There's a scene in this past summer's The Amazing Spider-Man wherein a car is knocked off a bridge with a passenger inside, and the camera and effects work attempt to show the audience what that would be like from the passenger's point of view. Hey, wait! There's a scene in this past autumn's Cloud Atlas wherein a car is knocked off a bridge with a passenger inside, and the camera and effects work attempt to show the audience what that would be like from the passenger's point of view! But come on, Cloud Atlas is a dramatic literary adaptation, while Spider-Man is a giant superhero franchise, so of course money is no object when it comes to effects in the latter. It's only understandable that Spider-Man would look better. Except it doesn't. Not even a bit. And that's about ten spots down on the list of why the new Spider-Man movie was so, so disappointing.

I was a bit confused as to why the franchise had to be rebooted a mere five years after the last trilogy. Were people really crying out to see this origin story replayed yet again? I wasn't too worked up about it, though, because I'm one of those people who never really liked the original movies. Maybe a fresh take on things would improve my feelings about my least favorite superhero movies. Just think! No more annoying Mary Jane, and her inexplicable ability to obsess the men in her life, despite being totally annoying. No more Aunt May spitting out wisdom gleaned straight from the fortune cookie factory! I was more than willing to be happily entertained by this new movie. And maybe I would have been, if it had made one lick of sense.

There are always the obvious things to gripe about in action movies that have no real impact on whether I enjoy myself or not. Sure, it's fun to laugh at the screen when a seventeen-year-old is apparently the head of personnel at a multi-million dollar scientific research company, or said company employs people who don't wear goggles in the holographic lab, but make sure to gear up with thigh-high boots. Or when a high school is completely wrecked by a battle between the hero and villain, but is repaired back to pristine condition two days later. Or when a crane operator decides to help out by accurately predicting forty minutes in advance exactly where and when Spider-Man will fall so that he can be there to catch him. A summer blockbuster can have tons of those ridiculous quirks and still be a load of fun. What it cannot do is fail on the structural level. Things like making sure your villain has an actual motivation. Or not including a terrible score that includes an honest-to-God screeching violin sting directly out of a '80s slasher flick.

By far, this movie's biggest crime is setting up storylines it then completely abandons. We make sure to establish the physical characteristics of a criminal that underlies Peter Parker's entire reason for exacting vigilante justice, and then... We never see him again. The first third of the movie goes to great pains to establish an evil secondary villain who is temporarily impeded by the main villain, and then... We never see him again. The main villain releases a toxic gas that turns a group of civilians into a race of hideous lizard monsters, and then... We never see them again until they're handily cured. Yes, the filmmakers went to the trouble of writing and animating a scene in which cops are turned into lizard people, and then literally does nothing with it.

If there's one thing to recommend this movie, it's the interactions between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). They're both good actors, and they have great chemistry together. But unlike Spidey, they're not super-human, and though they do their damnedest to elevate this weak material, there's no swinging in to save this movie from its doom.

The Amazing Spider-Man: C-


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