The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Review by Daniel Rester
Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can perhaps best be described as a mixed bag. The film has stripped away the feelings of déjà vu that plagued the first film, and it features many fine elements that are sure to please comic book and movie fans. However, the sequel is also long, bloated, clunky, and goofy at the same time. Somehow the film manages to have moments that are even more brilliant than those in Spider-Man 2 (2004), yet it also has other moments that are more ridiculous than those in the denounced Spider-Man 3 (2007). Yeah, the mix is that varied.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 takes place not long after the events of the first film. Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) are now graduating high school, but their relationship is rocky as of late. The two love each other, but Peter still thinks of the promise he made to Gwen’s dad about staying away from her. He also must deal with secrets in his life involving his father and mother, Aunt May (Sally Field), and Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper).
Enter Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), an electrical engineer who works at Oscorp and who has a bit of an obsession with Spider-Man. After coincidentally falling into a tank of giant electric eels, Dillon somehow lives and then transforms into Electro. But people see him more as a monster than a hero, so he develops into Spidey’s main opposition rather than becoming an ally.
Now enter Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), an old friend of Peter and the son of Norman. He returns to NYC after Norman becomes sick, and he finds out some information that soon creates tension between Spider-Man and him. This issue also brings Electro and Gwen into the mix, setting forth events in which Spidey must once again save the city.
Does that all sound like a lot? That’s because it is. If handled smoothly, I’m completely fine with many elements being placed into a comic book story. And that includes me being okay with there being multiple villains in a film (as long as they are developed and serve a real purpose), a common criticism from film critics.
But Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t handled smoothly. Webb’s film is instead stuffed with parts of all kinds that don’t cleanly click together. This makes for a tonal inconsistency and unnecessary story elements throughout, making it difficult to latch onto anything more than individual scenes; the form is simply messy.
Some of those individual scenes include romantic ones between Peter and Gwen. Webb, who directed the excellent romance-drama (500) Days of Summer (2009), shows his strong hand with such moments. These scenes are quieter and more believable than a lot of the rest of the film, with Garfield and Stone creating a palpable chemistry between their characters. Their relationship remains very attractive.
Garfield also proves once again that he makes for a terrific Spider-Man. The actor really channels into the wit and playfulness of the superhero from the comics, and he and Webb do a fine job of showing how he reacts to both villains and ordinary people. Garfield seems to be more of a hipster than dorky as Peter, but he remains interesting to watch. And Stone finds a nice balance of quirky and beautiful with Gwen, becoming even more appealing than she was in the first movie.
With the exception of Garfield and Stone and their shared moments, not much else about Amazing Spider-Man 2 works greatly. A few of the action scenes are incredible, and the climax packs an emotional wallop; the visual effects are also magnificent for the most part, as expected. There are some scenes between Peter and Aunt May (especially one in particular) and Peter and Harry that shine as well. Of course there are also sprinkled spots of romance and humor that really pop too.
The last major praise I will exude is aimed at DeHaan. While the actor is turned into a cartoony villain later on in the film (with weird voice alterations to boot), he owns the role of Harry. He manages to be snaky, charming, and fierce, bringing something to Harry that James Franco never brought in Sam Raimi’s trilogy. The exchanges between Foxx and him are also fun to watch.
Speaking of Foxx, he is the first big issue I have with the film. Don’t get me wrong, Foxx is an exceptional actor. However, he is miscast as Electro, with Webb and the screenwriters fumbling his charisma and mostly turning his character into a joke. Like I said before, if the villains are handled well, I’m down. But Foxx is just the first one they get wrong. Some of his dialogue is just excruciating, and the character serves little purpose until the final act.
The other villain that doesn’t work is Aleksei Sytsevich/Rhino (Paul Giamatti). This character is in the film for a short time, but is essentially in there for filler and silliness. It’s a waste of Giamatti’s talents.
Webb and Cinematographer Daniel Mindel shoot the film very well, but the overuse of effects and sloppy editing mutes much of the expert photography. The editing might just be the main issue with the movie. The film simply tries to cover too much ground, throwing in needless subplots left and right and never finding a nice balance between the drama and humor. The script probably had too much to begin with, but the film editing certainly didn’t help with finding that end result.
The music choices are also head-scratching at times. At points we get a rich orchestration by Hans Zimmer, but at other times we are smothered with pop songs and weird electronic music. Such a blend adds to the pile of things that just don’t sit right.
There is a great film somewhere in Amazing Spider-Man 2, but this isn’t it. Webb is certainly talented and often does understand the character of Spider-Man, but he and his team don’t quite seem to know how to transfer everything to the screen in a coherent manner. The movie is simply all over the place, shifting tones awkwardly, throwing in needless subplots, poorly realizing the villains, adding in cringe-worthy dialogue at times, etc. However, Garfield, Stone, DeHaan, and a few standout scenes make the whole thing hard to dismiss. I just hope the third time is the charm with Webb, as there are supposedly two more of these films on the way.
Score: 2 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B-).
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sequences of sci-fi action/violence).
Runtime: 2 hours and 22 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: May 2nd, 2014.