Spider-Man’s back on patrol in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The Marc Webb helmed super hero adventure continues the story from the 2012 reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. While improving on the groundwork laid by the first film, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is burdened with an uninteresting, two-dimensional villain that detracts from a decent story about Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) learning to cope with what being Spider-Man means for him and those close to him.
One of those people is Peter’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, played once again by the wonderful Emma Stone. Throughout the movie, Gwen is shown not only to be the typical love interest pining for the guy that’s pushing her away for her own good, but also an intelligent female character that has her own path and refuses to stay tucked away safely when she sees her chance to help.
When Garfield is on screen as Spider-Man, he proves himself in the role. Garfield’s Spidey is kind to those that he’s helping, and a humorous jackass to the criminals whose day he’s about to ruin. As Peter Parker, Garfield’s performance is hit-or-miss. He’s great when he’s on screen with Stone, but scenes between him and Sally Field’s Aunt May fall flat over and over. The B story of Peter trying to find out about his parents reasons for abandoning him is dull and unnecessary, and Garfield’s take on Peter does nothing to help the viewer empathize with his discoveries.
As a longtime fan of the Spider-Man story, I’ve always liked the cast of characters that make up both Spider-Man and Peter Parker’s world. To the movie’s credit, it does manage to include 3 iconic villains pretty well. One of my regular criticisms of comic book movies is that they start to fall apart when thry cram in more than two villains. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 handles this issue by making Electro the main bad gay, and using Green Goblin and Rhino as support villains. With Harry Osborne featured prominently in the promotion of the film, most people were expecting Green Goblin to have a part in this film, and what is offered is great. I’m not convinced that Dane DeHaan was right for Harry, but he does make a killer Goblin. The Rhino is nothing more than a nod to the fans, but it’s probably the best use they could have gotten out of that particular villain, because… Rhino. We are also treated to sightings of other Spider-Man baddies’ apparatuses, giving a glimpse of who the friendly neighborhood web-head may battle in the future. One noticeable omission from the movie was J. Jonah Jamason, who is such a big part of both sides of Peter’s dual identity that I’m at a loss to understand why he hasn’t made an appearance yet. Perhaps casting knows that they couldn’t do better than J. K. Simmons, who owned the role in the Sam Rami helmed Spider-Man trilogy not that long ago.
At the center of the movie and my indifference to it, is the villain Electro (Jamie Foxx). Before his transformation into a monster of living electricity, Electro was mild-mannered, quirky, and extremely lonely Max Dillion. Dillion’s chance encounter with Spidey at the beginning of the film creates an obsession with the hero. After a freak accident at Oscorp transforms Max into a confused yet dangerous being, his obsession turns sour when Spider-Man shows up to help but can’t remember his name. Add to that a trigger happy cop sniper, and a new super villain is born. From this point, the character starts to fall apart. It’s a bad sign when your villain is more interesting before he gains his powers and becomes corrupt. His motivation, which is either to be seen and feel important, or for everyone to be in the dark and unseen like he was as an unnoticeable Oscorp cog changes depending on which part of the movie you’re watching. The waffling motivation comes off lame and not really worthy of a super villain. Let’s look at the later example. As this point, Electro knows more about his power, as he’s being experimented on during his time in a criminal psychiatric hospital. He’s busted out, and takes revenge on his captors. So far, so good– I get the motivation. What’s next? Take down the city’s power grid. And…why? So everyone’s in the dark. They’ll feel his pain, right? Well, maybe until they light a candle, or grab a flashlight. Problem solved. And really, then it’s just the nuisance of being without power. Sure, it’s a problem, but not as bad as the entire population of the city being turned into lizards, to sum up The Lizard’s goal from the first film. The writers seemed to realize this was not a very cataclysmic event, because they tacked on some scenes about two planes that would collide without radar to guide them. This gave the feeling that Spider-Man did something heroic when he and Gwen defeat Electro, outside of just getting the power restored to the city.
The end result is the film feels like what is actually is: a bridge story to help build a bigger movie franchise. Amazing Spider-Man 2 sets the stage for the future of the series, but forgets to be an interesting installment on its own.
I’ll end with two bits of advice. First, if you liked the first film, go see this one, you shouldn’t be disappointed. Second, if you ever get a job at Oscorp, be sure to take the supplementary life insurance!