Starring: Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Emma Stone (The Help), Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained), Dane DeHaan (Chronicle), Sally Field (Forrest Gump), Paul Giamatti (Sideways), Chris Cooper (Adaptation.)
Director: Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer)
Writers: Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner (Fringe)
Runtime: 2 hours 22 minutes
Release Date: 16 April (UK), 2 May (US)
If you held me at gunpoint and asked me who my favourite superhero is, I’d say “Spider-Man. Now why did you need to put a gun to my head to make me answer that?” Whether it’s comics, movies, TV shows, video games, pyjamas (oh yeah, I’ve rocked the Spidey PJs) or whatever, I love me some Spider-Man. Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies still stand as some of the best of the superhero genre. His third one does not (though I still say its not quite as bad as everyone says), and so a reboot happened. Thankfully, The Amazing Spider-Man was a solid movie that did some things better than Raimi’s efforts and other things not so much. Now they’ve returned with the imaginatively named The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Does this electrifying tale help bring the webslinger to new heights, or have his web shooters run dry?
What The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does that no other Spider-Man film has done before is that it nails the tone. The film never gets too serious or too goofy. It straddles that line perfectly, allowing for plenty of heart and tragedy whilst not losing the fun, creating the atmosphere a true Spider-Man story needs. It at times reminded me of blockbusters from the 1990s, but in a good way. The pacing is expertly judged, balancing high-flying action, comedic banter and emotional resonance all at once. The film even has a strong moral centre and an effective message. All of these elements fit together to what should be the perfect Spider-Man movie. So…why isn’t it? The answer is something this series has dealt with before it its previous incarnation: overstuffing. Let’s be clear about this: it never gets quite as clogged as Spider-Man 3 did, nor is anything that is there objectively bad. There are no massive holes in the plot, no questionable character motivations, no embarrassingly out of tone sequences, nothing. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, everything that is there works pretty damn well. But too much stuff is still too much stuff, whether it be good or bad, and it all becomes a bit too much to handle at once. This abundance of content creates for a story full of many threads that do all tie together but not in a completely satisfying way. This mainly becomes apparent in the film’s final act where, after a terrific battle scene between Spidey (Garfield) and Electro (Foxx), it picks up another thread, follows it for a while, but then resolves it so quickly that it never quite sinks in. I wish I could explain myself better, but doing so would reveal major spoilers so I’ll let you see for yourselves. Everything beforehand works so well, but those last few moments do leave a sour aftertaste that clouds everything that came before. Oh, and just to save you some time, there is no after credits sequence.
Andrew Garfield was a great Peter Parker in the first film, and he is still great here. He so naturally embodies everything the character is and stands for: he’s smart, he’s witty, he’s heartfelt, he’s relatable, my praises could go on and on. This is the Spider-Man I remember from the comics and I’m so glad someone finally nailed it. Making matters even better is Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. She is honestly one of my favourite female characters in superhero movies, mainly because she is an assertive and confident character who never becomes just another damsel in distress. That and her chemistry with Garfield is through the roof; their moments together is what really makes the film seem genuine. Jamie Foxx works well in the part of Electro, imbuing the character with a sense of tragedy and honesty. He doesn’t come off as outright sympathetic considering he’s clearly a bit screwy even before gaining power, but his motivations are understandable if twisted and he is an imposing challenge for Spidey. Dane DeHaan is an excellent Harry Osborn, being able to pull off being both friendly and devious. His and Peter’s relationship seems as genuine as Peter’s romance with Gwen, making it all the more tragic when they drift apart Akira-style. The problem with both of these antagonists, however, is that they aren’t given quite enough screen presence. The film bounces between Electro and Harry’s stories, never quite giving enough focus to either, and when they do finally intersect it’s not for long. It makes it hard to decide who the real villain is, as neither seems fully developed. Again, it’s not Spider-Man 3 levels of unfocused but it is troublesome. Those wondering about the presence of Paul Giamatti’s Rhino complicating matters should rest easy; his role is nothing more than a fun cameo with room for expansion later on, as is Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn. The cast of Amazing Spider-Man 2 is really what saves the picture, as without all this talent I think the flaws in the storytelling would become more apparent.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 really comes alive during its action sequences. The acrobatic nature of the character has been fully embraced, creating for some really inventive aerial manoeuvres; even the simple action of web swinging is a joy to behold. Electro works wonderfully as a visual threat, one not simply defeated by punches and kicks, and that uniqueness really pushes the creativity of the action. The cinematography and production design is vibrant and colourful, giving the movie a real comic book look to it, and the visual effects are pretty seamless with the practical elements. Those who bemoaned Spidey’s costume in the last film should be quelled by the film’s new suit, which looks great and is nigh on exactly like his comic book attire. Also gone is James Horner’s grand but overdone score from the previous film. In his place sits Hans Zimmer, who gives it a much more modern and electronic feel. It’s an odd choice at first but it does fit with the film’s aesthetic and it grows on you, one that sets it apart not only from Horner’s score but also Danny Elfman’s score for the Raimi films and Zimmer’s own work on the Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel.
Despite its obvious imperfections, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is still a fun ride. The cast are all excellent, the direction is spot-on, the action sequences are thrilling, and it’s the first Spider-Man film that fully understands what the heart and soul of the character is. Unfortunately the film is majorly bogged down by a sprawling storyline whose complexity gets in the way of itself by its conclusion; it is working proof that you can have too much of a good thing. Those who weren’t thrilled by the last movie probably won’t be satisfied, as a lot of the elements certain people had problems with haven’t been changed, but those who didn’t take umbrage with the first one should find here some enjoyable but flawed blockbuster entertainment.
FINAL VERDICT: 8/10