WARNING: Mild spoilers for all Spider-Man movies from 2000-2019 (excluding Spider-Man: Far From Home), MCU movies with the character (including Avengers: Endgame), and a LOT of language due to unyielding rage. This is definitely a more “negative” post meant to be angry-funny, so I apologize to readers that aren’t fans of that. I DO want to thank you all for the immense support on my last two posts about The Battle of Winterfell and the X-Men. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d write again during my hiatus, but since I started doing “once a month” in April I’ve been met with more views and positive feedback, so thanks for reading. Look forward to more nuanced and/or entertaining pieces every month!
Spider-Man is an extremely personal character for almost every nerd in the world. Saying that “my favorite superhero is Spider-Man” is the geek version of saying “my interests include traveling, dogs, and The Office” in the sense that no shit, everyone likes those things. However, there’s way more nuance and emotion behind fans’ love of the character of Spider-Man. Who knew that the superhero whose relatability spanned generations would be an awkward underprivileged nerd who chooses responsibility and tries his best, but is constantly hit with reality and uses humor to cope?
A certain charm of Spider-Man is that regardless of his numerous and seemingly incessant struggles, Peter Parker tends to just be “the best of us”. In the MCU alone, this is seen through many moments across the movies including telling Tony Stark that he couldn’t go to Germany because “he has homework”, blasting off into space to fight Thanos because “he can’t be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man if there’s no neighborhood”, and carrying the Infinity Gauntlet across a chaotic battlefield. This shows us that the young Peter has a heart of pure heroism that rivals even Captain Steve Rogers’, which is arguably why Tony (and audiences everywhere) is so fond of Peter. Even Tobey McGuire’s portrayal of Peter Parker ( in Sam Raimi’s trilogy) had its own campy charm, and Spider-Man 2 (2004) itself is hailed as one of the most successful and acclaimed comic book films of the 2000s.
In the midst of these versions of a Silver-Screen-Spider-Man, unfortunately we had to deal with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). Two years ago I did a series called “Hype for Homecoming” (this was a very different blog back then) and I wrote this absolute mess of a piece breaking down just how much The Amazing Spider-Man pissed me off. I basically went off on how Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker was an unlikable creep, they promised us Spidey would be funny but only gave us one real scene (which was in the trailer), it was incredibly inconsistent with tone, and that there was no heart to the movie because its purpose was to set-up another one.
Today I will do what I have been wanting to do for a long time now, and set in stone that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a dumpster fire, and the worst Spidey movie ever conceived. It is 2019 and this is somehow still not accepted as universal fact, when it 100% should be. It triggers me when I see a power-ranking of Spider-Man movies and this one is not at the bottom. This is not only a bad Spider-Man movie, it is also just a bad movie, period.
To be honest, my hatred of this movie didn’t start right away. I remember seeing it in theaters and thinking it was “okay”. It was only years later, when I re-watched every Spidey movie to prepare myself for Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), when I realized that this was so bad because I genuinely could not even finish it. This script has absolutely no fucking idea what it wants to accomplish. It gives off the impression that Sony wanted to do cool stuff with the Sinister Six but were compelled to make two set-up movies and treated them like an inconvenience. They tried to make them different from Sam Raimi’s in minuscule ways, portray that in trailers, and then they didn’t care what the hell else was going on as long as they got to throw everything in there that said “be sure to come back when we do Sinister Six and Venom”. This results in an incredibly unfocused narrative and zero semblance of a cohesive plot.
“Well ackshually, Spider-Man 3 (2007) is the worst Spidey movie because that’s just so obviously the worst, right? Remember the Peter Parker jazz hands?!”
Okay, sure, but you know what? At least the jazz hands make me smile in hindsight. At least I know what Peter’s whole deal is and all the stupidity at least falls into a structured story. At least the villains have some fucking realistic motivations. At least there’s some tension as to what’s going to happen. At least the final fight with the Goblin + Spidey team-up is cool. I don’t give a flying fuck about your web shooters, or your precious quips, or how handsome Andrew Garfield is, I don’t see any value in a Spidey movie which leaves me confused on the story and the characters! I can sit here and rant for hours about how there’s nothing to take away from this nonsensical clusterfuck, so let’s get to some specifics before this post becomes as disorganized as the movie itself.
