When I saw Spider-Man Three in the theaters I was directly behind a kid who was maybe or five or six. This kid was totally fine with a lot of the mumbo jumbo of that movie – he had no problem with the guy who gets turned into living sand, or the alien skin that turns Spider-Man evil, hell, the very concept of a man with a spider’s powers – but there came a scene where he couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing. After Spider-Man sheds his evil skin he takes a shower to wash himself clean and this kid – who must have hated baths – said “Mommy, why is he doing that?”
I thought about that kid a lot in Amazing Spider-Man 2. My mom wasn’t there to answer questions, of course, and there weren’t any shower scenes, but the question “why” hangs over this movie from start to finish. The very first scene is about Spider-Man’s dad, making me ask “why do they think that I care about this guy as a character? He was missing from the story for thirty years and I don’t think anyone noticed.” That’s followed up with: “Why does this movie think that introducing a bunch of father issues is anything other than a waste of time?” Further: “Why did they think that getting bitten by an electric eel while holding a power line would turn you into a being made of electricity?” and “Why is Spider-man trying to punch a man who is completely intangible?” and “Why would they cast Oscar winner Jamie Foxx as the villain, then spend most of the movie with him having an unrecognizable CGI face with a digitally altered voice?”
There’s a bunch of how’s, too. “How did Spider-Man’s dad set up (or afford) an underground laboratory that is in a buried train that you raise by putting a token in a subway turnstile?” (Another why: “and why did he bother setting it there and not in a normal house?”) Also: “how is a computer that’s been running nonstop in an underground bunker with no maintenance since Peter Parker was a small child still operational?” Most pressing: “how did they not realize that the audience was going to laugh when Spider-Man shoots a web to save his girlfriend from falling and at the very end of the web the thread forms a reaching human hand?” (I was the only one who laughed at that, but still.)
My anecdote about the little kid proves that you can’t always predict in advance what will cause your audience to balk; I don’t think a reasonable adult would have predicted that response. So I can understand some of those artistic choices. There’s probably a world where I could have been interested in Spider-Dad - that idea isn’t automatically unfeasible. And Jamie Foxx’s motivation as Electro (“Spider-man snubbed me once so now I have to kill him!”) would probably work fine if he wasn’t pared with another villain with the exact same illogical motivation. However, once you start stacking these weak choices on top of each other, it becomes an insurmountable task to care about any of this nonsense. Honestly, it made me nostalgic for the days when the biggest hurdle to disbelief suspension in a Spider-man movie was watching him voluntarily take a shower.
Winner: The Cat