In the second of the rebooted Spider-Man series, Andrew Pollard gives his review of the newest release. But does the film live up to the hype?
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, Chris Cooper
Release Date: Out Now (UK), 2nd May in the US
The second of Sony’s rebooted Spider-Man series, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 sees director Marc Webb return to continue the story of Peter Parker (Garfield). As the film opens, Peter is in his element as Spider-Man. Fighting criminals, swinging through New York, and saving the day are very much the norm for our beloved Wallcrawler. After socially-awkward Max Dillon (Foxx) has a chance encounter with the ‘amazing’ Spider-Man, the electrically-minded employee of Oscorp feels as if all of his Christmases have come at once just because Spidey knew his name. When a horrible accident gives Dillon the power to manipulate and conduct huge levels of electricity, it isn’t long before the shy, stamped-upon Max takes a turn to the dark side, becoming the villainous Electro. Elsewhere, whilst Peter is having the moral dilemma of whether to still be with ‘one true’ Gwen Stacy (Stone) or to obey her dying father’s wishes, Parker’s once best friend Harry Osborn (DeHaan) returns to Oscorp to see his terminally-ill father, Norman (Cooper).
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a simply stunning opening. What we get to see is Spider-Man in his purest, simplest, flawed and talented form. It is often mind-blowing to see Webhead swinging through the skyline of NYC, complete with vertigo-inducing shots from Spider-Man’s POV. Long-time fans will find the movement, verve and poise of this Spider-Man to be very reminiscent of the comic book work of Todd McFarlane, giving the Wallcrawler an expressive, angled, fluid grace. This is highlighted early on when Spidey goes up against petty crook Aleksei Sytsevich (Giamatti). Again, Spider-fans will notice this name as the alias of the brutish Rhino. Away from the red and blue costume, the Peter Parker element of the character is having to deal with graduation and the unravelling of his parents’ past.
So, given the great opening, why does The Amazing Spider-Man 2 end up feeling like a disappointment? I always try and put a positive angle on near-enough every film I see, but sometimes you simply cannot paper over the cracks of what deep down you know is a massively-flawed and hollow film. I never thought I would say it, but this latest Spider-Man outing left me feeling dishevelled, disappointed and saddened. Maybe I’m going into it with too much attachment to the character of Spider-Man and his world. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe casual moviegoers will find The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a thrill ride. I don’t know. I’ll let you casual moviegoers decide on that.
Just why do I find such fault with The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Quite simply, if I was to pinpoint it, the movie feels awfully rushed and massively flawed. As a result of the rushed nature, actions of great consequence are left feeling non-consequential. The Spidey-sequel just tries too hard to cram too much into too little time. Not to say the movie is short – it runs at just over 2 hours – but so much of meaning and merit is brushed over and comes across as an afterthought. As sad as it makes me to say it, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just feels hollow. As Electro and the increasingly-insane Harry Osborn vie for the villain spotlight, it’s hard to see who the main villain of the piece is. It is possible to juggle multiple villains, but the way the pair are handled leaves them both feeling like side orders to a bigger dish. It does become quite clear that Harry Osborn is at the centre of all of this, but his third act demise into the Green Goblin moniker comes too late and too brief to really mark him as a huge villain that you would expect to see in such a film. Yes, his actions are heinous and dastardly, but even the results of these feel almost glossed over within the space of a few minutes.
If the mish-mash of villains, the ludicrously-flawed plot and the lack of substantial repercussions don’t put you off The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the movie’s soundtrack looks to finish the job. The actual orchestral score part of the soundtrack is very strong, but it has some truly awful ‘songs’ to accompany it. It’s almost as if the score is the intelligent brother to the shouty, in your face, annoying sibling that are these tunes. On the plus side, as mentioned, the opening moments are brilliant, and there are glimpses of that brilliance throughout. Maybe that’s why I feel so, so frustrated; there are moments of promise amongst the problems that the movie frequently unleashes. For instance, when Spider-Man is being Spider-Man – wall crawling, web spinning, athletic, fluid, funny, sarcastic, genuine, warm – the movie shines. The various moments where Spidey is swinging through the air had my jaw agape and my head struggling with motion sickness. The interactions between Peter Parker and the returning Aunt May (Field) felt sincere, emotional and very much in tone with the comic book relationship between the pair. And then there is Dane DeHaan’s portrayal of Harry Osborn.
For the most part, DeHaan is brilliant. He ticks so many of Harry’s boxes. He has the lithe, unsuspecting, almost weak, feel to his character, much like the classic comic book version of the character that has been played out for the last several decades. On the flip side, there’s always a sense of uneasy menace to him, resting behind his eyes and just waiting to unravel. It’s just a shame that his relationship with Peter is again something the feels rushed. We’re told that the pair are best friends, that’s rammed down our throats several times, but it never really feels that way because it’s just put out there and expected to be taken as a given. Again, too rushed. It would’ve felt fine if the relationship was established in this film and possibly the next, and left to breathe and air out for audiences. Similarly, just as this feels hard to swallow, so does the vastly-flawed subplot involving Richard and Mary Parker, Peter’s parents. And then there’s the far too hammed-up Rhino who feels like he’s stepped straight out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
As a spectacle, parts of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are fantastic to view. It’s just a shame that a film with such potential, that starts off on such a strong footing, gets assassinated by poor storytelling, a hugely-flawed plot, some horrific music choices, and the fact that some of the very serious events that go down in the film are seemingly brushed over and tossed aside as if they were a unwanted gherkin on a McDonalds cheeseburger. Yes, we see lots of things set up for future movies, but is it really worth rushing these things through at the expense of bastardising this movie and possibly causing fans to be disenchanted with this new franchise that is only in its infancy? Like I said earlier, maybe I’m just too connected to the Spider-Man character. And again, there are so many great moments of Spidey beingSpidey in this film, but it feels as if the powers that be decided to do as much as they could to tarnish that. Sadly, rather than a lovingly-prepared 5-course meal, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just ends up feeling like a glorified microwave meal. And trust me, true believer, it genuinely pains me to say that.