PETER PARKER’S PARENTS
If you look at the marketing for the first movie, there was an empty promise about “The Untold Story”, bringing Peter Parker’s actual parents into the mix and using them as plot devices to connect the dots. That marketing made much more sense in this movie instead because it barely came into play in the first. Even in this one, the subplot was “resolved” in the most unsatisfying way possible. We OPEN this movie with some kind of knockoff Dark Knight Rises “Bane on a plane” sequence where Richard Parker is trying to upload some video explaining his disappearance, only to be attacked by an assassin of sorts. One can assume that this is probably going to come into play and be a huge plot point going forward. Especially because Peter does some Charlie Day shit and makes a stereotypical “conspiracy theory” wall, only to tear it down later, throw a graphing calculator at the wall, breaking it to reveal subway tokens…which then leads him to a secret underground train where he finds the super secret video that his father uploaded in the opening sequence…yeah, I know. Wow.
Anyway, the BIG REVEAL is that Richard made the genetically altered spiders and that Norman wanted to weaponize them and there were ethical differences between the two. Except WE ALREADY FUCKING KNEW THAT FROM THE LAST ONE THROUGH SUBTEXT AND HEAVY IMPLICATION. If you wrote this entire story-line out of both movies, literally nothing else would change!
GWEN STACEY AND HER RELATIONSHIP WITH PETER
Gwen Stacy is a phenomenal character in the Spider-Man mythos, and Emma Stone is a great actress, which is why this portrayal of Gwen is just tragic. She has no real purpose other than to be this intense reminder of guilt for Peter that he constantly ignores (because again, Peter is barely even a hero in this series). She had like ONE throwaway thing in the last movie about how “she’s lived the life of a cop’s daughter so she worries about Peter”. It was a sweet moment that continues to not matter as all the intelligence and independence we know and love Gwen for just goes right out the window.
The relationship between Peter and Gwen is so on & off that it feels like they’ve gotten together/broken up somewhere in the double digits. Regardless of how nauseating this somehow “shittier than Twilight” romance is, this really SHOULDN’T BE an on and off thing, right? If your girlfriend’s dad’s last wish was to leave his daughter out of your vigilante shenanigans, you REALLY shouldn’t be constantly trying to make the relationship work and outright stalking her. I understand the need for romance in this, but couldn’t the main “subplot” have been that they’re trying to be friends? Couldn’t Peter have been distant, leaving Gwen to make her own decision as to who she wants to spend time with? I don’t get why plot is constantly pushed through Gwen, as she has interactions with BOTH villains before they become villains, and shows up at nearly every dangerous situation Spidey finds himself in.
Aside from that, her death just felt super cheap, like it became REALLY apparent how dirty they did her character. I get that they were trying not to make a “damsel-in-distress”, but that means giving Gwen her own thing and taking charge of her life, not just literally saying the words “ITS MY CHOICE TO BE HERE PETER”. If you had two villains, you could’ve easily had Gwen at Oscorp figuring shit out/dealing with one of them the entire time. I feel like all the time they spent on these tween-love scenes between Gwen and Peter is time they could’ve spent actually developing Gwen.
Oh great, another of my favorite characters done in the shittiest way possible. What’s worse is this is the script’s fault AND the actor’s fault. Even considering how we know now that James Franco is a creepy dude, I’d still defend him as “my Harry Osborn” because Dane Dehaan is just awful in this role, and the character itself here is even worse. Oh, by the way, Norman Osborn is just totally a non-issue because he’s dead…because of some retro-viral-something-or-the-other that’s taken years to kill him, slowly deforming him into what appears to be a goblin (love the subtlety here). Anyway, because this stupid disease makes no sense, Harry apparently has no time and it seems like he’s going to die in a matter of months? Also if Peter and Harry were friends beforehand, how was Peter so confused about everything Oscorp related in the last movie?? You don’t know your way around the facility at all, but you’re best friends with the heir of the corporate empire?
Perhaps the biggest bullshit regarding Harry is this BEYOND STUPID spider blood plot line. Apparently as Harry starts to research what could possibly cure him, he comes across information that leads him to believe that the radioactive spider’s blood is the cure to his goblin illness (which at this point looks like an infected hickey). So he asks Peter to “ask Spider-Man” and Peter visits him as Spider-Man just to say “nah sorry bro”. I can not emphasize how many times I legitimately thought this movie was written by two college screenwriting majors shroomed out of their minds.
They also choose to resolve this by having Harry’s assistant basically tell him “hey there’s some weird stuff in the basement” and Harry gets a vial of the spider blood he craves (is this an appropriate time to mention that Sony’s doing a Morbius movie starring Jared Leto? Look up Morbius if you don’t know and just imagine that shit-show hitting theaters soon). Just as Peter predicted, this injection accelerates his disease and makes him look like a Goblin too…but he’s suddenly fine because he HOPS INTO THIS MAGICAL GREEN GOBLIN SUIT THAT STABILIZES HIM. If you had the technology all this time to keep this disease at bay…??? Oh my GOD this shit makes no sense whatsoever!
