After sitting through the atrocious Baby Spider-Man, I thought for sure I was stricken with a case of Spidey fatigue. I felt gloomy yet resigned about the remaining Spider-Man reboots I had left to see and review. But when I heard the next Spider-Man reboot on the docket was “more of a sci-fi thing,” it gave me hope that perhaps I might overcome my fatigue for the love of Spidey.
Set near the end of the present century, Spider-Man 2099 is set in a dystopian hellscape in which the need for Spider-Man’s heroics is greater than ever. Unfortunately, Peter Parker (a digitally aged Tobey Maguire) is too old to continue webslinging.
Having developed a mutant spider to transfer his powers into a younger body, Parker hosts a giant contest to find the next Spider-Man. The contest is livestreamed worldwide by Snapchat in the first of many heavy-handed product placements.
Much to Parker’s chagrin, after several grueling rounds, all contestants are eliminated except for Michael Osborn (Dave Franco), the nephew of his old friend Harry Osborn.
Peter Parker anoints Michael as the new Spider-Man just as the Alchemex Corporation (sponsor of the just concluded contest) faces a major crisis. Alchemex CEO Tyler Stone (Timothy Busfield) is kidnapped by a mysterious entity clad in Gladiatorial armor known as Thanatos (voiced by Patricia Wettig). As his first mission, the new Spider-Man sets out to rescue Tyler Stone.
Spider-Man tracks Thanatos to the site of a virtual unreality portal currently under construction by Stark Industries. He encounters the Net Prophet (Liam Hemsworth), a relative of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who appears in a brief cameo.
Suddenly some security guards appear armed with futuristic bazookas. The guards use their futuristic bazooks blast Spider-Man and the Net Prophet into the virtual unreality portal, which comes online earlier than anyone thought possible.
Meanwhile, Peter Parker discovers some files that lead him to believe that all is not what it seems with the Alchemex Corporation. As he investigates further, he discovers that Alchemex and Thanatos are in league together, and Tyler Stone conspired to have himself kidnapped in order to lead Spider-Man and the Net Prophet into the trap. At this point, it becomes clear that the security guards with futuristic bazookas work for Alchemex.
Inside virtual unreality, Spider-Man and the Net Prophet face off against incorporeal visions that constantly attack them. They learn these are merely manifestations of Thanatos’ discorporative powers.
While that’s happening, Peter Parker finds Alchemex Corporation’s higher ups have hired a privatized police force known as Public Eye to use time travel in attempt to achieve total information awareness.
Spider-Man and the Net Prophet break into Inner Space (Thanatos’ secret sanctum within virtual unreality) to rescue Tyler Stone and also Michael Osborn’s girlfriend Xina Kwan (Fan Bingbing) who got caught up in all the commotion. No spoiler alerts are necessary; I won’t reveal how it all ends.
Honestly, I found the plot of Spider-Man 2099 confusing, the characterizations thin, and the direction muddled and uninspiring. However, it was much better than Baby Spider-Man, and I’m a sucker for dystopian sci-fi, so I guess I’ll recommend it to everyone I know.
TL;DR – Spider-Man 2099 brings the Spider-Man into the dystopian future, with dazzling special effects and a grand, operatic sense of scale.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“Hey, at least it was better than Baby Spider-Man.” – Clobbish Sanderson, Wall Street Journal
“Spider-Man is back baby, and he’s older than ever! And also there’s a new Spider-Man who is actually young like usual. And it’s played by Dave Franco. James Franco’s brother.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
“Clocking in at two hours and forty-seven minutes, it’s the longest of all the Spider-Man reboots I’ve seen today. Wait, what was the question again?” – Bunlak Hergrobe, Flick Filosopher
“I’m excited to see the next Spider-Man reboot, which I believe is called Spider-Man Getting Married. It sounds like it will be a nice change of pace.” – Darla Blaugrana, Newsweek
“Dave Franco is such a whiner in this movie. I mean Jeeeezus.” – Griffin Riddle, Radio Times
“A triumph of science fiction storytelling: a sweeping tale of mythological scope told with astonishing FX wizardry.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“Lots of karate moves, cool armor, alternate realities and big explosions!” – Pete Hammond, Deadline
“I miss the old Spider-Man reboots. You know, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Middle School Dance, those were just simple stories about what it’s like to grow up. That’s what Spider-Man is all about. Not all this virtual unreality Snapchat-sponsored killathon crap.” – Dominique Vivant, Vulture
“Alex Proyas delivers a dutiful sci-fi adaptation of the old Spidey yarn.” – Zook Trujillo, LRM
“I can tell you one thing. I will not be watching any more Spider-Man reboots for the next two days. I just really need a break. I hope you understand.” – Sonso Sunez, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
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