Film Review: 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'
Opened: 16 April 2014 (UK)
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti and Sally Field
Directors: Marc Webb
Producers: Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach
The Amazing Spider-Man opened in the summer of 2012 to a great deal of uncertainty following the overcrowded and much maligned travesty that was Spider-Man 3. However, with superheroes at the apex of their mainstream appeal, and in the wake of Joss Whedon’s box office (Hulk) smashing Avengers mega hit, the time was right and so was the movie. Director Mark Webb’s first instalment of the Sony Pictures reboot received a great deal of credit for its more sophisticated story telling and much improved cast; exit whiney Tobey Maguire and shrill screaming Kirsten Dunst, enter credible and adorable teenage lovers Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. What the first movie had in gallons was back story and foreshadowing but what it lacked was an audience pleasing villain, and so now to the second chapter of the story where Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man, played by Garfield) must apparently face not one but three of his canonical rogues gallery.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 however is not the super villain convention that the trailers and advertising have led us to believe, there is really only one major villain to the movie, Electro, and the others should be seen simply as important characters in a multidirectional plot. Played by superpower newcomer Jamie Foxx, Electro/Max Dillon is a study of how Peter Parker could have turned out had he not had the support and love of his family (represented with grace and honesty by a sweet but slightly hammy Aunt May, played by Sally Fields) and girlfriend Gwen Stacey (Stone). A science genius like Peter, Max is also ripe bullying material for colleagues when all he wants in life is simply to be noticed; without that pep talk from an Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen in The Amazing Spider-Man) or the love of an Aunt May, Max’s transformation into Electro triggers a swift moral collapse as he is consumed by power without responsibility. However I would not expect most audience members to pick up on this because the movie makes virtually no effort at all to highlight this obvious and vital comparison. There have been many rumours abound that Sony were very hands on with the production and marketing of this sequel after the first did not produce the box office revenue they expected. The example of how Electro is nicely set up and then deserted to become a faceless evil for the second half of the film is just one failure where this mismanagement shows through. On a personal note I enjoyed Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of the picked-on little guy who is corrupted by unlimited power, and his dark descent into delusions of godhood (which follows the tone of the movie in parallel), coupled with stunning visual effects, is pretty scary stuff for a family friendly movie.
Where The Amazing Spider-Man 2 really falls off the web is pacing and script which is squarely down to the ridiculous multitasking it has been assigned. With Marvel Studios pumping out two movies a year now, Sony are looking to cash in on the action and have announced that The Amazing Spider-Man 3 (2018) will be closely pursued by Sinister Six and Venom, both stories that will focus on Spidey’s most iconic opponents. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has paid the price for this much like Iron-Man 2 did, having become a tool to expand a cinematic universe instead of being allowed to be its own movie. Fanboys will recognise a cluster of secondary characters as potential future villains or even love interests (once you’ve seen the movie google ‘Felicia Hardy’ and ‘Alistair Smythe’). Although this can be an exciting prospect for future projects the focus should always be on the story at hand, which is sadly not the case with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Adding in some contrived plot devices to complicate Peter’s relationship with Gwen for good measure, the story begins to buckle under the bloated weight of everything that’s going on. A notable exception to this is the ‘return’ of Peter’s childhood friend and heir to the Oscorp Corporation, Harry Osborn, brought to menacing life by Chronicle alumni Dane DeHaan. Harry’s introduction in this movie is part of the aforementioned problem but it does create a much needed second act conflict when Electro is inexplicably written off as too-far-gone to bother reasoning with or understanding.
There is so much that is right with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 but just enough that is wrong. The mesmerising special effects on Electro are occasionally matched by some seriously dodgy moments for Spider-Man and although the movie does fit a huge amount in without losing the audience some parts drag unnecessarily. Performances are strong across the board and this helps to prop up some of the script’s weaker scenes. Full of comedy moments and wise cracks from the webslinger, action crammed and brimming with excitement, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a thrilling comic-book adventure which is definitely a significant ramping up from the first instalment. Only time will tell whether the sacrifices it makes for the future of the franchise are justified, but my bet is that it will pay off because, let’s face it, villains are always more interesting studies than the heroes.
The shadowy figure who appears at the end of the first movie and in the later part of this movie has been all but confirmed as minor comic book character ‘The Gentleman’ who forms one version of The Sinister Six – he is essentially a Nick Fury for the bad guys!
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