“Spider-Man 2” Could’ve Been Amazing, But Was Better Than Expected



When THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was first announced, I was one of the bigger sympathizers, and most open-minded among the blogosphere, thanks mostly to the impeccable casting and interesting choice of Marc Webb as the director.

I loved THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, though it wasn’t as fresh and exhilarating a movie as it could’ve been, merely because it existed in a post-Raimi trilogy world. We didn’t need another origin movie…even if this one may have been better, or at least found the greatest Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy they could’ve possibly found.

But from the moment THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 started being put together, with a spoiler filled ad campaign pronouncing a cavalcade of villains, a SINISTER SIX movie/franchise, it was like Sony and Marc Webb hadn’t learned from the past, and I became bored/disinterested/unenthused with the movie the more we found out, and the closer we came to the release date.

SPIDER-MAN 3 was trash, a mess, one of the worst big budget comic book movies in a sea full of them. It ruined almost all of the goodwill that Raimi had made before, with two of the very best comic book movies the genre had to offer, before Marvel Studios came and rewrote the handbook.

So, it appeared they were going to repeat the same mistakes, throwing Electro, Harry Osborn, Norman Osborn, Dr. Kafka, Felicia Hardy, Rhino, Alistair Smythe and a billion other references/characters.

We love our Easter Eggs…but the impact they have become muted, or lost, when the whole movie feels like one.

Yet, somehow, someway THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN wasn’t a bad movie. The action was thrilling, lush, vibrant, as comic-booky as it gets, with the best web-slinging and wise cracks that Spidey has committed to celluloid. The “New York as a character” shtick that has become weaved into Spidey’s DNA as much as the radioactive spider that created it all, didn’t feel as tacky and forced as the first film, and was still moving and effective.

I hated Paul Giamatti’s Rhino, a mind-numbingly over-the-top caricature…but the more I think about it, that was exactly the point, and he was undeniably an effective bookend, even if the Rhino armor made me want me to drink all of the poison this world has to offer.

There was too much going on. They rushed the Green Goblin story like CRAZY, and if they hadn’t found a brilliant Dane DeHaan who nailed Harry Osborn, and made us almost feel for such a prick, it would’ve been a complete disaster. Even so, he went from not dying to dying in a 0 to 60, kinda normal teenager to villainous freak the SECOND the disease manifests (the timeline of the disease made no sense, but whatever).


Jamie Foxx’s Electro was interesting. I liked that Max Dillon was nuts before he even got powers (instead of being made insane by his powers like every other villain), and his weird infatuation with Spider-Man. I dug how bizarre it all was. It’s a shame he mostly looked like ridiculous CGI (and bright blue)…though I loved when he was pure electrical energy (why would he ever revert back/be vulnerable?). But once he got his power, he was one-dimensional.

The Richard/May Parker conspiracy stuff is BS/lame/like every “mysterious past” story you’ve ever seen, complete with the subway lair. I almost thought Peter had stumbled upon the Ninja Turtles base. The whole thing was unnecessary. Peter’s parents being embroiled in Oscorp, the catch-all, meteor rocks of this universe, just wreaks of over-complication (like this entire movie), and all it really accomplishes is kicks Ben Parker’s sacrifice to the side.

The film would’ve been a disaster, merely a CGI-riddled spectacle, if not for the film’s heart being in the right place, and for Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy.


Marc Webb gets relationships, and if THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 was just PETER & GWEN (or GWEN & PETER), it might’ve been one of my favorite movies ever. They’re perfect together, the chemistry is so crackling that not only am I surprised they’re both not orgasming continuously on set, that I wonder how many people in the audience are getting off on it. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone…make me so wet, hot and jazzed about humanity.

Yet you knew it has a tragic end (I loved Denis Leary’s Captain Stacy literally haunting Peter throughout), whether you had it spoiled for you or not. There was no avoiding it. If you read the comics or not, it seemed pretty obvious from the start. Gwen Stacy has to die (or does she? That’s opening a whole other can of worms; but I sometimes wonder if Webb and Sony didn’t take advantage of this reboot fully; why not have Aunt May die in Part 1, and MJ the sacrificial character? Try something new. Of course, that’s also sacrilege).

This knowledge, somehow, didn’t subtract or lessen the impact from the story. In many ways, it made it harder, more impactful, more tragic. You KNOW Peter is going to endanger Gwen (but in reality, she endangers herself, thankfully), and she’s going to die, though you don’t really know how, or when. And I think Webb and company treated the whole thing tastefully, perfectly. I loved that Peter was going to follow Gwen to London, and the idea of Spidey traveling around London searching for Jack the Ripper, sounded like the greatest movie ever. But…it wasn’t meant to be…making it all the more heartbreaking.


