Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Still spectacular, but not superior
Early on I was afraid for this film – with every announcement of another character being added to the movie’s mix becoming another potentially convoluted dramatic layer – and sure enough, at 142 minutes, director Marc Webb has created a film that oozes superfluous storylines like a leaky web cartridge. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 still offers some spectacular action sequences, but its out-of-control narrative is far from being superior to the first film.
One has to admit that it is, in fact, “amazing” that we have become so accustomed to state-of-the-art superhero flicks that a movie like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can make you say, “Meh.” But in this case, it isn’t because of the cool effects and Spidey-action (which is awesome), it’s because of all the sleep-inducing filler you have to sit through to get to the pertinent parts.
Did Sony try to cram everything they possibly could into one film just to secure copyrights to the Spider-Man cadre of characters, or did they really think that the quantity would somehow increase the quality of their product? Either way it was a dumb move that probably caused more harm than good for their prized franchise. Nevertheless, let’s get down to it.
Note that I’m going to try to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, not only because I wouldn’t want to ruin anything for you, but also because I’ve been sworn to secrecy, with the threat of having my mouth and fingers webbed shut should I break my vow. (I’ll likely return to the subject of ASM2 in couple of weeks to cover the film in more detail.)
Before I delve further into the negative zone, let’s talk about what I loved about this movie (which is a lot.) The opening Spidey-sequence alone is worth the price of admission, as our hero free falls out of the Manhattan skyline, homemade Spidey-suit flapping in the breeze, slinging a web at the last second to catapult himself into action as he tracks down a truck careening recklessly through the city, driven by one Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti), who comic-fans know as “The Rhino.”
The opening battle is pure Spider-Man as the comic comes to life on the big screen with the hero’s super-abilities and affable sense-of-humor perfectly captured. I’ll watch this movie again and again just to enjoy the thrill of seeing my childhood hero so completely realized as he is in this sequence.
I love Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and as Spider-Man (together with whoever is actually acting behind the mask when it’s not Garfield), and he does a great job again in this movie (although, if you are listening closely, his British accent bleeds through on a couple of occasions – file under “Minor Complaints.”)
The basic story in ASM 2 involves Peter Parker graduating from High School while still dealing with the loss of his parents, reveling in his life as Spider-Man, struggling in his unsanctioned relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and going up against “new” villains like Electro (Jamie Foxx), Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper) and Oscorp, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) as the Green Goblin, Harry’s assistant, Felicia (Felicity Jones) [Is this the Felicia Hardy that fan’s know?], the mysterious Mr. Fierce, and the aforementioned Rhino. Again, it’s a lot to cram into one film.
There are several action sequences throughout the film and they are all very good, it’s the excessive filler in-between that is not up to par. ASM 2 needs a serious edit (I understand they did, mercifully, cut out scenes with Shailene Woodley as Mary-Jane) to make it a much better film. I’m one-hundred percent for some creative character development, and we get a little of that, but the non-action material is mostly just wasted time.
Electro is the showcased baddie in this film, but his revised origin made him seem like a cartoonish Joel Schumacher Batman movie reject. Jamie Foxx is an Oscar-winning actor and his talents are completely wasted in this melodramatic role. The poor guy must have felt like he was back on the set of In Living Color instead of what could have been a classy superhero movie. Very disappointing.
Dane DeHaan does a decent job as Harry Osborn, but his character also gets placed in some ridiculous situations, like when he single-handedly takes out some Oscorp security guards (as a pre-super-powered rich kid.) The team of writers for the ASM 2 screenplay seems to be content with getting their characters from point A to B by whatever means necessary – logic be damned.
Another misstep in this film is Spidey’s relationship with the police. The only NYPD cop in this story that seems to have an issue with the hero is Captain Stacy’s ghost (Denis Leary). In fact, the cops seem to be working in conjunction with the wall-crawler; which is completely out of alignment with the Spider-Man mythos.
Although Aleksei Sytsevich appears at the beginning of the movie, Rhino fans (and Paul Giamatti fans) will be disappointed at the misguided villain’s lack of screen time and character development. Sytsevich’s unique and colorful comic book origin is completely overlooked, and the Rhino appears mostly as a set-up for the next movie (which allegedly will be The Sinister Six, with six of Spidey’s biggest villains at once.)
[By the way, my theory is that Mr. Fierce will turn out to be “Kraven the Hunter” in The Sinister Six film – and I want a dang no-prize if I’m right!]
The climactic battle with Electro is intermingled with inane sub-plots that involve a potential airplane disaster and Aunt May (Sally Field) trying to save lives during a power outage at the hospital. Again, it’s just irrelevant filler that should have been edited out of the movie in order to make it a much tighter story.
Much ado has been made regarding rapper Pharrell Williams teaming with Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack of this movie, but for me the unorthodox collaboration broke the cardinal rule of movie music by being a distraction from the action. A least one action sequence plays like a music video, with music I really wasn’t enjoying, and their heavy-handed audio-experiment nearly ruined the all the fun.
So this review may seem like I was completely unhappy with the film, but I really can’t get into many of the things I did like, for fear of spoiling. Overall I did enjoy this film, and there are great parts that easily outweigh the bad. To be clear, it has problems, but I still wouldn’t miss it for the world. Grade: 7.5/10
Photos © 2014 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.