Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 22 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Sci-Fi Action/Violence
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner
(based on the SPIDER-MAN comics by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Chris Cooper, Martin Csokas, B.J. Novak, Martin Sheen, Chris Zylka, Denis Leary & Felicity Jones
Sony’s questionable decision to reboot SPIDER-MAN wound up in the 2012’s mixed bag THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. I appreciated that the reboot was attempting to take things in a more serious direction, but the tone was schizophrenic to say the least. The first half of the film and the second half didn’t mesh well at all, not to mention that the Lizard was a poorly constructed villain. It’s two years later and 2014’s summer movie season is kicking off with THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. Though the general consensus from critics has been slightly lower than that for the 2012 installment, I found this sequel to one-up its predecessor in every possible way. There’s a more cohesive story being told. The villains are far better developed and the viewer is given reasons to feel for Peter Parker’s struggles. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a solid kickoff for Summer 2014 and a sequel that could ultimately shape this new series into being one of the better superhero sagas out there.
Peter Parker has just graduated from high school and his relationship with Gwen Stacy is on shaky ground. Peter made a promise to her dying father that he would keep Gwen out of his life, due to the risk that comes with his crime-fighting. Naturally, Gwen is sick of their on-again-off-again status and breaks up with Peter, which gives him a whole lot of mixed emotions. Meanwhile, an old childhood friend (Harry Osborne) has returned to town and has taken a special interest in the web-slinging Spider-Man. To make matters even more dangerous, a new villain has been (accidentally) created. This glowing baddie is named Electro and has bad feelings towards Spider-Man. Peter Parker must choose where he wants to stand with Gwen, all while battling the electrifying Electro and another emerging menace found in the mentally unstable Harry Osborne.
I doubt a Spider-Man film will ever be completely serious. The material doesn’t lend itself well to being a dark gritty tale like THE DARK KNIGHT. It can result in a good popcorn flick that will thrill audiences of every age. That’s squarely where THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 falls. Spider-Man does have his usual sense of humor (which I found a lot more enjoyable this time around) and there are comedy relief scenes. Most don’t stick out like a sore thumb (as they did in the 2012 film) and actually lend themselves to the story being told. One example of this comes in Peter Parker stalling a few henchmen in a hallway. The tone is serious enough to create a lurking sense of danger for both Peter and those around him.
With a total of three villains presented in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, one might assume that it would suffer from the same overcrowding that killed SPIDER-MAN 3 (though that film also had many other problems contributing to its terrible quality). Rhino only appears for a total of about 5 minutes. Ironically, he was the villain I was looking most forward to seeing in action. I’m sure he’ll be back for some sequels, because Paul Giamatti is clearly having a blast as this Russian-accented thug. Electro and Green Goblin are the centerpiece bad guys of the story. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Electro (he’s one of the lesser villains in my eyes), but Jamie Foxx did a competent job playing him. The special effects are pretty good, but he does get cartoony in the big showdown (going as far as to play a dubstep version of the Itsy Bitsy Spider).
Finally on the evil side of things, there’s Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborne/Green Goblin. We’ve seen this villain before portrayed by both William Dafoe and James Franco. Let it be known that I consider DeHaan’s Goblin to be far superior to either of the previous incarnations seen in Raimi’s trilogy. The motivations driving what eventually becomes Spider-Man’s biggest nemesis make complete sense and I loved where they went with Harry’s turn into the psychotic Goblin. The molding of this character contained some of the best scenes in the entire film, though this isn’t to discredit the competent handling of Electro as well.
As to be expected Andrew Garfield has become a lot more comfortable in the skin of Peter Parker and the suit of Spider-Man. He inhabits the character fully this time around. Emma Stone has great chemistry with him and the complicated relationship is done in a fashion that’s worth paying attention to. This didn’t feel like filler in the slightest, but an integral piece of the story. Some ballsy moves are made near the end that might propel the entire franchise into a brand new world for the web-slinger (there is serious build up for the Sinister Six, which have been announced to appear in a future film).
The noticeable irks came in some silly looking effects (near video game graphics) in the final showdown between Spidey and Electro. There are a couple of eye-rolling moments in some failed comedy relief, but only a handful this time around. I didn’t completely believe how pieces of the mystery around Peter’s absent parents were revealed. One of the most ridiculous scenes of exposition is featured in an entirely unnecessary stretch that felt like the filmmakers were trying to cram a little too much into this sequel. However, these flaws can be easily forgiven due to just how good everything else winds up being.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 does what many (including myself) weren’t quite expecting. It’s a superhero movie that mixes realistic teenage angst into the traditional comic book formula and does it very well. The villains were far better than the schlocky Lizard. There was clearly more heart/creativity thrown into this sequel and its way more exciting/interesting than the 2012 reboot. This is solid superhero entertainment. Will it be the best comic book movie of the year? Not even close (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is leagues better than this), but it’s a highly enjoyable ride! Well worth the price of admission!