Two years ago when reviewing The Amazing Spider-Man (In a review now oddly missing from the site, it was good, I have it on my system, trust me it was good) I commented on a small story beat in the first one of Uncle Ben's basement being flooded, which is how Parker Jr. finds the briefcase full of details and hints about his father, the science he was working on and possibly more. This flood wasn't concluded, a mention of 'going out for parts' wasn't shown, and then Spider-Man got under way swinging around, so it wasn't part of the plot anymore. This sudden moment in a film that has no beginning or resolution, but just happens to move plots forward appears to have been multiplied in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
We open with more Richard Parker (Not him, but Campbell Scott) as we see the alternate side of the opening of the first film, Richard's perspective on leaving Peter with his brother and escaping. This leads into a tense and exciting action sequence worthy of a big sequel, and that in turn leads to the first Spider-man sequence, in-whcih crazy Russian gangster Paul Giamatti hams up the screen as Spidey juggles vials of chemicals stolen from Oscorp. It's a silly sequence that is suited to the realm of comic book movies and shows an inspired diversion from the Nolany serious tone the first kept trying to do, and the Finchery visual darkness of it all. Bright and breezy, fun and light-hearted, limited peril and even a goofy Jamie Foxx. Things are looking up in the franchise, finally admitting that ol' Web Head works best when it's a lark, a fun ride that embraces the goofy world that New York under the guise of masked vigilantes with super powers can be.
And then after a breezy opening 30 minutes the film stops. Dane DeHaan's Harry Osborne enters and the film decides to deal with Harry as a morose, wet, miserable guy that DeHaan has played before in ways that are full of heart and depth, but here he's offered nothing in the script, yet given so much screen time to want to not die, then not die and talk to Spider-man, then not die and kill Spider-man, then not die and craft a series of spin-offs and sequels because Sony. Foxx's fun, silly performance is tethered immediately once he stops being a stalker and starts being Electro. Between a processed voice, powers that turn the music score into dubstep and character motivations narrated in song (Hate Spiderman, Kill Spiderman is talk-sung in the background of a pre-fight stare contest. In a big budget feature film. This happens.) Foxx is given nothing after his transformation and just becomes noise, light and fleeting moments of 3D effects.
If you were wondering how Felicity Jones is, given how high on the cast list she comes, you'll be delighted to know that her character has about 5 lines in 2 scenes. Good to know she's as important to the story as Shailene Woodley's cutting room floor Mary Jane. Oh, Giamatti, you ask, where's he in this film? Well you get him right at the start, and if you're good you get a second dose at the very end, because the film decides that fans don't want to see Rhino on screen, and that they can build up a fight between Spider-Man and Rhino then go to credits before it happens. Wait, fans, come back in 2 years and we'll give you everything you want, a Russian Frog was heard muttering.
The middle of the film, an act two that essentially hovers back and forth between stories that have little impact on anything else, takes almost 80 minutes to complete before a third act comprised of a black out, Sally Field action nurse, a few fights between Spider-Man and villains that hover and shoot, and the expected unexpected twists that come. In startlingly flat '3D' that, if the last film is any indication, will be bettered by an interview with the director in a 3D-specific featurette. And then the film drags out the finale beyond comprehension, and milks a big story beat for all its worth before it even happens just to, I dunno, surprise those not in the know, or make those who know laugh at the wait.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had so much potential with the cast, the possibility of changing the score and making a fun, light, goofy franchise that feels as Spidey as anything before it, instead a tedious, plotless, aimless and paceless film full of serious faces and darkness that means nothing exists, spins wheels, then sticks a huge middle finger towards the audience as it promotes two franchise spin-offs. And then, in the middle of the credits, rather than end a plot from this film, we are given a contextless action sequence from Days Of Future Past. Three franchises are sold to us in one expensive feature-length advert.
Remember when a film had three acts, equilibrium, disequilibrium, re-equilibrium, beginning, middle and end? Paul Giamatti longs for those days.