It’s fair to say that when I wrote my movie showdown on the first Spider-Man films, I got a little heat. I wrote a scathing review on The Amazing Spider-Man. Can the sequel do any better? My answer is simple – no.
“Everyday I wake up knowing that no matter how many lives I protect, no matter how many people call me a hero, someone even more powerful could change everything.” – Peter Parker
Andrew Garfield returns once again as the web crawling hero as he faces battles in his personal life as Peter Parker and his responsibilities as Spider-Man. As Peter Parker his relationship with Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) is on the rocks. The ghost of Gwen’s father haunts him as he’s constantly reminded of the promise he made to leave her alone. As Spider-Man, three new villains enter the fold in the shape of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and Harry Osborn/Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan). As always, Peter Parker/Spider-Man must find a balance to deal with the threats before it’s too late.
To say I’m disappointed would be the understatement of the year and suddenly my gripes about the first film feel like fairy dust in comparison to the sequel.
I’m not going to lie but there is an aura of Batman Forever in this film. You can say what you want about the Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films but when it comes to building up a villain, there’s growth and there’s empathy, in particular Spider-Man 2. This film lacks those qualities with its villains and presents them as cartoonish, undeveloped and once again misses a grand opportunity to build something purposeful in the franchise.
“Soon, everyone in the city is going to know how it feels to live in my world. A world without power. A world without mercy. A world without Spider-Man! And everyone would be able to see me for who I’m truly am.” – Electro
For a character that was hyped up in the trailers, you would have thought that Electro was the main villain and truth be told, he’s not. He’s used sparsely and I wouldn’t blame you if you felt a little duped realising this. Jamie Foxx dresses and adopts the classic pre-villainy persona – Max Dillon is a “nobody”, hoping to be a “somebody”. His close encounter with Spider-Man propels a self-deluded attitude where he’s talking to himself in the mirror and has a dedicated shrine for the web slinger (FYI this is after ONE encounter with Spider-Man). His transformation into Electro is comical – he fixes a dangerous electrical fault, gets electrocuted and falls into a small pool of electric eels. His transformation so powerful that it corrects the gap between his two front teeth! Still grasping his new powers, he feels let down by Spider-Man by the attention he’s getting and vows to destroy him. That is Electro’s story in a nutshell – Electro is an unsympathetic, clichéd shell and is treated as a convenient plot device that links A to B rather than elevating the plot. He didn’t have a believable motivation.
The same goes for Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn. His storyline is far more careless because his story had no reason to be rushed at all and yet it was. Obviously in the comics Peter and Harry are friends and yet in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, their “friendship” probably lasted about ten minutes on screen before Harry descends on a path of immortality, due to the added storyline of Harry suffering a chronic disease inherited from his father. Adding the Green Goblin stuff will probably feel like a bonus to most people but it acts like a last minute addition to fulfil the ultimate fate for Gwen Stacey. Out of all the villains in the film, Dane DeHaan comes out the strongest and if I could re-write the script, the film would have been focussed entirely on him, building up his character and his friendship with Peter Parker. Therefore his final descent to the dark side wouldn’t have been so clumsy as the film made out…and his Goblin transformation would have looked better as well.
Rhino – seriously was there any point in this character being in the film?
The major problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is that it has a convoluted and unbalanced plot, clearly not learning its lessons from Spider-Man 3 about having too many villains in one film. When you start to add Peter and Gwen’s drama into the mix and the backstory surrounding Peter’s parents, you suddenly realise that there’s too much going on. The pacing got a little better towards the end but the start was awful. The plot does its best to address what happened to Peter’s parents but ultimately suggests that Peter’s spider accident was his destiny all along. I will admit it’s a plot device I need to get use to because the idea of Spider-Man is suppose to be an everyman teenager dealing with issues and using his Spidey powers for good. Suggesting that he was always destined takes that premise away. Once again there’s no mention of Peter finding his uncle’s killer and there’s too many subplots that could have been left out – Peter’s laundry argument anyone?
The plot is desperately trying to build towards The Sinister Six, adding little hints here, there and everywhere but this is not a Marvel film. The hints are not in the same vein as the post credit end scenes of Captain America or Iron Man. It’s not like Spider-Man is suddenly going to turn up in the next Avengers movie. The hints felt rushed, empty and limited, leaving nothing for me to get excited about and I find that strange considering I am a fan of Spider-Man. If this film can’t even get the basics right, what is there to look forward to?
“You’re Spider-Man, and I love that. But I love Peter Parker more.” – Gwen Stacey
Speaking of Peter and Gwen, at least this was a positive even if it was crafted in a melodramatic way. The chemistry is still there and I prefer this than the awkward stutters from Peter Parker in the first movie. Once again Emma Stone shines and when it came to Gwen’s fate, she handled it very well. In fact it was the best part in the entire film.
I want to state again that Andrew Garfield is a better Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire. At least that is another positive. My only issue with his Spider-Man is his one-line jokes. I know what you’re thinking – “that’s classic Spidey, he should be making jokes, insulting the villains” etc. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve read the comics and seen the 90s animated cartoon more times than I can count. However, what works in one format doesn’t necessarily work in another and some of Spidey’s jokes felt forced and unfunny. As Peter Parker, I think the jury is still out. He comes off as distracting, carrying too much bravado and cockiness that it doesn’t give you much to root or sympathise for and maybe that’s down to my Peter Parker preference being more of a nerd (not the one from the Raimi films) than some cool, bratty kid. It was only towards the end when Gwen’s fate was sealed that you saw the real Peter shine through. The acceptance of his gift and the consequences of his decisions were the highlights for me. Garfield is a good actor but he needs more of that material.
I’m not expecting every comic book film to be like The Dark Knight or something and of course Spider-Man will appear cartoonish because of his history. However when you stand this film up against two heavyweights in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past, you can clearly tell which film is the loser in that battle.
This film was a wasted opportunity and forgettable and with a talented cast (which is not their fault) you expect better. This film lacks substance and the sooner Marvel takes this franchise back, the better.