Reviews

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

3

Webb’s reboot flounders. Spin doctor required?

When Peter Parker was delayed at the start of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, Joe’s Pizza’s 29-minute guarantee suffered. When Sony recently announced a two-year delay for the third film in Marc Webb’s run, a sense of heightened stakes took hold. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 leaves no doubt why, even before you factor in disappointing reviews and box-office returns. Webb’s second take on Spidey lore is better than cold pizza but it struggles to put a fresh stamp on old material.

And with Captain America, the X-Men and a raccoon sucker-punching well above their weight in a rammed summer genre market, this is no time for a superhero heavyweight to drop the ball.

Suspicions already simmered around its predecessor’s failure to tell the poster-promised “untold story”. Webb picks up that plot here, but with unhappy consequences: the Parker-family flashbacks don’t half slow the story down. With a lot of forward-flashing also required for the Sinister Six set-ups, it’s a wonder the present-day storylines get a look in.

But get a look-in they do, sometimes with winning levity. Rhino (Paul Giamatti) amuses, the web-swinging thrills and Spidey’s way with kids get us on side, much aided by a cast on their A-game. Andrew Garfield’s expressive Pete, Emma Stone’s savvy Gwen Stacy and Sally Field’s warm, wise Aunt May charm. Dane DeHaan, meanwhile, nails his Spidey-verse debut as Harry Osborn, oozing the same DiCaprio-turned-sickly charisma that electrified Kill Your Darlings and Chronicle.

And yet... DeHaan’s Harry is a trust-fund take on a more emotionally wrought character he played in a sharper (and cheaper) superhero movie, where his turn to villainy packed more punch than his mutation into a Beavis-from-Oz-alike Green Goblin.

That wouldn’t matter so much if the other villains worked, but Jamie Foxx’s Spidey-obsessed Max Dillon is a jittery bag of Nutty Professorisms and Jim Carrey-version Riddler-isms. Which might matter less again, if the motives behind Max’s mutation into walking power-sulk Electro weren’t so under-baked. Spider-Man 3 was much criticised, but at least Sandman’s emotional substance compensated for his elusive biological constitution.

S-M 3 spawned a million ‘broken web’ metaphors for its villain count, which makes the decision to up the character haul here seem brave or reckless. But huge head-counts needn’t be crippling: Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past showed how to multi-task. Choppy tonal lurches are Webb’s bigger problem as he swings between pants-down farce, romance, FX power surges, laundry issues and camp German scientists. Seriously: did anyone even direct Marton Csokas’ cameo?

The script has as much trouble focusing the plot. Some Dark Knight-style jitters about Spidey’s bad influence emerge, then disappear while Gwen and Peter chase their on-off relationship around in circles. Harry and Peter’s friendship is detailed in one big info-dump. The tense final bout offers some pay-off, but even then a key character’s emotive, comics-based but slightly cynical, clumsily foreshadowed and arguably misogynist fate makes a mixed impression. A similar tragedy in The Dark Knight worked because Nolan rigorously crafted a world of cause and consequence.

Webb’s tenuous tonal grip doesn’t earn its darker turn as it pings about like a sequel hell-bent on delivering what fans want, or at least what fan feedback deemed lacking last time. You’re left with a tale of many pleasures but insufficient personality, like a pizza with everything piled on. You don’t go hungry, but you may want more finesse next time.

Don’t watch the extras before the main feature: the mammoth, multi-part Making Of drops a huge spoiler straight out of the gate. The deleted scenes nod to it too, by way of an emotional reunion that would’ve been one twist too far. Plus: bonus Felicity Jones. And Electro’s mum.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • StrapMouse

      Oct 11th 2014, 15:31

      4

      When the crowds of people in the streets of New York look up and gasp in awe as Spider-Man slings his webs and leaps through the city, you get that same feeling of awe and excitement watching this movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 yet again lives up to the amazing in it's title, a spectacular superhero movie. There's only a few reasons why I feel this sequel doesn't surpass the first, and that's due to inconsistency with a few things. The editing can be choppy and erratic, most noticeably in the opening sequence, then for the most part it's smooth and energetic. A feeling of campiness creeps in when Max Dillon's theme tune plays out, it almost undermines the seriousness of how messed up in the head this character is. That's it really, those two flaws did stand out so much so that my score could've been lower, but when everything else in this adventure thrills you to the point of gasping constantly, an 80% rating is more than enough. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are terrific, some of my mates found their chemistry and love story to be cheesy and forced but I thought it was handled very well and performed perfectly by the two. Sally Field is tremendous as Aunt May, and very funny too. Dane Dehaan is excellent as Harry Osborn, a more sinister and unstable version of the character compared to James Franco's whiny version. Jamie Foxx is almost unrecognisable as Max Dillon with gaps in his teeth and a crazy haircut, who becomes obsessed with Spider-Man, before a horrific accident that turns him into Electro, a power hungry being who turns on Spidey and puts New York in jeopardy. Let's just say, the full cast do justice to this wonderful movie, and with added emotion and shock they truly bring their A-game. The action scenes are awesome, and in 3D it's a sight to behold as the visuals have this effect of slowing down allowing the camera to pan through time suspended, objects appear to hover and peer through the screen and hundreds of objects dart out at you, I flinched many times. The scenes of Spider-Man flying are groundbreaking from a special effects point of view, just like they were in the original 2002 movie, one of my mates next to me said how loud I was during the film going "woah" and "ooh". I don't realise I'm doing it but that's because I get lost in these movies. Despite the action being a big thrill, the scene that got me the most was the sudden and unseen death of Gwen Stacy, I didn't see it coming. Jaw dropped, mind blown, it was the biggest twist and a real shame, and surprisingly hard hitting but not a tearjerker scene, but this moment is where the acting really excels and the visuals and 3D benefit this sequence. So with a marvellous ending that sets up a third instalment, get ready for more Amazing Spider-Man! And even though the wait may be a few years the first two films are more than enough to keep you distracted.

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