Inconsistent direction in Spider-Man

It’s blockbuster season. A couple movies have managed to sneak in a little early, but the real debut of popcorn-selling summer blockbusters begins with The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Andrew Garfield returns as Peter Parker for more web-slinging adventures. He really starts to feel comfortable as Spider-Man in this movie, where he felt a little off-pace in the first film. He’s full of the quips and tricks that long-time fans will recognize as Spider-Man’s hallmarks, and he just seems to enjoy the role. There’s something to be said for an actor making a role his own, and Garfield really gets into the zone.

Since the first movie got the origin story out of the way, this film dives a bit more into one of the most captivating aspects of the Spider-Man franchise — the villains. Film adaptations of Spider-Man villains have struggled in the past, most notably with the horrible handling of three separate antagonists in Spider-Man 3. This film has a cameo by a favorite (The Rhino, played by Paul Giamatti, hamming it up) but really spends its time exploring two major villains, Electro and the Green Goblin.

This is where the movie starts to get a bit confusing. It feels like it was directed by a few different teams — the Peter and Gwen romance team, the Green Goblin team and the Electro team. Consequently, the film feels splintered into good parts and bad.

The sequences with Garfield and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy playing against each other are fun but lack any real weight. They have a great chemistry together, but it all seems very superficial. Both actors are trying their hardest to make it seem real, but the awkward mishaps and bumbling romance aren’t convincing enough to show that these two characters are really in love. At least they’re enjoying themselves.

The Green Goblin sections, or those with Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn, are kind of bizarre. He is an excellent actor himself, but his scenes feel focused on making him as weird and unsympathetic as possible. He does the best he can, playing the angry and angsty foil to Peter, but it just doesn’t sit right.

Electro, however, is incredible. Jamie Foxx plays Max Dillon, a character who always seems to have bad luck. It’s so easy to feel sorry for him, as he has deep and disturbing mental problems, and he’s definitely a tragic figure. His actions throughout the film aren’t right or responsible, but it’s painfully clear why he does what he does. This is an excellent character piece by Foxx, but he’s also an excellent villain. He looks cool and even sounds cool. His theme music is very electronic, a dubstep mix that rattles the back of the seats. It’s almost worth seeing this movie just to hear him jump around to a dubstep version of “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”

All of these result in a pretty neat-looking movie that can’t quite pull itself together. There are subplots that go nowhere and characters that seem one-dimensional, but that’s not what summer movies are for. Comic fans will appreciate some nods to classic Spider-Man story arcs, including an integral part of Spider-Man’s past played completely straight, or at least as far as these movies go.

Runtime is 142 minutes. It may not be the best film of the year, but it’s about a guy with spider powers. Give it a chance.

This article was posted in the section Features.