Film Review | The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Freed from the burden of a seen-it-all-before origin story, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a marked improvement from its predecessor and gets more right than it does wrong, but it is still unworthy of its title.
After a flashback gives us more details on Peter Parker’s parents (more on that later), the narrative picks up from where the first left off. Peter (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) are very much in love, but Peter is still haunted by the promise he made to Gwen’s Father to stay away from her. Elsewhere, an industrial accident sees Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) transform into dangerous villain Electro, whilst Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) re-emerges with secrets of his own.
That the film starts off on a serious, touching note before diving straight in to Spider-Man in hero mode is just one example of the sequel’s constantly shifting tone. Even before you factor in the now typical setting up for the next instalment there’s a lot to juggle, with villains to introduce and relationships to develop. For the first hour or so returning director Marc Webb handles the task capably, but it eventually gets away from him as plot strands are picked up and dropped, or alternatively hurried. A prime example of this is the sub-plot regarding Peter’s parents; we get a more satisfying chunk of the mystery, but it’s not intertwined with other parts of the narrative as well as it could be. After a huge info drop mid-film, it’s barely touched on again.
For all the various tones The Amazing Spider-Man 2 inhabits, it embraces the comic book ambiance more than any other superhero film in recent times. Whilst this does mean that we get arguably the best comic-to-film translation of the titular character yet – due in no small part to Garfield’s superb turn – this is also the source of some problems. There is dialogue which feels directly lifted from the pages of a comic (and not in a good way), the villain has a secret folder called ‘Special Projects’ (seriously?), and there is heavy foreshadowing throughout for both events in the film and future instalments. At times, it’s hard not to feel that a reining in of the script was sorely needed.
It’s the action which has seen the most evident improvement. As feared, far too much has been revealed in the myriad of trailers, extended TV spots, and clips leading up to release. However, the numerous set pieces are both exciting and entertaining – Spidey’s signature wit and unique abilities have been effectively captured – and in Electro the film has a striking visual effect. A legitimate argument could be made as to how much damage a superhero can take before being seriously hurt, but this feels like a nit-pick in what is otherwise a strong helping of superhero spectacle. Furthermore, the aesthetic is far more visually accomplished than the first, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 also has a strong claim to having the best use of 3D in a superhero film. To that end, web-slinging has never looked better, and the return of first person camera angles only accentuates the thrill factor.
In his second turn as our eponymous hero Garfield once again delivers a pitch-perfect performance. Whether the mask is on or off his charisma radiates off the screen, and this time round he’s clearly revelling in portraying Spider-Man’s gleeful cockiness. Another positive from the first that is even better in the sequel is the delightful chemistry between Garfield and Stone, and their synergy makes the heavy-handedness of the script forgivable.
In a movie that’s nearly 150 minutes long, it’s telling of the poor plotting that the villains of the piece could have done with more time to flesh out their characters. DeHaan ultimately fares better than Foxx (who is saddled with the bulk of the film’s cringeworthy dialogue), and his performance gives the motivations behind Harry’s fall from grace added complexity.
Its various plot strands don’t always mesh together well, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a confident and at times very enjoyable superhero sequel that leaves you hopeful, if not especially excited, for what comes next.
This review was originally published at This is Fake DIY.
Great review, Amon. Caught this one yesterday. I loved the previous film and I don’t think this one was as good. Garfield, Stone and Field are great, so are the visuals and the action, but the dialog was horrid and I definitely wasn’t feeling the villains.
April 18, 2014 at 3:17 pm
Thanks! And agreed on all counts (except for liking the first one. I was underwhelmed). I enjoyed Spidey’s wit, but the dialogue for the villains (particularly Electro) was really bad at points. That monologue was awful!
April 18, 2014 at 3:43 pm
Ugh, I know. It was cringe-worthy, and sometimes Batman-&-Robin bad.
April 18, 2014 at 4:00 pm