Sometimes I get worried that I’m ranking action movies on their proximity to the excellence of Chris Nolan’s blockbusters, particularly The Dark Knight trilogy. Those movies have a real earthy feel to them which allows for a human aspect to underscore the action, which in turn gives the action more weight, and most of it is done through careful pacing and an expert utility of space. But then again, the same is true with all the greatest mega-money action flicks from Aliens to The Terminator 2, so it’s not like I have some perfect vision of what a blockbuster should be like, it’s more that certain films lack what others thrive upon.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does exactly that; every strength I noted for The Dark Knight in the above paragraph is what’s missing from the latest sequel to the latest reincarnation of the legendary comic book. But praise be to director Marc Webb for instilling a real cartoonish feel to the movie, which should appease the younger generation this is clearly aimed at. That isn’t a disparaging remark, particularly – every film has its target audience – but as an adult viewing the movie, it’s striking how little maturity there is in its construction.
The cocky remarks and pseudo-witty one-liners that pour out of Andrew Garfield’s mouth as he complacently saves the day merely scratch the surface of what I’m getting at. It’s almost as though Garfield was instructed to constantly natter until he hit a ‘Yippee-kay-yay, motherfucker,’ a ‘Get away from her, you bitch’ or a ‘We’re going to need a bigger boat’ (the latter of which is even referenced in the movie – unfortunately, it isn’t ‘We’re going to need a better quote’). He never manages to strike gold, of course, as the Alex Kurtzman script is tainted by creative intertia. The same can be said about the set-pieces, which are unimpressive, impatiently paced and shot with a lack of a real understanding of space, so even when Spidey and the Green Goblin are trading blows in mid-air, you feel like you’re being thrown around a sound stage as opposed to a clock tower.
The big disappointment here is the abandonment of the film’s sole potentially distinguishing aspect: Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), who enables the prospect of an intriguing exploration of hero worship. A socially awkward engineer who becomes a Spider-Man fanatic after being rescued from certain death, Max is a character that simultaneously inspires humour and sympathy, all thanks to Foxx’s wonderful early performance. However, after an accident transforms him into the villain Electro and he is subdued by his hero after he begins reigning terror on Times Square (for attention), he simply becomes a regular, deep-voiced, fight-talking bad guy, and suddenly this promising selling point becomes rote and vapid.
Infuriating as the disregard for any real depth may be, the film manages to just remain afloat thanks to its sheer swiftness, two-dimensional though it is. Garfield differs from a lot of the more hulking, brute-force action heroes – or the heavy deliberateness of Christian Bale’s Batman – by making agility his thing, something he pulls off incredibly well, strings attached or not. His only problem is that he seems to shun any real chemistry with the other actors – laying waste to an otherwise warm-hearted performance by Emma Stone – which makes me think that, like Aaron Taylor-Johnson who almost punctured Godzilla, he should stick to drama-based independent pictures such as The Social Network, a movie he brightened up immensely.