My Least Favorite Superhero Movie/My Favorite Romantic Comedy, or, Amazing Spider-Man 2

Somewhere in the first two acts of Amazing Spider-Man 2 it occurred to me that with a little elbow grease and a pair of scissors the superhero movie could be cut into a romantic comedy.

Somewhere in the third act of Amazing Spider-Man 2 it occurred to me that I wished I were watching that romantic comedy.

My favorite scene in Amazing Spider-Man 2.

My favorite scene in Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Much like the first Amazing Spider-Man, the sequel’s charm rests largely on the undeniable chemistry between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. It’s a chemistry that becomes all the more alluring in this second outing because of just how much more interesting it is than everything else around it.

I went into Amazing Spider-Man 2 with low expectations after finding out the film had made the same misstep its reboot-inspiring predecessor Spider-Man 3 had: too many villains. But surprisingly enough the quantity of bad guys isn’t the problem here. It isn’t even that there’s so much stuff going on in the movie. It’s that there’s so much stuff going on in the movie that I couldn’t even pretend to care about.

When Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy weren’t being adorable together I just didn’t care.

There’s a power outage? And two planes full of a bunch of strangers might collide midair?

I don’t care.

Aunt May is going to nursing school?

I don’t care.

Peter Parker’s parents this and that?

I just don’t care.

Peter spies Gwen from across a crowded city street?

I’m in.

Another Amazing Spider-Man 2 highlight.

Another Amazing Spider-Man 2 highlight.

Director Marc Webb a flat out auteur when it comes to portraying the quirk and confusion of young love. His camera melts away while Garfield and Stone exchange lines that flow so organically I can’t imagine them having been typed out on a page of script. When Webb swings through the romantic borough of his sprawling film it triumphs.

Only, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is, theoretically, a superhero movie. And for all the nuance and charm Parker and Stacy’s romance brings to the table the superheroics wind up feeling shoehorned in. This isn’t a bad superhero movie, but CGI aside it isn’t one that feels like it was made in 2014. Where Amazing Spider-Man 2 might have been a superhero romance, like Winter Soldier was a superhero political thriller or The Dark Knight a superhero crime drama, it instead winds up feeling like the superhero and the romance were quarantined from one another. And one clearly outshines the other.

Watching Spider-Man swing around like Spider-Man will always be cool, but Spider-Man’s conflicts in this movie are never as interesting as Peter and Gwen’s. Remember those villains I mentioned?

Max Dillon, played by Jamie Foxx, is a quiet, mild-mannered employee of OsCorp Industries who has no friends. How do I know he has no friends? Because people cut in front of him to get in the elevator and crowds shove him about and scatter his blueprints to and fro. And because he sings happy birthday to himself.

But then he falls into a tank of electric eels while holding a wire.

Bada bing, bada boom, he’s Electro! And it takes Electro all of five seconds to go from a shy man terrified and confused by his new abilities to a maniacal murderer literally spouting one liners.

The Green Goblin also shows up, getting the reboot treatment after the long shadow the character cast over Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. Those who thought Raimi’s interpretation of the Goblin costume was a bit too Power Rangers can breathe a sigh of relief, as this one has real-live claws and sharp green teeth, which I guess is why he’s angry?

Paul Giamatti plays the Rhino? I think? Is the Rhino actually in this movie?

In Amazing Spider-Man 2 the plot and the character motivations that set it in place feel like machinations of a bygone era. Like a superhero outing conjured up long before The Avengers, or The Dark Knight, or Spider-Man 2, or even Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie.

A third installment in  The Best of Amazing Spider-Man 2.

A third installment in The Best of Amazing Spider-Man 2.

But damnit do I love me some Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker. Watching their scenes unfold feels like eavesdropping on the cutest couple you can find in a quaint public park on a Sunday afternoon.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a full on five acts. No superhero film needs five acts. The Dark Knight Rises didn’t have five acts. In a perfect world Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a three act movie about a brilliant young woman dating a charming young vigilante whose action-packed exploits are left to implication and imagination.

Get all that superhero crap out of there.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1. Too cute, am I right?

2. I mean come on. Pretty adorable, huh?

3. Can Spider-Man really do WHATEVER a spider can?

4. Seriously though, are Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone legitimately too cute?

 

For more Spider-Man check out my thoughts on Dan Slott’s recent Superior Spider-Man and listen to the weekly Pony Tricks Comic Cast (also available on iTunes and SoundCloud).

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