Synopsis: Spider-Man must battle a new nemesis, the electrified villain Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man.
Release Date: May 2, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Fantasy
Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man was a bit of a mess: a markedly incoherent attempt at rebooting a franchise that few wanted to see rebooted so soon. But, there were some shining moments in the film – most notably a successful box office run – and so the inevitable The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has arrived.
The good news is that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a better movie than its predecessor. Where the first film was a clunky, contrived mess that recycled old storylines and tired tropes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 sets out on its own path, one that seemingly ties into a new expanded universe for the character.
However, what might seem like a noble goal in trying to use The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as a platform for more movies (and money), instead transforms the film into a bloated, clunky 2-hour ride that lacks any tangible pay-off and handles almost all of its characters poorly. But hey, the Spider-Man stuff is pretty good, so there’s that.
There is more to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that works beyond the action, and that largely has to do with the chemistry between stars Andrew Garfield (as Peter Parker) and Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacy). Say what you will about Garfield as Peter Parker, but there’s no denying the guy can act. His and Stone’s scenes together are some of the best superhero/love interest scenes put to film, it’s just a shame the dialogue in those scenes lacks any emotional weight.
In a way, it’s as if Garfield and Stone are trying their best to spin straw into gold, going so far as to ignore how cheesy and on-the-nose their conversations are. Peter’s reservations about being with Gwen given what happened in the first film is motivation enough to throw a rut in their relationship, but the way it’s portrayed on screen is almost laughable. Again, the two are great together, but the script does a huge disservice to their talent.
Equally underserved are the film’s two villains: Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). Both Foxx and DeHaan are competent actors in their own right, but the film juggles their respective characters so haphazardly it’s hard to pick out any memorable scenes for either. Foxx starts out as a decent foible for Spider-Man, but then he disappears for a long stretch of the movie when the action is either busy highlighting the Peter/Gwen romance or building future movie storylines.
Even if more attention was paid to Electro, he’s simply not a very compelling villain. Better than the first film’s Lizard, but still not very interesting. DeHaan makes out a little better than Foxx, but mostly because Harry Osborn (the Green Goblin) is given time to develop before going full bad guy. His motivations, like Electro’s, are a little muddled, and this is a recycled character, but DeHaan does a fine job creating a decent villain.
Where The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does find success, in addition to its main leads, is in its depiction of Spider-Man. Without question, this is the best cinematic adaptation of the comic book character put to film, both in terms of its action and the character’s snarky tendencies. Spider-Man has always been a bit of a wise ass when it comes to villains, even a prankster, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 revels in that fact.
It also finds some great ways to make the web-slinging through Manhattan feel fresh, largely through tremendous effects work and some surprisingly strong 3D sequences. But, what action there is in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is spaced too far apart to make the low points bearable. Too much time spent between several different storylines ends up diminishing the one area that the film truly excels.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 serves too many masters to be considered anything more than a passable superhero flick. Too many storylines, too many villains, and some truly atrocious dialogue overshadow almost all of the film’s positive qualities, which mostly have to do with Spider-Man/Garfield.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 calls to mind the failures of Iron Man 2, yet another film too concerned with building future films to be bothered with being engaging or coherent. But even if you were to overlook the excessive world building, the film still fails to be anything more than OK. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 kicks off the summer movie season on a sour note.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s weakest area is undoubtedly the screenplay. Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman know their way around a blockbuster script, and they even know about building a complex universe, but their work here is nothing short of disappointing. The aforementioned on-the-nose dialogue and the overabundance of storylines, many of which are half-baked at best, make the film a slog to get through.
Worst of all, the film spends so much time jumping from one storyline to the next that not a single one doesn’t feel criminally underserved. Even Spider-Man gets the short end of the stick as far as the story goes.
It bears repeating just how fantastic the action in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is if only because it’s the one overwhelmingly positive element in the movie. You’d think that after four movies seeing Spider-Man swing through the city of New York would get old, but a combination of crisp cinematography and focused editing help bring a fresh perspective to the action.
The same is also true for any action scenes with Electro, whose electricity-fueled powers are well realized on-screen. You want showdowns between villain and hero to be exciting and well choreographed, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits that mark. The only gripe to be had with the action is that there isn’t enough of it. Three, arguably four, set pieces in a 2-hour+ film, and unevenly spaced out, will leave audiences wanting.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Marc Webb
- Screenwriter(s): Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner
- Cast: Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Jamie Foxx (Electro/Max Dillon), Dane DeHaan (Green Goblin/Harry Osborn), Colm Feore (Donald Menken), Felicity Jones (Felicia), Paul Giamatti (Aleksei Sytsevich), Sally Field (Aunt May)
- Editor(s): Pietro Scalia
- Cinematographer: Daniel Mindel
- Music Score: Johnny Marr
- Music Performed By: Pharrell Williams
- Country Of Origin: USA