‘Spider-Man 2’: The Endurance Test



I’d like to open with a question for the producers of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

“How much damned time do you think people have?”

This isn’t a movie; it is a daytrip to an MRI. You’re trapped there for what seems like an eternity while the lights blink and the sounds buzz and when they finally spit you out, you realize you may have just peed a little.

Lemme see if I can do justice to the, ahem, plot. And yes, there will be spoilers.

Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker who, by day, is a young man grieving over the loss of the uncle who raised him while still trying to figure out why his parents left him when he was six. (Call me, Peter. I think I figured it out.)

When not listening to emo music, he puts on a red and blue unitard and saves the city from evildoers, including Paul Giamatti as a Russian nuclear terrorist. Then he moons over his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone), who’s just graduated from science college. She’s thinking of dumping him because as hero he may be super but as a boyfriend he’s lousy.

Then comes Jamie Foxx playing a nerdy electrical engineer complete with comb-over, thick glasses, and a fake gap between his front teeth. How adorable, you think, he’s so cute! But then, for reasons I couldn’t understand if you put a gun to my kid’s head, he falls into a vat of electric eels and becomes Electro!—a villain with the power to turn out lights remotely and a lust to kill Spider-Man.

So the two have a face-off … in the middle of Times Square. This was my favorite part. Although there’s a Super Hero and a Super Villain blowing up every bit of real estate around them, those New York tourists ain’t goin’ no place. They paid big bucks for their Mamma Mia! tickets and they’re not going home ‘til they see it.

Meanwhile the B story kicks into gear. There’s an evil corporation, the head of which is dying from some weird disease. He tells his son he’ll die, too, unless he finds a cure. The son, played by Dane DeHaan with bangs like Adolf Hitler so you know he’s bad news, believes Spidey’s blood will save him. So naturally, he teams up with Electro and, one way or another, it looks like our hero’s dead meat.

Did you know that all of the electricity in the New York City region is generated by one plant in Brooklyn? Apparently Electro did because he goes there, short-circuits it and New York is plunged into darkness. Peter tells Gwen he has to leave her and go save the world. She puts her foot down, for after all she has a science degree: “I’ve seen the specs for the power grid! Only I can restart it!” Spidey, however, takes off for Brooklyn without her.

But, aha!, it’s the 21st century and this woman will not play second fiddle to some loser in a leotard. She steals a police car and high-tails it to the crime scene where Electro and Spidey are at it again. Our Spandex arachnid tells Gwen to go home. She counters with “I’ve seen the specs. You distract him and I’ll restart the grid!” Then as the battling super-beings destroy some more buildings she dashes into the control room, where all the employees have been fried to a crisp.

If you’re a thinking viewer you may wonder: No matter how smart she is, how can one little girl with unruly hair hope to restart a massively complex electrical grid that has been massively sabotaged? It’s impossible!

Think again. Right on the counter is a big metal box labeled “Grid Reset.” But—oh, the inhumanity—it’s padlocked!

Yes, all of New York City’s electrical needs are protected by a lock you can buy in a bubble-pack at Home Depot. And yet, curse the gods!, Gwen doesn’t have the key.

Thank heavens that the five people who wrote this movie put their collective heads together and came up with the following bit of genius. One of the workers had the sense to die with his hand sticking up from the floor, with the key dangling from his fingers. (Why the key didn’t melt, metal being a better conductor of electricity than bone, is anyone’s guess.)

Having seen the specs, Gwen knows what to do. She opens the “Grid Reset” box. Then, with years of intense scientific study as a foundation, she pushes the big red button. The lights of New York come back on, leaving Spidey to finish off Electro. Sobbing with relief, you start searching for your car keys and trying to unstick your shoes from the soda-covered floor …

… when suddenly DeHaan (remember him?) shows up as the Green Goblin on jet-powered skateboards, eager to collect some spider blood. And now you have another battle to sit through.

That’s the thing I hate most about these blockbusters—the stars may be superheroes with incredible powers, and millions have been spent on CGI, but the movies always end with two men punching each other in the face for 15 minutes.

Since he’s the highest paid actor in the film, Garfield wins, though he ends up saddled with more personal tragedy. And just as you finally get your feet unstuck …

… here comes Giamatti (remember him?) dressed as a metal rhinoceros and ready to destroy Manhattan.

I think it’s at that point I blacked out. All I remember is waking up with the usher standing over me and saying that if I was going to cry so loudly, could I please go to the lobby as I was disturbing the other patrons.

Does anyone have a can of Raid?

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Ted Hoover is a writer and critic based in Pittsburgh. 


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