The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Posted: April 20, 2014 in Film reviews
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Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan.

Since the events of The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker’s alter ego has become a familiar sight around New York City, although not everyone loves the web slinging vigilante. Peter (Garfield) is also struggling to balance his crime fighting with his romance with Gwen Stacy (Stone) and the film opens with Spider-Man battling a group of Russian mobsters led by a lunatic played by Paul Giamatti, and as a result of the battle he almost misses his own graduation, and does miss Gwen’s speech.

Peter is also increasingly bothered by visions of Gwen’s Father, Captain George Stacy, reminding him of his promise to stay away from Gwen. Concerned that his duel life as Spider-Man will put her in danger, Peter decides to end their relationship.

Meanwhile Max Dillon (Foxx), a timid electrical engineer working for Oscorp industries becomes obsessed with Spider-Man after he rescues Max. Meek and practically invisible to those around him Max’s life changes when an accident at work transforms him into an electricity wielding villain named Electro. After an early encounter, Max’s adoration for Spider-Man quickly becomes twisted into hatred.

As well as dealing with Electro, Peter also has to deal with his old friend Harry Osborn, who’s returned to helm the family business in the wake of his father’s death. Harry has inherited his father’s degenerative illness, and becomes obsessed with the notion that only Spider-Man’s blood can save him.

As Peter Parker’s double life becomes increasingly complicated, the disparate strands of its spider like web converge, leaving him to face his greatest challenge as Spider-Man.

I was a big fan of the amazing Spider-Man when it came out a few years ago. I understood the issues people had with it, another version of Spidey so soon after Spider-Man 3. A replay of the origin story and a weak final act featuring a limply realised Lizard. What I loved about it beyond all of this came down to the realisation of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. As much as I enjoyed the Raimi films (particularly the second one) I never quite felt like Spider-Man was being done justice. Maguire never quite felt like a good fit as either Peter or Spider-Man, too often the fight scenes looked too much like computer game fights, and Spidey’s wisecracking humour seemed lacking. Suddenly Andrew Garfield took on the mantle and, to me at least, it felt like both Peter and Spidey were being done right. Sure you can make an argument that Garfield is a little too cool to be Peter, but even so it’s a geeky, akward kind of cool, which works just as well as making him a complete nerd. With Emma Stone playing a believable Gwen, and the casting of legends Martin Sheen and Sally Field to play Uncle Ben and Aunt May, however disappointing the film might have been in the final analysis, I felt it bode well for a sequel.

Well, lame title aside, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 retains the spot on characterisation, only this time the rest of the film lives up to the performances of Garfield et al.

It’s hard to imagine now that Garfield was one of multiple actors who auditioned for the role, because he seems so perfect it’s hard to imagine anyone else was ever in the running. His Peter Parker is both cocky and self-conscious at the same time, clumsy and dextrous, and even his wisecracking comes across as a nervous attempt to handle his own fears rather than the kind of cocky, for the hell of it quipping you’d get from a character like Bond. It really is an adroit teenage performance from an actor who’s well past his teenage years.

Stone is superb once more as Gwen. She may not have superpowers, but she’s no weak damsel in distress, she’s a woman who makes her own choices, and isn’t afraid to put herself in harm’s way. When Peter decides to end their relationship early on she takes ownership of the situation by finishing with him first. Garfield and Stone’s chemistry is so good it’s no surprise they’ve become a couple in real life.

Foxx is great as Electro, even if he doesn’t quite convince as the geeky Max Dillon, and his shift from adoring fan of Spidey to sworn enemy makes perfect sense. Yes he does start out looking a little like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, before later morphing into something more like Dr Manhattan from Watchmen, but he is a powerful foe, infinitely more dangerous than The Lizard, and his high voltage battles with Spider-Man are great to see.

DeHaan is equally good as Harry Osborne, coming across like an extremely geeky Leonardo Dicaprio with a dash of Mark Hamill and a sprinkling of Evil Eddie from Fright Night, a sprinkling that becomes more evident as the film progresses and his character undergoes some radical changes.

Yes the film is too long, with far too many plot strands, and you do feel it could have benefited from losing at least ten minutes. Whilst relevant to the plot a lot of the Richard/Mary Parker stuff could have been achieved in less time. There’s an argument that there are too many villains, but this isn’t Spider-Man 3, Electro is the main threat, and the Green Goblin is really being set up for a future instalment. As for Rhino…yeah he’s a bit rubbish, but then even in the comics he always was, and he does serve an important plot function. You could argue that the notion that many of Spider-Man’s future foes will be born from Oscorp’s Special Projects division is a bit of a misstep, and the series really does need a J Jonah Jameson, although maybe they don’t think they can better JK Simmon’s spot on portrayal in the Raimi films? Maybe they should just hire him?

Much as I enjoy Marvel’s output, and liked last year’s rebooted Superman, and the Nolan/Bale reality grounded Batman series, there’s something refreshing about Spider-Man, a character for whom many of the battles he faces are quite mundane ones, a hero who doesn’t have the benefit of near invulnerability like Superman or Thor, who isn’t a billionaire like Batman or Iron Man, Peter Parker is just an everyday teenager trying to wrestle with everyday problems; money and romance, albeit a character who also has to face superpowered villains into the bargain.

This is definitely a big screen watch, and the long lingering shots as we follow Spidey, costume rippling in the wind, swinging through the streets are exhilarating, though we never lose sight that there is a real person behind the mask, with a real heart beating behind the Spider symbol on his chest.

Funny, exciting, and genuinely heart-breaking, the real truth is that this isn’t actually Amazing at all…it’s Spectacular!

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