THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
***1/2 (out of 5)
May 2, 2014
Andrew Garfield as PETER PARKER
Emma Stone as GWEN STACY
Jamie Foxx as ELECTRO
Dane DeHaan as HARRY OSBORN
Colm Feore as DONALD MENKEN
Sally Field as AUNT MAY
Campbell Scott as RICHARD PARKER
Directed by: Marc Webb
BY KEVIN CARR
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Even though it’s kicking off the summer movie season and likely to make plenty of cash at the box office, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is still struggling with some of the blowback from the previous film.
That’s not to say it’s a bad movie by any stretch. In fact, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a much better film than the previous installment (though that is mostly due to the fact that half of it didn’t seem like a wasted rehash of Sam Raimi’s 2002 film). However, considering the legacy of Spider-Man in the American box office (e.g., the record-breaking box office of Raimi’s first film and the fact that it was the first movie ever to crack $100 million on opening weekend), this entire run of the series seems to have missed the boat.
You can blame Marvel Studios and Disney – as well as Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy – for raising the bar of superhero movies in the time between the release of Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3” in 2007 and Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” in 2012. Had “The Amazing Spider-Man” run come out before “The Dark Knight” and “The Avengers” series changed the playing field, it might have been a real phenomenon. (Incidentally, this has been holding back the “X-Men” franchise for years as well, being the fact that the game has changed and the series is scrambling to catch up.)
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is still a fine movie and has the elements that make fun summer superhero movies enjoyable.
The story follows the struggle of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) to be the hero of New York while maintaining a regular life. He is trying to juggle his relationship with his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) with superhero duties and a burgeoning photography career. Like the stories from the comics, the media is questioning Spider-Man’s intentions and shining a light on his potentially dangerous vigilante practices.
The villain in this film is Electro, played by Jamie Foxx, and like The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), has a similarly cheesy Stan Lee origin. Electro begins as a nerdy engineer at Oscorp who idolizes Spider-Man. However, when an industrial accident with electric eels turns him into pure energy (and apparently applies electro-veneers to gaps in teeth). Snubbed by Spider-Man during a battle, he decides to seek revenge as soon as he can escape from a nonsensical Oscorp prison.
And here is one of the biggest problems with the film… Electro is the villain, but he’s not really the villain. He’s the villain in the sense that he gets the big explosive battles with Spider-Man. However, his character is painfully underdeveloped, borrowing elements of hero-worship-turned-revenge-seeker we saw in the Riddler in “Batman Forever” and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) in “Iron Man 3.”
However, the real villain is being set up as Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), destined to become the Green Goblin. At the same time, Sony is struggling to find ways to introduce characters for their upcoming Sinister Six movie throughout the film, going so far as to adding a “get your phones out and Shazam our ending credits” element to the film. (Note: I’m personally against any time a movie studio encouraging people to pull out their phones at any point during a movie.)
The actual writing and characterization that takes place in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is focused on Peter’s relationship with Gwen, but the outcome of that is so painfully telegraphed as early as the first five minutes of the movie that not only is there no surprise at all, but all emotional impact is lost when something actually does happen.
The Peter and Gwen scenes are better than the hemming and hawing we saw in the first film, which was indicative of director Marc Webb’s indie romance roots. The best things I can say about these elements is that Garfield makes a great Peter Parker and a great Spider-Man. Similarly, Emma Stone is a far better love interest than Kirsten Dunst was in the Raimi films.
Taken at face value as a basic summer action movie, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is enjoyable to watch. There are some great action set pieces, and a lot of the big action works splendidly on the big screen (once the cinematographer abandons the shaky-cam from one of the earlier scenes). However, the pacing is a mess, and villains are thrown in at the most unlikely times.
It’s clear that Sony is desperately attempting to world-build their own Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s clear that with only the rights to the Spider-Man character, they are trying to cram everything into this movie to set the stage for spin-offs and a continuing story. Unfortunately, it feels like they are cramming their eggs deep into one basket that could rupture fast.
But like I said, if all you want is often corny superhero popcorn spectacle, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is good enough.