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Thursday, May 8, 2014 12:01 am

Manic Spider-Man 2 nothing but a blur


One gets the impression that director Marc Webb knew he was going to have a hard time squeezing in everything that was in the script for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. After all, there must be some reason why the film starts with an action sequence, progresses directly to another and proceeds to pile one breathless set piece onto another, character development be damned. Reminiscent of Zack Snyder’s botched reboot of Superman, Man of Steel, Webb sets out not to entertain but rather bludgeon us into submission with what seems a constant barrage of earsplitting, spine-rattling action sequences that generate headaches rather than thrills.

Hurtling from an opening scene in which we get a teeny bit more information on why Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) left their only son Peter behind to a frenetic sequence in which the titular hero (Andrew Garfield) is trying thwart the hijacking of an armored car, Webb lets us know from the start that moments of respite and reflection are collateral damage in the face of action barrage he has in store. Peter Parker saves the city, with a wisecrack or two to spare, just in time to make it to his high school graduation where his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is waiting anxiously. All the while, an old colleague of theirs, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to town for a final bitter confrontation with his father Norman (Chris Cooper) who lets him know that the rare disease that’s killing him is hereditary and will soon start to affect him. However, once the old man dies, his heir takes the reins of Oscorp and soon discovers many secret experiments and products that will ultimately have a dramatic effect on his life.

Scenes in which Peter and Harry catch up or Peter and Gwen discuss the inherent danger of her being involved with a superhero are rushed and given very little weight in the overall scheme of the film. These sequences serve as bookmarks of sorts, abrupt transitions between the movie’s wow moments – which there are far too many of – and even these conversations are rushed and played out far too dramatically, to the point of parody.

No, the film is far more concerned with introducing its bevy of villains, laying the groundwork for future movies that will focus on them alone as they come together to form a seminal group from the Spidey canon, the Sinister Six. Jamie Foxx, as an engineer who meets an untimely accident involving electric eels and high voltage is Electro, a deluded sort who can channel and harness electricity. Paul Giamatti has a brief appearance at the beginning and then the end as the tank-like Rhino, while DeHaan becomes the Green Goblin after Harry subjects himself to an ill-advised experiment with tragic results. Truly connecting with these characters is a casualty of the film’s pace as Electro, comical, one-dimensional and at times buffoonish, looks as if he escaped from the campy “Batman” TV show of the ’60s, while Giamatti is given little screen time and does nothing more than rant and rave. Only DeHaan makes an impression, tapping into the maniacal intensity that made Heath Ledger’s Joker so memorable. His Green Goblin is truly unhinged, dangerous and fascinating making him the only character I’m anxious to spend more time with.

While I liked Garfield and Stone the first time out, here they’re a bit grating at times. Their conversations come off as rehearsed patter rather than genuine discussions, while the former brings a brio to Parker/Spider-man that runs counter to the character’s traditional sense of insecurity. In the end, the film ends up giving us a hero that’s irritating, a love interest that’s a cipher and villains we barely know.

Without question, Spider-Man 2 is the most impressive film yet where capturing the webslinger’s exploits are concerned. There’s a fluidity to the character’s movements that mirror those of a spider and gives us a focal point amidst the flurry of activity that’s constantly swirling about the screen. However, even this becomes exhausting and in the end, viewers will likely be left praying for a break in the action rather than clamoring for more spider-centric exploits.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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