By: Adam Basciano
“We’ve always known that Spider-Man’s most important battle has been within himself: the struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of Spider-Man. But in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker finds that a greater conflict lies ahead. It’s great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). For Peter Parker, there’s no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorker’s from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: OsCorp.” (Columbia/Sony)
The sequel to the Marc Webb reboot of the Spider-Man franchise is here, two years after its predecessor. I thought the first film was great. The more I saw trailers and imagery for the second installment, my anticipation for seeing it kept rising. After seeing the film, I really liked it. Is it a perfect film? No. There are some missteps that hamper the film, but there’s plenty of enjoyable elements that make this film an enjoyable Spider-Man experience.
One of the truly great aspects of this film, are the character driven moments, and the core relationships present in the film. I’m going to call it right now, the Peter Parker/Gwen Stacy pairing is the best execution of a romantic relationship in a superhero film ever. There’s a likeability to both performers, coupled with the nuances in their performances, that make the relationship feel authentic. Sure, it may help the situation that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are dating in real life, but none the less my statement still stands. I love that Gwen says that she loves Peter Parker not just Spider-Man. Also, I enjoyed that Peter struggled with the promise he made to Gwen’s father at the end of the first film, and desperately tried to honour it, but in the end his love for Gwen, is too strong to push her away. This relationship is played so well by the two actors, that even though I knew that Gwen would meet her maker in the third act, part of me wished the film had strayed from the comic books. Speaking of which, everyone involved did a fantastic job of transplanting the scene from the comic book page to the screen perfectly.
I really enjoyed the sub plot of the mystery surrounding Peter’s parents. I like that it is being revealed to us slowly over the course of several films. There’s also a little twist with Peter’s father and what he did with the spider-venom, that to my knowledge is new to the mythology. It doesn’t take away from the core essential elements of the Spider-Man character, but adds an interesting development to a widely familiar story. With both his parents, and Uncle Ben gone, Peter’s parental guidance falls solely to Aunt May, one again played by Sally Field. As with the first film, I found she was severely under-used, but when she’s on-screen. it’s a true lesson in top-notch acting. Her parental exchanges with Andrew Garfield add some humor to the mix, but most of all it’s filled with poignant emotion. There’s one scene in particular where Peter demands the truth about his parents, and Aunt May tells him, that to her, Peter is her son. She then lists all the reasons why he’s her son. That coupled with the response Peter gave was enough to get a few tears going. The water works went off at Gwen’s death scene, which I alluded to previously.
Dane DeHaan assumed the role of Harry Osborn in what I consider to be a heightened cameo type of role. He played the spoiled entitled prick who inherits a billion dollar company very well. There’s also a kinder gentler side to his character, when he shares scenes with Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker. Their friendship is alluded to from their youth, and although we never see it develop over time, it is very believable. The two characters pick up, seemingly right where they left off, as they reminisce about the similar hands life has dealt them. I also understood and appreciated his anger towards Spider-Man later on in the film. As for DeHann’s performance as the Green Goblin, I had some problems with the Green Goblin, but none of that was due to the actors performance. He did very well in the brief moments he was given as the villain. I’m sure that aspect of his character will be expanded in the next installment.
The other villain of the film was Electro, played by Jamie Foxx. I was concerned when I saw promotional pictures that there was no way this couldn’t be anything but cheesy. I was wrong. As Electro I thought Jamie Foxx looked pretty ominous, and when he went into full on villain mode, he was very formidable and menacing. Look wise, he gave off a very Dr. Manhattan vibe from “Watchmen”, minus a blue schlong just hanging around for all to see of course. There were even moments where I felt sympathy for the character, such as the initial standoff with the police, and him being experimented on at Ravencroft Institute.. Very powerfully played by Jamie Foxx. His performance pre-Electro as Max Dillon is an entirely different story, which I’ll get to shortly.
Another area where I thought this film excelled was the action and visual effects. Obviously, with every film depiction of the character, this aspect of the films improves. One almost expects the action and visual effects of this film to be the best of the series. There was a lot of time, money, and effort put into all of these sequences, and it all shows on the screen. The opening scenes of Spider-Man swinging through New York are truly uplifting and joyful to experience. The Times Square fight was exceptional. I loved the depiction of the “Spidey Sense”, and also the use of the webbing. Slow-Motion has often become an overused crutch of a film technique. When done right however, they can enhance a moment in a scene, as is evident here. If the final third act battles with Electro and Green Goblin didn’t have you spell-bound staring at your screen, I don’t know what film you were watching.
Now for the unfortunate part of my review, where I have to mention some of the problems I had with the film. This film suffers from a similar issue that “Iron-Man 2” did. It’s called setup-itus. I get that Sony desperately wants to create a Spider-verse so to speak, as they’ve already announced a “Sinister Six” film they felt obliged to force feed Rhino into this film. I’m glad they secured an actor of Paul Giamatti’s talent for future films, but he is wasted here. The character adds nothing to the story of the film, absolutely nothing. As much as I enjoyed Dane Dehaan’s overall performance, his character’s transition to the Green Goblin was far to quick. It was the superhero movie equivalent of premature ejaculation. He somehow became the Goblin and became an expert in using his armored suit and glider in the span of 10 minutes. Then there’s the disease that he and his father share that is slowly killing him. Nowhere is the what, where, and how of this illness ever dealt with. Finally, there’s Jamie Foxx’s pre-Electro Max Dillon. Warner Brothers circa 1995 called, they want Edward Nygma back! It’s the exact same character. Marginalized and ignored at work, shunned by a person they idolize, eventually become a super villain. Then there was the segment where Max is talking to himself, pretending it’s a conversation with Spider-Man about a birthday cake and card, which Max bought himself. Absolutely ridiculous sequence. I don’t blame you or the alcohol Jamie, blame falls squarely on the writers here.
There is far more to like in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 then there is to dislike for me. Above all, the film retains the action-adventure, humor and heart that are fundamental elements of telling a good Spider-Man story. Stronger performances by the returning cast, coupled with mostly solid performances by newcomers to the franchise, redeem the film when the script occasionally let’s them down. While the first in installment was a tighter, better executed film, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was a more fun film to watch.
Overall Grade: 7.5/10