by Coop Cooper
After a quick and confusing prelude that shows the last moments of the lives of Peter Parker’s parents, we learn that Spidey/Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is now at the hight of popularity in New York City. He thwarts a plutonium robbery by Aleksei “Rhino” Sytsevich, saves nerdy electrical engineer/Spidey superfan Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) and makes it to his graduation in time to accept his diploma from his valedictorian girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. Despite his hubris, Parker is still haunted by the promise he made to Gwen’s dying father to stay away from her due to his dangerous lifestyle, so he begins to push her away. Meanwhile, Peter’s wealthy childhood friend Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) discovers he is dying from a rare genetic condition that claimed the life of his father, Norman (Chris Cooper). Parker reconnects with Osborne but things get complicated when Osborne reveals to Parker that Spider-Man’s blood might cure the condition. Also meanwhile, Dillon becomes victim to a work-related accident involving electric eels and gains god-like electrical powers which don’t mesh well with his unstable inferiority complex. There is more to the plot, but it kind of rambles on from here.
Garfield and Stone still have terrific chemistry and some of the best parts of the film involve them flirting and sharing romantic moments… until she becomes an annoyingly reckless sidekick at the end. Those familiar with the comics know the Peter Parker/Gwen Stacy storyline and how it’s supposed to go. There is a payoff here but man does it feel like a false note and a wasted opportunity given the poor quality of the writing.
There are many miscalculations in the film. Jamie Foxx’s character as the misunderstood loser who becomes a Frankenstein monster with far too much power didn’t work for me at all. The comic book character of Electro was always supposed to be a petty criminal who didn’t know what to do with his power other than knock over banks with it. While that doesn’t make for a compelling character either, I suppose I prefer that rendition to the confused geek who feels childishly compelled to destroy the city when Spider-Man forgets his name. They also ripped off Electro’s design from Dr. Manhattan in “Watchmen” as well as some of the digital design of his powers. He even has his own theme music that has been compared by other critics to the goofy ‘Otis’ theme from the original “Superman” film. What a mess.
Let me harp on the music a bit more. Hans Zimmer is arguably the greatest A-list cinematic composer living today, although his work in this film might actually go down as one of his career low points. He threw in bombastic orchestral movements during inconsequential scenes, classical music during the cheesy villain monologues and tossed in a rap song for the closing credits. Very little worked which seemed odd since he brilliantly scored the last three Batman movies, the “Man of Steel” film and the infamous droning music from “Inception”. It almost seems as if the miscalculated music was deliberately sabotaged or mixed by a novice nephew of some executive. Or more likely, Zimmer is burned out on superhero films and decided to phone it in to express his desire for a change of venue.
Over the weekend, a colleague of mine mentioned that this Spider-Man film was as bad as the most reviled superhero film of all time, “Batman and Robin” (yes, the one with Clooney). While I wouldn’t go that far, there are silly scenes that reach that level of cinematic abomination: The scene where “Electro” names himself for no reason over classical music while an evil, mustache-twirling German scientist (Marton Csokas in a potentially career-killing role) giggles and studies him. The electric pinball music scene (why?). Mecha Rhino vs mini-Spidey. Any scene where a villain declared an arbitrary revenge on Spider-Man, so the whole world could see… The list goes on.
Most egregious of all was the rushed, 30-second Green Goblin battle that shoehorns in one the most defining moments of the Spider-Man canon. Although I appreciate DeHaan as a capable actor, his Green Goblin storyline felt tacked onto the larger picture and didn’t make me care enough about his fall from grace. What was cool is how he sets up the next sequel and subsequent villains who could appear in the next films, but those little Easter Eggs don’t excuse the rest of the film, nor does the stapled-on ‘Rhino” appearance at the end. The “Sinister Six” was always my favorite villain supergroup and while I salivate at seeing them come to life on the screen, I just don’t know if I want another Spider-Man movie for awhile after this one. I’m not wanting another reboot either, so maybe it’s time for a break from this franchise because this one was a big step backwards. It’s a shame because Garfield is a fantastic Spider-Man.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars