Directed by: Mark Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone
The first Amazing Spider-Man was riddled with flaws from execution of action scenes to plot turns and characterizations. It did some things right, most specifically casting. Andrew Garfield seemed to be perfect as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man and Emma Stone can seem to do no wrong these days. Even sally Fields as Aunt May seemed inspired. Unfortunately that film just didn’t live up to the potential of the casting. Most Spidey fans were afraid that the sequel, also directed by Mark Webb, would just be more of the same.
In a way those fearing more of the same in this sequel will get what they expected. The problems that infected the first film are still apparent in this one too. Director Mark Webb is most comfortable doing romantic comedy (500 Days of Summer) and it’s those scenes of intimate romance and humor that work the best in this sequel. The film begins with Peter settled into his role as Spider-Man and loving it. He almost has a sort of Superman approach to the role though when he transitions from Parker to web slinger. He often finds himself in important life conversations only having to dash away because his spider sense gets to tingling. Peter and Gwen Stacey seem to be settled into a relationship now though as they approach high school graduation. This is where the film finds its first hiccup. The opening moments set them up as happily in a relationship with Gwen dealing with Peter’s other identity in a humorous way. But suddenly after Peter sees a ghostly image of Gwen’s dead father he begins to back away from her. The conversation that follows informs us that this on again off again thing has been happening over and over, but the previous scenes lead us to believe that all was well. The whole thing came off as melodrama and as more of a plot device than real character development. That’s how these Gwen/Peter moments work so poorly. For every failure though there’s a scene that works magically. In one scene Peter has to help Gwen escape from Oscorp labs. The time they spend in a broom closet is so intimate and well executed you might find yourself feeling like a voyeur.
A character arc that seems to work nearly perfectly though is that of Harry Osborne. He makes a triumphant return to his father’s company only to find out that he himself is dying and he needs Spider-Man’s blood to save himself. So he approaches his old friend Peter Parker who has been taking great pictures of the wall crawler for a newspaper. Seeing Osborne and the Green Goblin seems redundant because it hasn’t been that long since we’ve seen this villain before. It was kind of the same feeling I had when I saw Lex Luthor in Bryan singer’s Superman Returns. I wanted to yell at the screen “He has other great villains to fight!” The filmmakers were probably afraid we would have that feeling so they brought in Max Dillon aka Electro to freshen things up. Unfortunately Jamie Foxx is wasted in the role because he ends up getting no depth of character. His motivations are more caricature than character and he comes off pretty inadvertently humorous. In fact the way Electro is executed throughout the film makes the whole thing more campy and reminiscent of the Tim Burton era Batman films.
The action sequences, the things that make the film a summer blockbuster, are amped up and executed in a much more sophisticated way in this sequel. Some of the cgi is iffy for sure but overall the big set pieces are a lot of fun. A few of the big action scenes do also feel a bit like higher budgeted Tim Burton set pieces too. Spider-Man’s quips during these scenes are spot on: they are cheesy sometimes eye rolling and sometimes hilarious. Also, we may have seen the Goblin before but at least in this version he looks more freaky and intimidating rather than having that Power Rangers feel that he had in the original spider-Man films.
The emotional moments work the most consistently in this film, at least when it comes to Gwen and Peter (some moments between Peter and Aunt May do not work at all) and the villains come off too wooden overall. The answer to the mysterious question left at the end of the first film is revealed in this sequel and it’s honestly underwhelming. The film sets up the next movie which we already know is to be The Sinister Six. If you don’t know who the Sinister Six is then you will by the end of Amazing Spider-Man 2. There are just too many things going on in this film for any one thing to get the proper attention. Also Mark Webb takes every opportunity to work within his wheelhouse of romantic comedy that he can get even to the detriment of the rest of the film. The difference this time around is that the things that work here work so well that they make the film worth watching above and beyond the numerous flaws and the overcrowded subplots. This film sets the stage for a new story arc for Peter Parker and Spider-Man and those scenes are the best of the film. The final moment between Peter and Aunt May is touching and it works. Peter’s very last scene is telegraphed at the beginning of the film in a pretty obvious way but again it still works.
The truly sad part here is when things work really well it makes you yearn for the rest of the film to be as good as the particular scene and it shows the potential of what this cast could have done with a better director in the driver’s seat. With that said Amazing Spider-Man 2 still has a lot to offer for fans and especially non-fans. In my original review of the first film I gave it a 6.5/10. In retrospect I was being a Spider-Man apologist and should have given that film a 5/10. This time I’m looking at the franchise with eyes wide open and I’m still giving the film….