Every money hungry studio (I could have just said studio and the meaning would still be the same) wants a shared universe franchise of their own. On the surface, you'd think that'd spell doom for Sony, seeing as they only own Spider-Man. Fortunately for them, Spider-Man has the most character rich universe in all of comics other than maybe Batman. Unfortunately for them, all the patience in crafting and carefully cultivating those characters went out the window when the world saw Earth's Mightiest Heroes save New York from the Chitauri on half a billion screens across the globe. Sony and Fox and Warner Brothers don't want to follow the same model Marvel Studios used because IT'S THEIR MONEY AND AND THEY NEED IT NOW! This collective impatience is why Man of Steel 2 is now called Batman Vs. Superman Guest Starring Wonder Woman, Flash, and Dick Grayson. It is why X-Men: Days Of Future Past has EVERY SINGLE X-MEN CHARACTER JAMMED INTO IT. It's why a collection of Spidey villains known as the Sinister Six are getting a film for a yet to be determined purpose. And it's why The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just feels like 10 pounds of plot in a 5 pound bag.
Think I'm being unfair to them? Why? It's not like they don't realize this. They do. They know they're sacrificing story for what they think people want. I know they know because Batman Vs Superman has already been delayed a year to give them just enough time to finish their over-stuffing. Days Of Future Past cast then cut then put back in several big name stars just to keep their films stuffed. (Hello, Goodbye, Hello Rogue) Hell, Divergent star Shailene Woodley won the role of Mary Jane for Amazing Spider-Man 2, shot scenes and then was cut out FOR GOOD. This is on top of the fact that Spidey has to deal with THREE underdeveloped bad guys and a now restructured love story and a friendship with a supposed best friend that is dropped in our lap with all the ceremony and subtlety of a wet fart. That screams CLUTTERED story to me. And sad to say, that is exactly what this film gives you.
Shut up and tell us exactly what the film is about already DJ! Well, it's about Peter Parker still assuming the mantle of New York's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. It's also about how Peter struggles to keep a promise to stay away from his on again off again girlfriend Gwen Stacy. It's also about Peter finally finding out the first film's promised untold secret left by his parents. It's also about Peter reuniting with his NEVER BEFORE SEEN best friend Harry Osborn and the secrets behind the Osborn company. It's also about a slighted Spider-Man fanboy who gains a power that he believes will make him special. See what I mean by cluttered?
The biggest complaint I had with the first Amazing Spider-Man was that it felt like a Spider-Man film seen through the eyes of someone who didn't give a crap about Spider-Man, resulting in him crushing every ounce of heart the Spidey world should have in order to appeal to the more moody and overly cynical society we live in now. This movie is not as bad as that. Instead, it is a good film pulled in so many different and ultimately pointless directions that it becomes a thin waste of time. Every moment I tried to give the film credit for something it did right, my praise would immediately be undermined by the film doing something stupid, convoluted, or gutless. Example? Not to get too spoilery but the final fate of a certain character winds up being extremely true to the comic book and a very ballsy move in this cinematic day and age. Just when I'm about to applaud the testicular fortitude, the film rushes past the emotional impact of that fate with a sloppy time lapse and a hurried happy ending. When you watch it you can almost hear the studio executive shouting "Uplifting ending damn it! So what if emotionally sad endings worked for Smaug and Catching Fire and even the first Spider-Man! I need a happy ending!"
Now I don't think Andrew Garfield is a bad actor. I believe his moody/neurotic/goofy/douchey portrayal of Peter Parker in the first film falls more on bad direction. Thankfully, his character comes off way more likable this time around. His overall chemistry with Emma Stone, the first film's one bright spot, was so good that the two became an item off screen. That chemistry is still there. Sally Field, one of our finest living actresses, FINALLY gets a scene to justify her casting. Even Garfield's rapport with new addition Dane DeHaan is pretty damn good. As I watched all of these relationships, however, I got agitated from the fact that they were being rushed to make more room for action set pieces with inconsequential villains.
For all the criticism I lob at director Marc Webb, I can give him credit for one thing. He really understands and utilizes all of Spider-Man's powers. His strength especially. Webb does this even more so than Raimi did. Webb loves to show off every ability Spidey has in the most jaw dropping ways possible. The action set pieces, though pointless at times, are well designed and beautiful to look at. I just wish they were placed in a better overall story. Webb also deserves credit for trying to rectify the faults of the first film. But again, it all comes down to the story he is trying to piece together. All the cosmetics in the world can't make a bloated pig pretty.
This year, we've already been fortunate enough to see one of the best comic book films ever made. By comparison, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just not up to snuff. Sure, it will make its money. However, will it be remembered with some of the greats? Not a chance. Will it be remembered a few hours after you leave the theater? I highly doubt it. Follow your Spidey Sense...don't forget Max Dillon's birthday cake...try not to Spidey-Stalk your girlfriend...look out for leering Leary...watch it...then tell me I'm wrong.