There has never been a better “love interest” in a superhero movie than Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. She doesn’t even deserve that term, she transcended it. She wasn’t a damsel in distress, a flat character there to be saved or smooched, like Kirsten Dunst’s MJ or Jane Foster or Pepper Potts (until a brief “Rescue” stint) or practically ALL of the women in superhero movies. Gwen wasn’t a stereotype. She stood on her own two feet, and was just the best.

Subtracting Gwen Stacy from the proceedings doesn’t exactly make me excited for the sequels, since she and Peter were most of what make the franchise worth watching, or rebooting.

For that reason, and the fact that the villains were arguably the worst parts of this film (outside of the Parker Mythos), the film left me with a sense of foreboding.


Sony’s plan, to utilize Spider-Man’s incredible rogues gallery, and give them the focus, was a unique, and certainly an inspired take. Or could be. But judging from what we’ve seen here…where every villain is a rushed cliche, will we want to see a movie starring a bunch of them? A villainous, evil Avengers-like POV could be awesome, but I’m not very optimistic based on the evidence we’ve gathered so far.

What will THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 3 and 4 look like, and will I care? I already feel exhausted, thanks to a quick reboot, and the promise of a new Spidey-centric movie every year. But the third one won’t have what works/worked so beautifully about these first two movies: Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, and the relationship between Peter and Gwen. It was beautiful, and throwing Mary Jane or Felicia into the mix to replace Gwen could prove disastrous.

Of course…I actually think it could be the biggest opportunity in the movies to come. As I said, Marc Webb thrives with the human element, with Peter Parker, and showing him grieve, and wrestle with the terrifying prospect of potentially moving on from Gwen, or even allowing himself happiness, could be fascinating. It’s how we as the viewers will also feel, when Mary Jane comes on screen for the first time (cutting Shailene Woodley from the film was a rare show of restraint in the sequel, and THANK GOD they chose to do that; it would’ve been distracting, or worse, tasteless), we’re going to be just as apprehensive as Peter is, or just as mad/betrayed if he finds her attractive/bewitching. Chemistry is going to be a huge determining factor of whether or not it can succeed. Gwen was Peter’s soulmate, or at least that’s how we feel. How does one move on from that? It’s a complex and difficult question to answer for any movie, let alone a superhero movie where Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, Venom, Doc Ock, Carnage, Shocker, the Enforcers, Chameleon, etc. are probably bumming around New York.

Unfortunately, it’ll likely be lost/hindered in that tangle of Sinister Six-ness, as Sony tries to introduce EVERY villain imaginable in one movie, so they can get Sinister Six off the ground. Because there’s no reason for Sony to muck with the formula.

Despite mixed reviews, 5 movies in 12 years, the audiences certainly aren’t showing the same fatigue that I am. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2’s sterling opening weekend box office (and incredible overseas haul to this point), will indicate to Sony and other studios, that this kind of overstuffed sequel is what the audiences want and crave. I’m not without blame. I knew what I was getting into…and paid $19.50 to see the film in 3-D IMAX on a Friday night. So maybe it is what the average (dumb) moviegoer wants and deserves, but there’s potential for more, and that’s why THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 will be eternally frustrating.

It’s up in the air on whether it was Sony’s new formula, a harbinger of what’s to come, which means we should start the clock for when the enchilada collapses in on itself, and another reboot is necessary, because you know Spider-Man isn’t going anywhere.


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  1. You definitely liked this movie more than I did, but at least I liked it some. I loved Denis Leary’s Captain Stacy continuing to haunt Peter, creating a necessary cloud over Spidey’s (well-executed) wise-cracking style. I found Peter and Gwen’s initial breakup to be a little gratuitous — we covered the will they/won’t they plenty thoroughly later — but otherwise, they were perfect, a shimmering chemistry that made the entire movie.

    To my own surprise, I might be the only person who didn’t dislike the whole Parker parents subplot/conspiracy. I kinda liked that it gave Peter a more personal stake; if we’re going to make Oscorp be behind literally every bad guy, then we might as well go all the way and make him just as entangled with the company and its past. I didn’t even hate the cliched secret base that’s been miraculously perfectly preserved for 15 years; I liked that moment of Peter feeling connected to his father for maybe the first time. They did explain away one logical issue (how do these spiders give such magical powers but no one else has ever harnessed them? Only Peter’s DNA is compatible with them), even though it arguably created an even bigger sin of convenience (sure is lucky that he just so happened to get bitten by one, then). I’m not saying that whole thing was the highlight of the film for me, but I might be the only one who wasn’t off-put by it.

