The 2012 reboot of the “Spider-Man” movie franchise, just five years after the first trilogy came to a whimpering close, was not so much a reimagining as a rehash: a slicker, blander version of the same movie that original trilogy director Sam Raimi already had made, but with the word “Amazing” slapped onto the title.
The added adjective has its history in Marvel Comics’ long-running Spidey series of the same name. But in the context of the movie, it felt a little desperate: Products described as “amazing” are usually not. And product, not story or art or even entertainment, is exactly what the mediocre reboot was. It felt like flat-footed formula — a two-hour reminder that there are Spider-Man toys and towels and lunch boxes available for purchase at a store near you.
Sadly, the same goes for this week’s sequel, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” another ho-hum movie with no real reason for existing. It’s not a terrible film, as summer blockbusters go, but it’s almost aggressively unmemorable. At times it feels more like an extended prologue to the inevitable, unstoppable sequel — an advertisement for the next Spider-Man movie, coming soon, whether you want it or not.
Which is probably how Spider-Man feels about the wave of villains thrown at him (with the promise of more to come). The movie begins with an armored vehicle robbery led by Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti), who then proceeds to disappear until the very final moments, when he shows up in lumbering rhinoceros armor, ready for the sequel to begin.
We then move on to the movie’s primary baddie, Max Dillon, a weirdo electrical engineer whose origin story sounds like an Upworthy headline: This man fell into a tank of electrified eels — what happened next was shocking! Dillon turns into the electricity-powered Electro, who really hates Spider-Man, well, mostly because that’s what movie villains do.
And then there’s Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn, whose eventual transformation into a glider-riding madman who calls himself the Green Goblin is as certain as it is uninteresting.
None of this leaves very much time for Spider-Man, or his geeky alter-ego Peter Parker, who has almost nothing to do except go through the motions of breaking up with his girlfriend Gwen Stacy, which obviously won’t last.
Andrew Garfield remains charming as Peter Parker, and delivers Spider-Man’s action-scene wisecracks with zippy enthusiasm. But with such a thin role, his natural charm only goes so far. As Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone has even less to do, and spends most of the movie foreshadowing a climactic event that the comics spoiled years ago.
Director Marc Webb does a fine job with the actors, and his action sequences are serviceable, though never exactly inspiring.
Most of the blame for the movie’s problems goes to screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner: Their story is too jumbled and overstuffed to manage, and the dialogue has all the grace of Mr. Giamatti’s giant metal rhinoceros suit. It takes any hint of subtext and literalizes it: If someone is scheduled to die, that person will wax on about the value of living; if a young man is living in his father’s shadow, then the father will say, “Maybe you can succeed where I failed.” It’s like the movie is reading the Cliff’s Notes version of itself aloud.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the movie is its competition. The marketplace already is crowded with other big-screen super stories, and some are actually pretty great. In contrast, this one is disposable and forgettable. A more accurate title would have been “The Just-OK Spider-Man 2” — there’s really nothing amazing about it.
TITLE: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
CREDITS: Directed by Marc Webb, screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner
RATING: PG-13 for comic-book violence