THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 swung into cinemas in early May and achieved financial success. It grossed $91 million domestically in its opening weekend alone. The public was crazy for it. Critics and hardcore Spider-Man fans like me… not so much. When I saw The Amazing Spider-Man back in 2012, I loved it. At the time, I even said that I liked it more than The Avengers. This was mainly due to hype, my love for Spider-Man, and the fashion in which the character was adapted. There was Andrew Garfield’s wise-cracking Peter Parker who also shocked me as being a terrific Spider-Man. I love Toby Maguire and he is Spider-Man to me, but that is only because he was there first. Andrew Garfield does an equally great job. Then I watched the movie a few more times and I realized that I didn’t like it as much as I said I did initially. The Lizard was hardly a good villain and certain elements of the film are unbelievable and over the top.
With that said, when I walked into the theater to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 back in May, I was worried. The marketing campaign did a terrible job and ended up showing every big scene (even the film’s closing shot) in the trailers. It also looked like it was going to suffer from “Spider-Man 3 Syndrome.” As expected, that does happen. Too many characters are introduced and it comes off as being a bit crowded. I can say one thing, though. It’s much better than Spider-Man 3.
This second installment picks up where the first left off and retains all of what made the first one work when it worked. Firstly, there is Andrew Garfield returning the role of Spider-Man. Garfield is one of my favorite young actors in the business today, and while I can say I don’t completely buy into his hipster clothing and slick hairstyle making him an outcast (as Tobey Maguire nailed), I do think that he does a tremendous job at bringing the personality and emotion to the character of Peter Parker. And he is perfect as Spidey. There is a scene early on in the film when he is confronting The Rhino (Paul Giamatti, having a hell of a time screaming in a Russian accent in five minutes of screen time) and his line delivery and personality really make him a believable Spider-Man. I really believe that if a high school graduate was putting on a costume and swinging around the city with his web shooters, he would have the on-top-of-the-world sassy attitude that Garfield captures perfectly.
But what is a Spider-Man movie without the villains? The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has an abundance of them. The first and central of them is Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx). He is introduced to the story as a bumbling buffoon of a character who is amped when Spider-Man saves him (think Jim Carrey’s Riddler in Batman Forever.) He misinterprets this as a kindling friendship and soon develops an obsession with the hero, only to fall into a pool of electric eels turning him into Electro. I will say this about Electro: he looks great. The Ultimate Spider-Man design of having him blue and sizzling with sparking electrical currents is really something to admire when seeing it on the screen. The scene where Electro causes a blackout in the middle of Times Square is one of the movie’s best moments as the music by Hans Zimmer and The Magnificent Six pulsates in the background. Electro has a downside, though, and that is the dialogue he is given. Some of his lines are very cheesy and unfortunately have a way of bringing the menace of his character down a few notches. But Jamie Foxx has fun in the role, and it’s nice to look at.
Also in the mix is Peter’s long lost friend Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan), whose character feels forced into the script just because they wanted to introduce a close character and another villain. Here’s the weird thing. Even though Electro is the central villain and Harry feels forced, it’s Osborne who is my favorite villain of the movie. Of course, if you’re reading this you already know he turns into the Green Goblin. And what a turn it is. I loved Dane DeHaan’s performance in this movie (as both Harry and the Goblin) and I think he may just be the second best villain in any Spider-Man movie right before Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2.
There is of course one thing I haven’t mentioned yet and that is because I think it is the best thing this movie has going for it (and the first movie for that matter), and that is the relationship between Peter and Gwen. Which isn’t a shocker given that (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb (what better name to helm a Spider-Man movie?) is behind the camera. In all honesty, it’s the dramatic and emotional pull behind the performances of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone that make these movies above average. These two actors really commit, but it’s Webb who is pulling the strings. He gets romance, and saying that the romantic interplay between the two leads is the best aspect of a Spider-Man movie may be a bad thing, but I find it reason enough to keep coming back. And how about the finale of the movie? The yellow poster teased fans that knew what was coming, but I don’t think anyone expected the brutality of Gwen’s death. It made me, and most of the theater for that matter, audibly gasp. The following emotion displayed by Andrew Garfield isn’t a cakewalk either. It’s a testament to great dramatic acting and the tear jerking power superhero movies can have.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t a great superhero movie and it comes nowhere near being as good as the other comic book movies we’ve gotten this year, but there are still things about it that make it impressive. The visual flare of the film is astonishing. From the scenes of Spidey swinging from the New York skyscrapers to the wonderful look of Electro’s blue radiance, the movie never fails to look shiny. The script is clunky is the story is lackluster, but DeHaan’s Goblin and the interplay between Garfield and Stone make the movie worth accepting. It doesn’t rank with the great releases in the official Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s an above average superhero movie that manages to get some things right. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Chris Cooper, Paul Giamatti
Writers: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkne
Director: Marc Webb