Someone at Sony deserves a raise for picking this date to release The Amazing Spider-Man 2. We’re in the fading afterglow of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and X-Men: Days of Future Past is nearly three weeks away. It’ll have the super-hero landscape to itself until the X-Men come calling, and two weeks free of the gigantic shadow Godzilla is likely to cast over everything. The perfect window to drop in a film that seems more eagerly anticipated by the general public than it does by the film geeks.
I was pleasantly surprised by the first Amazing Spider-Man, but to be honest, I haven’t watched it again since that night back in 2012. And I’m beginning to wonder how much the combination of low expectations and not paying for it played into my enjoyment. Because I just can’t muster any enthusiasm for this new one. Sure, it’s got what looks like tons of eye candy, but can somebody tell me just who the villain in this is? We’ve been shown the Rhino and Electro and been teased the Green Goblin. The last time Spidey had that many bad guys to deal with was the last film in Sam Raimi’s trilogy, which couldn’t figure out what kind of story it wanted to tell for having to juggle so many elements (but which still managed to be pretty fun). This also calls to mind the post-Burton Batman films (and even Burton’s Batman Returns), where the kitchen sink approach to villains not only led to a sense of overload in each film, but seemed to leave the series with nowhere to go, since it kept either killing or imprisoning all the classic Batfoes.
If there was a story reason for it, I might be a little more kindly disposed towards the film. But I get the feeling they’re following the formula of more characters = more toys. Add in the fact that there’s a post-credits scene that requires you to Shazam the end credits song, and the whole thing just smacks of crass commercialism. Which recalls the fact that the previous film existed pretty much to keep the rights to the character with Sony, a use it or lose it situation that rarely produces any kind of satisfying art. So this whole enterprise feels like nothing more than a business strategy, in stark contrast to the coherent, imaginative universe Marvel has built with the properties it controls outright. I have no doubt Amazing Spider-Man 2 will open big, but Winter Soldier big? I doubt it. And it certainly won’t have the same staying power.
But it’ll probably make enough to keep Sony in the Spider-Man business long enough to reboot the character again the next time its rights are on the verge of lapsing. It’s a crappy way to make art, but a smart way to make money.