stacy. Those two make such a lovely couple, only they can’t find a way to keep it together. But at least amid the indecisiveness they exhibit genuine emotion, something lacking everywhere else.
Garfield and Stone prove their acting chops in these sequences. Elsewhere Field is fine as Aunt May, Foxx is as previously mentioned here for name recognition only, and several other characters pop in and out ineffectually.
Raimi’s trilogy was a 60 / 40 mix of Spider-Man / Parker. These films so far seem tilted in the opposite ratio towards Parker, and when the Parker in this film is an unlikable type, and the action sequences provide the undeniable sensation of having seen it all before, then the final verdict needs to be what we have been saying for years; why do we need more Spider-Man films right now?
Final Rating – 6 / 10. There are more than enough douche superheros. Peter Parker was always one of the nice guys. Not this time around. For now he – and the franchise – are just another one.