It should come as no surprise to anybody who reads my blog semi-regularly (All three of you) that superheroes play an important part in my creative process. Hell, the second movie review I ever posted was a review of Tim Burton’s Batman (Which is kinda dated, but still pretty good), and since then, I’ve reviewed Man of Steel (Which I regret giving a 7.5 to), the second Thor movie (Flawed and convoluted, but fun) and the new Captain America movie (Which is the best superhero movie since The Avengers). However, even with the release of those movies, and the upcoming releases later this year of the new X-Men movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, the superhero movie I’ve been most anxious to watch has been as you’ve probably guessed, because you’re obviously literate, The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Why, you ask? Because Spider-Man is my jam. I love Spider-Man.
When I was a little kid, my second-favourite movie after Lion King was Spider-Man 2. I watched the animated series religiously on DVD’s, and I still have my Spider-Man action figures (Read: Toys) and Spider-Man encyclopedia. When my friends graduated to Batman and Deadpool, I, well, I joined them, I guess, but I still see Spider-Man as being my favourite superhero, and being my gateway into geekdom in general.
So, one week after its release, a friend and I muscled our way into a movie theater that was lousy with little kids (A drawback to enjoying superhero movies) to watch the new Spidey flick. Admittedly, my expectations were considerably lower after glancing at the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page, but I was at least expecting an improvement over the first Amazing Spider-Man (Which I liked, except for the Lizard), and most certainly an improvement over the steaming pile of shit that was Spider-Man 3.
It’s not exactly setting the bar high, but whatever.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Directed by: Marc Webb
Produced by: Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach
Screenplay by: Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman
Story by: Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman, Jeff Vanderbilt
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Genre: Superhero, Teen Drama
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Campbell Scott
Plot: Taking place after the events of The Amazing Spider-Man, high school graduate Peter Parker (Garfield) is continuing to fight crime as Spider-Man, New York’s often under-appreciated super-powered protector. While he protects the citizens of the Big Apple from schmucks like Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich (Giamatti), Peter also tries to maintain his relationship with the lovely valedictorian, Gwen Stacy (Stone), whose father (Denis Leary, who is seen and not heard, thankfully) was killed in a fight between Spider-Man and the Lizard in the first movie. Unfortunately, by dating Gwen, Peter is breaking the promise made to her father that he wouldn’t involve her in his life, as being Spider-Man endangers those he loves. Oops.
Not only that, but Peter also has to deal with Harry Osborn (DeHaan), a childhood friend of his who inherits the powerful pharmaceutical company OsCorp after his creepy, neglectful father Norman (Chris Cooper) is killed by the same terminal genetic disease that is starting to plague Harry. Further drama occurs when Spidey saves a poor, unfortunate soul by the name of Max Dillon (Foxx), an under-appreciated OsCorp engineer who becomes obsessed with Spider-Man, which is too bad for the web-head, as Dillon is involved in an accident that turns him into a being of electricity, which also apparently gives him schizophrenia.
Most of the problems I have with this movie have to do with the way the plot is laid out. In fact, I’m noticing that ever since The Dark Knight changed up the game, some superhero movies that have no business being complicated are becoming convoluted and overblown for the sake of being convoluted and overblown. Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, The Wolverine, Thor: The Dark World and, to a lesser extent, Iron Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America: The Winter Soldier all suffered from a plot that wandered all over the damn place and lost me for a bit. Unfortunately, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is no exception.
The story-line that centers around Peter trying to discover the reason why his parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) left him with his aunt May (Field) and late uncle Ben (Martin Sheen in the previous movie) when he was little, takes up a ton of the film’s run-time, and is also the least important part of the movie. We get all this emotional buildup towards some huge revelation about the secrets that Peter’s father was trying to hide from OsCorp only to learn that, what, the huge pharmaceutical company led by the creepy guy did some shady dealings, so Parker Sr. left the country with his wife? Gee, thanks for telling us something we didn’t already know from the opening scene of the movie.
I guess the revelations about the Parker family didn’t ruin the movie, though. I’ll give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt though, because I feel like they’re building up to something more in the upcoming movies. It’s hard not to feel cheated thoough, considering the large emphasis that the first movie placed on the truth about Peter’s father. Kind of makes you miss Sam Raimi’s trilogy, honestly.
I also felt that the editing and pacing were kind of off balance, especially near the end. The ending goes on for about ten minutes longer than the point where it should’ve ended, which really threw me off. I guess the closing scene isn’t so bad on its’ own, and it did serve to deliver a message of hope or whatever, and as a set-up for the Sinister Six movie, but it could’ve been handled a bit better.
The big worry that most people had about this movie, however, was the fact that there are a whole bunch of villains in it, which many point to as the reason that Spider-Man 3 was such an atrocity. What I say to that is that while it’s done a lot better than that terrible, terrible movie, it still feels quite off. I dunno, I can’t really put my finger on it, but at least none of the characters felt shoehorned in like Venom was in SM3.
Speaking of the villains, I’m pleased to announce that the two main villains in this movie, Electro and Harry Osborn, are both well portrayed by their respective actors (Veteran actor Jamie Foxx and up-and-comer Dane DeHaan, respectively). True, the characters themselves aren’t as smartly written as some of the other villains in the Spider-Man franchise (Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Willem DeFoe’s Green Goblin), but at least they’re better than Rhys Ifan’s Lizard (Who started off strong until he became a blob of CGI) and, again, miles better than any of the storied villains unfortunate enough to appear in Spider-Man 3.
Speaking of the actors, I already mentioned Foxx, who did a great job, and DeHaan, who appears to be reaching at times. Paul Giamatti is also in this movie, but he is barely used and mostly wasted as the Rhino. Sally Field is given a little bit more to do this time around as aunt May, which I approve of, and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy continues to blow Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane out of the water. She and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker save many of the romantic scenes (Of which there are about two to many), which tend to veer into eye-rollingly cheesy territory and which would be total disasters in the hands of actors with lesser chemistry then the real life couple of Garfield and Stone.
As for the whole “Andrew Garfield vs. Tobey Maguire” debate, I don’t really give a shit. Both are excellent Spider-Men, even if they have different takes on the character.
When it comes solely to the visual effects, this is the best Spidey movie to date. Instead of cluttering the movie and creating what feels like an artificial environment, the CGI really enhances the action scenes, and even more so with Hans Zimmer’s score playing in the background. There was some back-and-forth going on when the trailer was released about whether it looked too much like a Saturday morning cartoon, FX-wise, but Spider-Man stories have never been, nor should they ever look dark and moody like a neo-noir movie or whatever, so I’m really not bothered by it. I know these reboots are supposed to be a “darker and grittier” retelling of the Spider-Man story, but let’s face it, some things really don’t need to be Batman to be good.
Conclusion: It’s disappointingly flawed and uneven, it wastes its villains, it’s too cheesy and it spends a bit too much time setting up the upcoming movies in the franchise, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is still a really damn enjoyable movie, thanks mainly to the fine performances and the great visual effects. They don’t make up for the convoluted plot and the other aforementioned drawbacks, but it’s still a really fun ride that is worth at least a rental.
(Also, try to avoid seeing it when little kids are in the theatre. They’re just the worst in action movies.)