    What did get to me: villains. With one exception (to be discussed shortly), the villains were just the worst. Everything with Paul Giamatti in and out of the Rhino suit (which they way overbuilt) made me cringe, and I thought it was a hella weak (and rushed) note to end the movie on. Even worse was Electro. I was excited for the Jamie Foxx casting choice, but he was given utter crap material to build up the “main” villain of the piece. He had a one-note character development (I want to be important!) that hardly worked well for the motivation to help drive the film, and worse, he looked just awful. The Electro CGI screamed of Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern outfit.

    More positive but still mixed was Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborne. DeHaan himself literally couldn’t have been better. I was skeptical from the trailers (a main Spidey character sporting douchey hair does not conjure fond memories), but he was easily the pleasant surprise of the movie. He slipped into madness so well that he became the movie’s only good villain. The only thing keeping him from being a great one was the lack of logical consistency in his development. Norman said he developed the symptoms around the same age as Harry is, but Norman lived another 40-50 years after that. Yet for Harry, there’s for some reason an urgency that doesn’t seem necessary. It’s still worth it because of how well DeHaan pulls off deranged, but there seems to be little effort put into making the whole narrative work.

    Nor is that an isolated incident. Missing from AMS2 was a Peter Parker who has to juggle things like school and work. We’re thrown some Daily Bugle photos, but nothing is really developed there. And why isn’t he in college? Does this entire movie (up to Gwen’s death) take place during the summer after they graduated high school? THEN WHY THE FUCK ARE THEY WEARING COATS THE WHOLE MOVIE? (Also if so, why is Oxford waiting til then to decide on this scholarship?) It’s a story that desperately wants to focus on its highlight moments and hopes you’ll please ignore the rest.

    And that’s why I have little faith in the series to come, now that we’ve lost Gwen. Marc Webb definitely gets relationships, and all the cutesy dialogue and engaging fights that can come with them. Otherwise, though, I’ve seen little evidence that he really gets story structure on a sufficient level to make the series even better (or even just as good) with his best character now dead. Sony is obviously wanting to expand its universe by giving us more villains, and while that’s an exciting prospect in some ways (KRAVEN?!?!), it’s also worrisome if they can’t develop the upcoming Big Bads any better than they did Electro.

    The spoiler-heavy ad campaign leading up to the film deprived it of some of its impact; I was well-aware that Norman and Gwen would both die before entering the theater, and I hate that. But thanks to Garfield and Stone’s incredible chemistry, with an assist from the impressive DeHaan, it still worked. The trick will be how to move on from here. The first two films have landed largely by selling us (and executing well) big, emotional deaths. But we’re running out of people to kill — I would be nervous if I were Aunt May right now — and the cracks in the foundation might become gushing leaks without Emma Stone around.

  2. I really enjoyed this movie. It might not be perfect and I won’t rehash the valid and well-explained criticisms you and David already laid out (totally didn’t notice the summer coat-wearing epidemic)but I will point out a few things I did like.

    1) The casting. As you both mentioned, it couldn’t possibly have been better at the top. Moving on.

    2) This movie had a heart. From the beautiful, believable Peter/Gwen relationship to the emotional conversation between May and Peter in his room, it had a soul and real values. My favorite little part was when Spider-Man saves the kid being bullied in the alley, fixing his school project and walking him home, “Hey, what’s your name? I’m Spider-Man.” It just made me feel good (as did the kid Tiananmen Squaring the shit out of Rhino and Spidey showing up and thanking him for his bravery… sorry, David. And that theme continued throughout the movie and is a big reason I continue to overlook issues here and there.

    3) In keeping with the feel-good vibe, I can’t effectively convey my love for the soundtrack. It was incredible. It was maybe a little much with the dubsteptastic Electro fights but the main score from Hans Zimmer caused me to spend real American money on a soundtrack for the first time since I bought the Halo 2 soundtrack (yeah, I’m THAT guy). It fit perfectly with the characters and the world they were put in. This just felt like a movie that knew it was a comic book movie at heart and that has been missing in recent years.

    With all of that said, there were obviously a tremendous amount of holes in this story and I am increasingly nervous about how this series will be executed in the near future. But, as a stand-alone movie, I thoroughly enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

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