Culture Magazine

Movie Review – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

By Manofyesterday

Director: Marc Webb

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Sally Field, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 follows on from the previous film. Peter Parker (Garfield) is now a little older and on the cusp of graduation, yet after the events of the last film he’s still haunted by the promise he made to Captain Stacy. While he struggles with his feelings for Gwen (Stone) and tries to reconcile Spider-Man’s place in Peter Parker’s life, his childhood friend Harry Osborn (DeHaan) returns to spend time with his ailing father. Also introduced is Max Dillon (Foxx), Spider-Man’s #1 fan (hey, he’s not, I am!) who takes his obsession a little too far, but when he’s involved in an accident at Oscorp he’s given powers, and Spider-Man has a new foe to deal with, Electro.

I’m a huge Spider-Man nut so it would have to be really bad for me not to like it. However, I don’t think either of these two films have lived up to their name, and I’ll get to why a bit later. But let’s start with this film first. I actually thought it was pretty cool. Sadly I knew most of the main beats going in because I had been following the promos and also the film has some very heavy and blatant foreshadowing early on, and this continues through the film. I think there should have been a little more nuance shown and the script lets it down a little bit. That said there is a lot to like as well.

Garfield once again is a great Spider-Man/Peter Parker, and the chemistry between him and Emma Stone is phenomenal. They really work well together and I wish there was more focus given to their romance. In the first film I thought it was glossed over too much but here there are more moments where we’re shown that they love each other rather than having to infer it. I enjoyed Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon as well, I liked the motivations behind his character and I thought he gave Electro some pathos. The same can be said of Dane DeHaan. I really enjoyed him in Chronicle and he gave a great turn as Harry. I think the quality of the acting elevates the story here and they’ve really hit it lucky so far. Sally Field, however, was shortchanged as Aunt May and there were only a couple of her scenes that actually had relevance to the story. I also thought that Paul Giamatti was completely miscast and overacting to the point of distraction.

As for the story, well, I liked that it continued the thread from the first film of him trying to find the truth behind his parent’s disappearance. However, I feel like the resolution was a little lackluster. I was also a little disappointed that they didn’t make any reference to Spider-Man trying to track down Uncle Ben’s killer either. However, I do like how they’re tying a lot of things into Oscorp and there were plenty of references that will tease and delight fans of the comics. The main storyline they adapted for this film is one of my favourites from the comics and for the most part it lived up to it, and I do give credit to the filmmakers for not taking the easy way out.

The strength of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is almost entirely in the visuals though. Electro’s powers are incredibly to watch and they married to a soundtrack which perfectly complements the visuals. There were some scenes that were truly breathtaking and it felt like sensory overload at some points. My favorite part of the soundtrack was when Electro first comes out into the world and we hear some heavy breathing and whispers, but at first we can’t make it out. They gradually become clearer and it helps to give insight into the thought process of Electro as we realize what he’s hearing. I was really, really impressed with the soundtrack and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves.

The camera work was excellent again. I’ve been very impressed by the technical skills of Marc Webb in these two films. He really gives a sense of what it’s like to see the world as Spider-Man sees it and the fight scenes have a lot of impact and dynamism as well. There were also a few emotional moments that were handled delicately, so there was a good balance between the shifting tones.

Yet despite all that it was lacking in some respects. There were a few little nitpicks I have. One is to do with the institute in which Electro is held. He’s being examined by a German scientist with crazy hair who listens to opera. A mad German scientist. Seriously? I don’t know whether that was supposed to be a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor but it seemed so clichéd and ridiculous. It wasn’t even an important character in the grand scheme of things but it was so over-the-top it left me shaking my head. Another part is something that a few movies do, at one point Spider-Man has to shout to Gwen to do something, but the problem is that she’s inside behind glass while he’s a fair way away and there’s a lot of crackling going on around him. There’s no way she would have been able to hear him from that distance and it’s just another sign of the laziness that’s apparent in the script. And this leads to the biggest criticism…

It’s a problem I had with the first movie as well, and it’s that everything seems to rushed. There’s never time for anything to settle so the more emotional moments get lost because there hasn’t been any suitable build-up. The characters are never allowed to breathe and develop organically, it’s always moving forward forward forward and there isn’t any real context given to the small moments. These films will obviously be compared to the earlier Sam Raimi trilogy, and while I can appreciate them on their own merits I think a comparison is worthwhile. The main difference I see is in the phrase ‘all flash, no substance,’ These films seem big on the flash, they love the action and the energy of Spider-Man and they want to try and cram a lot in. With the Raimi trilogy they had a clearer idea of what themes they wanted to explore and as a result they were able to reach deeper emotional levels. That’s sadly lacking from these films.

That being said I do think this incarnation of Spider-Man has a lot going for it. Garflied is great as Peter, I think the casting has been great all across the board and I’m glad they have the origin out of the way so they can forge a new path, and I quite like the seeds they have sown in this film. The dynamic directing is a big plus and the action ensures that the film is an entertaining spectacle. There’s a lot to like here and I fully enjoyed it. I came out feeling happy and entertained, and for a large part I had a smile spread across my face. However, I do think they need to get a better writer and spend more time on setting out a clear theme because at the moment it’s not able to transcend into the realms of great films and it’s a shame because they draw on some really powerful material. It’s good, it’s fun, I enjoyed it, but it just doesn’t have that sense of staying power. I think they need to look hard at the franchise and raise their game because with the glut of superhero films coming out now they can’t afford to rest on their laurels.

Speaking of other superhero films, there is a mid-credits scene in this one but strangely it’s a clip from X-Men: Days of Future Past, which was incredibly odd considering they’re not even made by the same studio. I’d have much preferred something relevant to Spider-Man.

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