Just when you thought Spider-Man’s (Andrew Garfield) problems couldn’t get any bigger, it does, and I don’t mean just the appearance of new villains, relationships, secrets, etc. The true villain of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lies within the story itself, and it has become abundantly clear that trying to replicate the very successful Marvel Studios formula will ultimately end up with either a very generic replication or a very poor copy of the original formula. Despite the film taking the same missteps as before, director Marc Webb made the most of whatever sorry excuse of a script he was given, and used his awesome signature visuals to sweep the story under the rug. Hit the jump to read our review.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 continues the adventures of Peter Parker as he tries to navigate through the life of being a superhero and the life of a high school graduate. He still has very strong feelings for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), despite the promise he made to her father (Denis Leary) to keep her out of his superhero life in order to keep her safe. But Peter’s new-found loneliness is only temporary as Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns home. But that comes with its own set of problems as he is now in control of OsCorp, his father’s, Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper), dying corporation. He also learns that he has genetically inherited the same disease that is killed his father, and the only available cure can come from Spider-Man’s blood.
Unlike the Sam Raimi films, Webb’s Spider-Man embraces the titular persona. The webslinging is an absolute sight to behold, its almost as if those same Spider-Man comic book pages you flipped through as a kid are finally coming to life on the big screen. The way Spider-Man moves as he swings and slings from web to web is even more fluid than before. The chemistry between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker is just as charming on an emotional level, with the two’s affection for each other being as clear as day. And he isn’t afraid to quip a few one-liners to the criminals of New York, no matter how low they are. So it is really refreshing to see a Spider-Man that comic book fans grew up with.
The heart of the problem lies in Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman‘s script, which seems to be focused on setting up exposition that it forgets how close it, turn the page, and move on. In fact the film is so exposition driven that it is setting up sequels and spinoff films simply by filling up the film’s empty space with Easter Eggs that have no connection to anyone but to those who are familiar with the comic book or very subtle name drops that, again, have no meaning unless you’ve read the comics. We start to see that these films try to appear to be cohesive using Parker as the connective thread but ultimately end up feeling more episodic than anything else.
Orci and Kurtzman’s script feel so empty and vapid, like almost all of their scripts before. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can best be described as style over substance, with only Peter and Gwen having any actual character development. In fact, the script doesn’t even offer us a reason to feel sympathetic to any of the characters other than Peter and Gwen, and whenever you get those sparkling moments of the lovely pair, Orci and Kurtzman find a way to undercut it all with even more exposition or unnecessary reason to dive into an action sequence.
Buried in all of the style over substance aftermath are the new characters introduced in the film. Max Dillion aka Electro (Jamie Foxx) is an unappreciated and sheepish OsCorp employee who has had his work uncredited for. He falls under this delusional spell that he finally amounts to something only after he is saved by Spider-Man after nearly being killed by a car chase caused by a Russian mercenary (Paul Giamatti). Because of this, he believes he has a relationship with the webslinger that goes beyond a personal level. Forced to work overtime on his own birthday, Max fails to fix a power line, and falls into a tank of genetically enhanced electric eels. This results in him becoming the powerful Electro, who can manipulate electricity at will. But his crazed fandom towards Spider-Man suddenly turns into hatred and jealousy when he discovers that the city of New York prefers the Webhead over him.
DeHaan is a nice addition to the cast. He brings that rich kid with swagger but can’t live up to his father’s expectation presence to the film. It may come off as a bit whiny at first, but honestly, it isn’t Dehaan’s fault. The actor does what he can with the limited amount of material he is given. But you really don’t get a sense that these two are friends who haven’t seen each other in ten years. The fact that Harry was hardly mentioned, if mentioned at all, in the first film doesn’t help the audience feel like they are friends. And don’t blink, otherwise you’ll miss Felicity Jones as Felicia, Harry’s assistant.
What is so troubling about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is that the film is repeating those same mistakes as the first one by giving us empty promises. It makes The Amazing Spider-Man 2 less amazing that it sounds, and probably even less amazing than the first. The heavy exposition, and the number of subplots that is being forced feed are even more terrifying than the villains themselves. As a result we are forced to endure the film trying to resolve everything at once in its overly taxing 141 minute runtime. It soon becomes obvious that the film is bloated and bit off more than it can chew.
But all of this comes off as Sony is trying to keep the franchise character to themselves by building their own cinematic universe. In doing so, they are introducing a plethora of stories and characters that are going unnoticed and are all connected by threads of the same color. There is hardly any consistency, which is one giant tonal mess. The teenage soap drama and the comedy are common themes for the Spider-Man character, and Garfield does a great job with it, but it is consistently uprooted by subplots.
There is a few bright sides to all of this to go along with the Peter and Gwen relationship, with Hans Zimmer and Pharrell William‘s score being one of them. The music soars as you see Spider-Man do his heroic deeds, and it glimmers as you see Peter and Gwen share those tender moments. But one of the weakest parts of the score is Electro theme’s, which sounds almost like an unbearable electric rave track/chant. Still, I’m willing to over look that considering Zimmer and William’s extensive resume in the music business. Even with some of those weak points in the score, Webb manages to redeem it all with a great use of songs like Phosphorescent‘s Song For Zula.
Another thing to look forward to are the the action sequences. Yes the Matrix slo-mo sequence may be a bit played out, but to see the how Electro’s powers work in Time Square and how Spider-Man saved the innocent was actually quite impressive. There will be times though where the action may be a bit dizzying, but only if you are watching it in 3D.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 some how manages to be a visual spectacle but a major bore at the same time. It could have been a much better film, especially with Marc Webb at the helm. I had hoped that a lot of the problems in the first film would be fixed in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but Orci and Kurtzman’s script seems to add even more problems rather than resolve them. I’m actually interested to see how much more of a train wreck this franchise can become considering that the film has gone from simply crashing to crashing and burning.