The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, Felicity Jones, Campbell Scott
A couple of years ago, Marc Webb took on the unenviable task of rebooting a comic book movie franchise that didn’t necessarily need to be rebooted. Fans turned up their nose as a result, reluctant to sit through a slightly tweaked origin story that felt all too familiar. And yet, if the biggest complaint about The Amazing Spider-Man was that we’d seen it all before, surely the sequel would hold much more potential, right? Now they are free to focus on a completely new story.
The problem, unfortunately, is that Sony is not content to tell just one new story within this movie. They are eager to follow in Marvel’s footsteps, laying the groundwork for an entire Spider-Man universe that can support a series of interconnected films. And yet, despite the fact that there are way too many storylines to handle in a truly satisfying way, the movie pulls through based on the strength of the cast and some genuinely heartfelt moments.
The story picks up with Peter Parker still being haunted by the events of the first film. He loves Gwen Stacy, but feels guilty for potentially putting her in harm’s way. At the same time, he decides to reconnect with his old friend Harry Osborn, who has recently lost his father and inherited Oscorp. Harry has learned that he will also inherit his father’s illness but he believes Spider-Man is the key to helping him find a cure. Meanwhile, an accident at Oscorp turns nebbish electrical engineer Max Dillon into a dangerous force of nature with the ability to absorb and channel electricity.
As you can tell, there is a lot going on in the movie and the 142 minute run time will attest to this. Along the way, Peter is also still trying to find out the truth about the disappearance of his parents as well, which is one of the things that sets this retelling of the Spider-Man story apart from Sam Raimi’s trilogy. Unfortunately, it’s just not all that compelling. The one benefit is that his father’s research at Oscorp does at least provide a consistent point of origin for most of the villains and the sci-fi elements in this world.
I’m sure this movie will draw some comparisons to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 simply due to the overload of villains competing for screen time, but the number of villains isn’t problematic in and of itself. Some of them are treated as one-off baddies for Spider-Man to dispense with as he goes about his daily crimefighting duties, while others don’t show up until fairly late in the movie. Besides, Spider-Man has always been a guy who is forced to juggle many different problems at once and I think the multiple villain thing works on that level.
By far my biggest criticism is that the make-up, costumes and special effects for the villains are pretty hokey across the board. I wasn’t a fan of the design of The Lizard in the last one, but I much prefer him to the look they have created for Electro, Green Goblin and Rhino, all of which resemble weird video game rejects. The performances don’t help; I did get some enjoyment out of Jamie Foxx’s nerdy take on Max Dillon and Dane DeHaan’s cool yet cocky Harry Osborn, but once they undergo their respective transformations they both become pretty laughable.
To be fair, Marc Webb does embrace some of the ridiculousness and turn it up to an operatic level at times. I would almost describe The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as the rock opera of superhero movies. The score is composed by Hans Zimmer in collaboration with musicians like Johnny Marr, Pharrell Williams and Junkie XL and for once it is a superhero soundtrack that doesn’t resemble The Dark Knight. Instead, it delivers a lot of throbbing electronic rock music used to complement Electro’s presence, which amps up during a fight in Times Square where the voices in Electro’s head are seemingly echoed by a subtle chorus screaming “Spider-Man is my enemy!”. It sounds silly (and it kind of is), but I can appreciate the audaciousness of it.
The action sequences themselves are largely CG, but they manage to make up for the feeling of artificiality by being both creative and ambitious. The dizzying POV shots of Spider-Man swooping through the city are thrilling and Webb makes extensive use of speed ramping in order to get across the idea of Spider-Man’s heightened awareness and superhuman speed. Frequently the action appears frozen in time as Spider-Man reacts to save multiple innocent bystanders. We’ve seen stuff like this before, but it works well for Spider-Man, helping to visualize his Spidey sense.
The strongest part of the movie, however, continues to be the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Both are charming and playful, and Stone, in particular, provides a love interest in a comic book movie that is more than just a damsel in distress. Garfield is amusing as a wise-cracking Spider-Man but in the film’s more dramatic moments he also proves that he is up to the task. Marc Webb has a way with teenage angst and romance that feels real and brings genuine emotion to the table, and this is ultimately more important than the clumsy comic book tropes.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has an earnestness to it that is somewhat refreshing and reminded me of the Superman movies from the ’80s. That, along with the teen soap opera elements, may rub viewers the wrong way, but I think it is all pretty appropriate for the character. Clearly, if you didn’t like The Amazing Spider-Man, this sequel will not change your mind, but overall the movie was a lot more fun than I expected and does not deserve to be completely written off. It may not be a masterpiece, but as far as summer popcorn entertainment goes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 fits the bill just fine. — Sean