Remember 2012? That was the year we got the Spider-Man reboot no one really asked for. To be fair, Andrew Garfield's nebbishy Peter Parker was an improvement over Tobey Maguire, and the addition of Emma Stone (as Spidey's girlfriend Gwen Stacy) was critical, because YAY everything Emma Stone. And yet? It was still roughly the same origin story we'd been told in 2002—and countless times before that. But we knew in our hearts this Amazing Spider-Man reboot was just a placeholder. The implied promise was that, as soon as all these reintroductions were taken care of, we could expect a sequel that would truly be... amazing.
Yeah, well, that didn't work out either.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 picks up during the waning days of Peter Parker's high-school career. No longer the simpering nerd, his newfound Spidey confidence has him strutting around NYC like Justin Bieber on sizzurp. (This is not a good thing... more on that later.)
While Peter wants to take his relationship with Gwen to the next level, he's still haunted by the promise he made to her father—to keep his daughter safe from dangerous heroics—as well as the mysterious death of his parents. But complications really ensue when mentally ill Spidey fan Max (Jamie Foxx doing his best Forrest Gump impersonation... also not a good thing) suffers an electrical workplace accident and becomes the misunderstood villain Electro. Oh, and Peter's former pal Harry Osborn (son of Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin) also drops by to follow in his pop's evil footsteps.
Now, if you're a 10-year-old boy who's looking for some Christmas gift ideas, you will LOVE this movie. The look, the feel, the story, and the writing have all been dumbed down for your enjoyment. The action sequences are fast, furious, and may cause seizures in some viewers. Now don't get me wrong, they're fun... but it will give some adult audience members pause when a criminal is smashing through downtown New York City traffic (undoubtedly killing dozens of people), and instead of simply capturing him, Spidey is hanging on to the window of a careening truck trading wisecracks. (That's what Justin Bieber would do, too.)
And that's where The Amazing Spider-Man 2 goes horribly, terribly wrong. Yes, Spider-Man historically cracks wise. But in this incarnation, Peter Parker crosses the line of well-meaning smartass into full-blown Justin Bieber douchery. And in what universe does anyone root for Justin Bieber?
There are some lights at the end of this tunnel: Emma Stone is as radiant as always, Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn perfectly resembles the sickly offspring of Leonardo DiCaprio and Willem Dafoe, and when a critical moment from the Spider-Man comics is addressed... it's done with a surprising amount of sensitivity. But then the film quickly switches back to pants-dropping humor, even more Bieber-style douchebaggery, and the same manipulative, subpar writing that made the first three-quarters of the film such a disaster.
Like I said, the average 10-year-old boy will love it... and yes, expectations should be lowered because it's a comic-book movie. Just don't go expecting the sophistication and storytelling that made The Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier so enjoyable. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels like an extended commercial for this year's line of Christmas toys—for Justin Bieber apologists.