Let's kick some ice. Oh, shit. No, sorry, that was the other dumb blue bad guy.
Let me tell you right now what the most boring part of the Spider-Man story is: His parents. Steve Ditko and Stan Lee created Peter Parker as a poor everyschlub who lived in Queens with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Parker didn't spend any amount of time in his first adventure, or in any of those great early comics for that matter, whining about where his parents had gone. It probably would've been better for the Spider-Man story if Ditko and Lee had introduced a word balloon somewhere in those first dozen comics about Parker's mother being a washed-up junkie out in New Jersey somewhere, maybe in conjunction with something about his father doing a significant amount of time in some prison upstate for armed robbery.
But they never addressed the issue, and so later, a checked-out Stan Lee introduced some convoluted and ill-considered backstory about Parker's parents, making them secret agents and genius inventors and otherwise Very Special People. This is a dumb idea. The whole thing about Peter Parker is that he isn't special until one day, because of a freak accident, he's bitten by a radioactive spider and he chooses to become a superhero. The operative word there is "chooses." He's not destined to become a superhero; he's just an ordinary jerk, like the rest of us, who makes a choice to do something better. By making him a Luke Skywalker-style child of destiny, you're robbing the character of everything that makes him special.
I bring all this up because for some reason, both the films in the Amazing Spider-Man series waste a significant amount of time on the story of Peter Parker's parents.The opening of Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a sequence featuring Parker's parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davitz, not that it really matters) in a fight with an armed assassin on a private jet. And, really, who cares? The sequence has nothing to do with the rest of the movie (except for about five minutes of boring, unnecessary exposition later on) and it only further muddies an already muddy film.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a mess. Characters either have simplistic motivations, or no motivation at all. There are three villains, and none of them are interesting. Someone refers to an old friend he hasn't heard anything from in almost a decade as his "best pal." One character is introduced on his death bed, and we're supposed to care for no greater reason than because he's played by Chris Cooper. Another character transforms from a gloomy young adult to a raving lunatic with absolutely no gear-shifts in between. The central love affair in the film, between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, chewing on the Noo Yawk accent too hard) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, trying the best she has with the very little she's been given) is improbable at best and Twilight-level creepy at worst. The scenes without special effects are tedious and awkward, as characters over-emote at each other in desperate attempts to set up motivations for the next big action set piece. There are no people in this movie, only action figures being moved about from set to set, with a very specific endgame in mind. By the time the endgame happens, you're too drained to care.
I wish someone would make a road trip movie starring Jamie Foxx's Electro from Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Arnold Schwartzenegger's Mr. Freeze from Batman and Robin. Those two characters have so much in common: They're both blue, for one thing. They both have terrible senses of humor. (Mr. Freeze greets Batman with "Ice to see you" and other ice-related puns, whereas Electro plays "Itsy Bitsy Spider" on a death trap as he tries to kill Spider-Man.) They're both played by actors who show up for what amounts to an extended cameo, cash their paychecks, and leave without having any kind of an effect on the plot of their respective films. In their movies, they're useless, but put them in a beat-up Chevy and give them a Hope and Crosby road picture to re-enact, and you'd have yourself some kind of comedy gold.
But to pin the failings of Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Foxx would be like trying to blame the sinking of the Titanic on the actions of a waiter in the ship's dining hall. The most disastrous part of this film is the screenplay, and every other sin radiates from the script outwards. Why, in a movie that runs nearly two and a half hours, does Aunt May have an extended argument with Parker about how much she wants to wash his underwear? Who expects us to believe that an 18-year-old Peter Parker, deep in relationship woes, is going to earnestly listen to faux-folk tripe like Phillip Phillips's "Gone Gone Gone" in order to express his inner torment? Who writes lines like this: "Soon, everyone in the city will know how it feels to live in a world without power, without mercy, without Spider-Man!" Or lines like this: "Oh, my, oh my. How the tables have turned!"
It's hard for me to think of a single element of Amazing Spider-Man 2 that actually works. There are a few funny moments, I guess. And the Spider-Man suit looks better than any other cinematic Spider-Man. But the rest of this film is pure folly, the kind of garbage that's only defended by jackasses who insist that "you have to turn your brain off" and soak in the "pure summer movie fun." Except it's not fun. Every time the movie even hints at fun, another dull bit of melodrama drags itself on screen to murder the fun in its crib. This is the kind of corporate franchise product that will make a shit-ton of money and that people will twist themselves into all kinds of embarrassing contortions to defend this summer, but within ten years, everyone involved will be apologizing for it and making sheepish jokes on late-night television about how terrible it all really was.
And the worst part of it all: It's not even a whole movie. It's full of set-up for the next two Spider-Man films. Hell, even the movie's tagline is "His greatest battle begins." We have no word on when his greatest battle will end. (Amazing Spider-Man 3 is set for the summer of 2016, and number 4 is set for the summer of 2018, with separate movies for villains The Sinister Six and Venom scheduled for the years in between Spider-Man movies.) This reboot is scheduled to run until the next decade or so, whereupon it will be re-rebooted, probably as something even darker and even grittier. And since this reboot was shepherded along by people dumb enough to believe that Peter Parker's birth parents were the most important part of the Spider-Man mythology, I'm willing to bet the next reboot—let's just go ahead now and schedule it for 2021, okay?—is going to be by someone who thinks the Clone Saga was the pinnacle of the Spider-Man story. Things could always get worse, I guess.