So of course, naturally, he’s suddenly super good at being the Green Goblin right away, mastering the glider and everything. Then he goes to find Spider-Man for..reasons..and immediately deduces that its Peter and then shit happens and he’s gone. To top it all off as one final middle finger to the audience, Harry’s last scene shows someone inquiring about his life expectancy. He responds by saying “it comes and goes”. REALLY? REALLY??? God this is almost as bad as Peter’s last line about promises in the last movie!
I think I’ve mentioned creepiness in this post more than any other I’ve written. That being said, even Max Dillon is a weird creepy dude obsessed with Spider-Man after one brief interaction. I always advocate for a good depiction of mental health issues in film, and for the life of me I can not figure out what they were going for here with Max’s psyche (thanks, psychology minor). As its been pointed out on the internet before, if anything, they were going for a modern version of Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever (1995). Another shining example of comic book movie incompetence, wonderful.
As for Electro himself, the writers were clearly making up his powers as they went along. From the electric blasts you would expect, to fizzling out, to fast-traveling via electrical outlets…to…creating his own leather suit? I definitely had a “shockingly bad” pun that I was going to use somewhere here, but I don’t even want to take the effort to set it up anymore. It’s not like this movie made any effort to give us a decent antagonist. Also, of course, his motivation is ridiculously unclear. He’s obsessed with Spider-Man one minute, Spidey tries to calm him down in his first attack, then suddenly he has an inexplicable hate boner for Spidey. Speaking of which…
There’s this scene in a montage where Spidey’s just doing his thing, and he saves a dorky kid from some bullies. The kid’s science project is broken in the process, and Peter picks it up and repairs it. He then walks the kid back home, talking to him about the science project the way there. It is a damn shame that they showed that they clearly understood something about the character with such a gorgeous moment, only to demonstrate a total lack of understanding the character for the remaining duration of the movie. For the most part, my complaints are the same from the last one: Garfield’s portrayal of Peter is just not likable, and they made him into this faux-edge-lord whose own incompetence is half the reason things are bad around him. Oh, but so handsome, right? That’s all that matters, right? At least he told some jokes like Spider-Man always does, right? Yeah well while he’s telling jokes in this opening scene with Rhino, MORE PEOPLE ARE DYING. Peter doesn’t stop what he’s doing to be sarcastic while shit is going down just to get his two cents in, did you think he was Deadpool? Peter actually wants to save people first, his humor doesn’t get in the way of that…it’s more so meant to frustrate and mentally disarm opponents in a fight. Even if they timed it better, the humor just felt incredibly forced. I don’t think I laughed ONCE this movie upon re-watch. The suit looks way better this time though, so good job there I guess.
AS IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH ON THE UNCLEAR PLOTS & SUBPLOTS, HERE ARE MORE
- Aunt May – So apparently she’s trying to be a Nurse? I don’t know but that’s in there a few times and…I mean sure, but also why?
- The Sinister Six – Boy it is really hard to rewatch this movie and all the S6 setup when you know that it’s not going to happen because it all got cancelled. Speaking of which…
- Rhino – Paul Giamatti, what the fuck are you doing? I know Rhino is supposed to be dumb as bricks, but he’s such a cartoon in a movie where apparently I’m supposed to be focused on struggles and dead parents and stuff? Oh also that super cool shot of the Spidey v Rhino fight in the trailer? Yeah, it’s just that. That’s where the movie cuts off. Fuck you, movie.
- Felicia Hardy – Harry Osborn’s assistant, Felicia (played by Felicity Jones!), is listed in credits as “Felicia Hardy”…aka another character from the lore that many know as “Black Cat”. Why do I get the feeling that Black Cat was supposed to be here and just wasn’t in the final cut because someone in the writer’s room finally said something about how bloated this movie is. On that note…
- SHAILENE WOODLEY?? – Many don’t realize this, but Woodley was meant to play Mary Jane Watson in this movie until all her scenes and any mention of the character got deleted. Which just further begs the question of how much shit were they trying to put into this one movie? The final cut was 142 MINUTES LONG, AND YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE WERE ORIGINALLY EVEN MORE CHARACTERS AND SUBPLOTS??
If there’s any takeaway from this post other than “movie bad”, it’s that cinematic universes need to be carefully orchestrated. You can’t just throw everything at the wall at once and give no sense of delayed gratification, and you certainly can’t waste time on a plot-line that doesn’t matter. Instead of trying to accomplish a billion different things for the sake of a franchise, maybe try to accomplish one thing first and just make a good/fun movie. There’s no point in creating an overarching story for a pay-off if everything else leading up to it makes no fucking sense. Things have been very good for Spider-Man fans lately, and one can only hope that the character isn’t used as a soulless cash-cow ever again like it was in this series.