-MAJOR SPOILERS FOR The AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and minor spoilers for The Amazing Spider-Man 2-
Plot: Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), has to tackle new villains while surviving a complicated relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). He is also determined to find the secret behind his parents’ death. And get to work/school/life on time.
Spider-Man is back to battle bad guys and have love issues. While the 2012 reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man divided critics and audiences alike, I generally enjoyed it. It was flawed but it definitely shined a lot in other areas. Its sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, follows suit. It has a lot of really good moments and other things that just were poor in execution. I found more problems with this one than I did with the first, but overall, I think I enjoyed this one more for a couple of reasons.
Now first things first: Andrew Garfield. He IS Spider-Man to me at this point. After having witnessed him completely floor me with his performance in the 2012 tale, here he gets to ramp up all elements of being Spidey. When he is in the suit he’s a wisecracking jokester, and that element crosses over into his Peter, who shows a bit more confidence here as HE SHOULD. That’s one aspect of Peter that the Sam Raimi films completely missed. For everything that did fail in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (which I’ll get to, and it wasn’t a whole lot), Garfield really impressed me so much.
And his chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen is still perfect. You buy them as a couple. Does it help they are dating in real life? Oh yeah. But they are wonderful together. And she embodies Gwen very well. Also, she’s not afraid to help her guy and she’s strong-willed. These are character traits that make her stand out and she’s not just a damsel in distress. She can hold her own.
Her father’s death in the first film is brought back here to haunt Peter, a factor that I did appreciate. It shows how Peter has grown from cocky school kid to an adult, as he realizes that having the superhero life has cost him a friend and could cost him the love of his life. So the relationship between Gwen and Peter is very rocky but the whole “on again, off again” aspect is fine here because they have sparks, the two, they should be together.
When Peter is not dealing with Gwen and her surrounding life, he’s out patrolling the streets as the wallcrawler, and let me tell you, the “animated” Spider-Man moves fantastically. These parts of the rebooted series are undoubtedly my favorite. It’s as if the webhead lept off the page, and with Garfield’s voice-over, it just is a seamless blend. And I love how the camera “moves” with Spidey. You get the sensation of being there with him. I was really nervous going into this movie because of all the bad press but as soon as you see Spider-Man leap into action (probably 10 minutes into the film), I was grinning like a 5 year old.
That enthusiasm came and went though. The first 45 minutes of the movie move pretty well and then all of a sudden it comes to a screeching halt. All of sudden, Peter needs to know about his parents. Ugh, enough of this already. The last movie handled it poorly and this one concludes it with information that we already know. Could’ve easily just dropped it altogether and I wouldn’t have cared.
Now let’s talk bad guys. Early in the movie, we are introduced to Max Dillion (Jamie Foxx), a nerdy Oscorp employee who Spider-Man happens to rescue one day. Max becomes alive at the idea of people noticing him, and since the friendly neighborhood superhero came to his aid, he becomes creepily obsessed with him. It’s weird, but thankfully we don’t dote on that aspect too long.
Anyway at work one day Max becomes victim to a tragic accident which turn him into this pulsating blue freak who can shoot electricity from his hands and visualize power running throughout the city, kind of like how Neo could see the Matrix after becoming “The One.” Max is confused at his new power, and when Spidey comes to check him out, Max becomes angry how Spider-Man is being paid attention to via media and not him. Before long Max is whisked away to be studied so hey, let’s introduce a new character in the meantime!
Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), son of Oscorp owner Norman (Chris Cooper) comes home to see his father who is dying. He tells his son that it’s hereditary, so Harry must search for a cure. Peter comes to see him since they are old friends, and Harry requests that Peter get Spidey because he believes elements of his blood can cure him. When Spidey shows up and says no, Harry’s anger leads him into a downward spiral. He seeks out Max (now known as Electro) for his help so the two can take down Spidey together.
Ok, plot synopsis mode off, review mode on. First off, I like DeHaan as Harry. He’s creepy but in a balanced sense. It makes you buy his descent into madness. He and Garfield were actually a perfect match to play friends, I thought they worked really well together. And his Green Goblin design was way better than anything before it, so that’s a plus. However he spends little time as the villain in this movie, so they could’ve waited until the next movie to really show him off.
As for Electro…sigh. I wanted to like him SO bad. Electro is my favorite Spider-Man villain; I just love the concept of him. His origin was different and it worked within the atmosphere fine. But the stalker angle, the “woe is me” concept…it came off weak. To me his anger towards Spider-Man is really just plain out of nowhere. His design, however, is really cool. He looked fascinating, like a Dr. Manhattan that you could see the nervous system of. And his battle with Spider-Man at the near end of the movie is a blast to watch. It’s sad that the villain didn’t have more draw as far as sympathy. He overall felt one dimensional.
The end of the movie is supposed to signal the start of something big for the future of the franchise. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the end frames already. Let me just say that I don’t know how I feel about the incorporation of this character into these movies. He’s a bit too over the top for me, better left to the pages of a graphic novel.
The score by Hans Zimmer is also blah. Where he’s been so good with Man of Steel or Nolan’s Batman, here he completely misses the mark. Electro’s theme (which you can hear during Max’s first foray out into the open as he toys with his powers) is so cartoony and just a mess. Also there’s no defining theme for Spidey, which I didn’t like.
Well, now my thoughts are all out there, so let’s sum up. Garfield is perfect. Stone is perfect. They are perfect together. Also Sally Field (as Aunt May) has more to do which is nice; I liked her a lot more here. I could’ve done without the whole “discovery of Peter’s parents” angle. Dane’s Harry is good but rushes to become a bad guy, not allowing enough time to develop the friendship between him and Peter. Foxx is fine as Electro but his character is not developed well enough. The designs of both bad guys are really well done. The score is meh. The ending sets up the next movie but the character involved is questionable. The special effects are amazing.
Overall, there was a LOT more about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that I liked compared to what I didn’t like. The biggest strength of the movie was how well Spider-Man as a character was developed. THIS feels like the best representation of Spidey-how he acts, moves, and swings. This is the superhero I’ve read in the books and seen on the pages. To me, that outshines a lot of what fell flat. The movie isn’t flawless, but I think folks are being too hard on it. It’s definitely enjoyable and I had a blast with it.