The first Amazing Spider-Man failed to live up to the “Amazing” in its title. But while it wasn’t perfect, it certainly had potential to become something great. Like with most superhero franchises, there’s always a promise of better stories once the origin is out of the way. Despite some troubling advertising the last few months (the barrage of trailers, the announcement of yearly sequels and spin-offs), I still found myself looking forward to the The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
When done in an amazing, spectacular, or superior fashion, Spider-Man movies could be the best comic book films out there. More so than any other superhero, Peter Parker is relatable. He’s just a goofy guy who’s in way over his head sometimes. And the same thing can be said of this movie.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is in way over its head. When power is handled irresponsibly, you get a fun but awkward web of a film.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Director: Marc Webb
Release Date: May 2, 2014
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 takes place several years after the first film with Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) getting ready to graduate high school. Spider-Man is a better known hero across New York, and has earned himself a few fans. One in particular, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), was saved one day and became a superfan overnight. After an accident gives Max electric powers, he dubs himself “Electro” and threatens to destroy New York. While all of this is going on, Harry Osborn (Dan DeHaan) returns home to run Oscorp after the death of his father, and is looking for a cure to a genetic disease.
Since Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy, many folks have been aware of the “too many villains” problem most superhero sequels face. When you pack a bunch of enemies into a film, none of those characters are given room to grow and breathe. ASM 2 has an even more egregious problem than that: too many ideas. It’s trying to shove in so many characters, so many nods to the comics, and so many nods to future films, that most of the stuff falls flat for the general audience. There are periods of drought in the film that feel like characters spouting exposition and story when they should be just talking to each other like regular folks. But when the ideas stick the landing, it works.
For those concerned having three bad guys wouldn’t work, no need to worry. Although the film clocks in over two and half hours to give each of these bad guys reason to exist, having them around is pretty fun. The villains are more sympathetic this time around, so you’re surprisingly rooting for them too. While this is great for the future villain film Sony has planned, this is awful for now. Spider-Man is more of a jerk than ever. But it sort of works in a heavyhanded fashion as Spider-Man inadvertently creates his own enemies. Amazing Spider-Man 2 is amazingly quirky, and incredibly divisive. It has a tone that’s going to throw a lot of folks off. It’s muddily delivered as you get the sense that ASM 2 doesn’t know if it wants itself to be taken seriously but, when it commits to the zanier elements of the comics, there’s definitely a good amount of fun here.
First of all, the action is well made and well delivered. Other than a harshly shaky opening scene, the action (and web slingling) is fluid, dynamic, and easy to follow. There’s a bit too much slow motion, but ASM 2 makes sure it at least looks nice. It’s a big step up from the first film. Everyone else seems to be on their game too. Sally Field gets more to do as Aunt May (her exchanges with Peter have some of the best, and most charming dialogue in the film), Emma Stone’s adorableness is amped up due to the nature of the story, Dane DeHaan is going to be a great addition to the franchise’s credibility moving forward, and Paul Giamatti seems to phone it in but it’s hilariously bad enough to work. The only stand out seems to be Jamie Foxx. He may be good as Max, but as his transformation into the growly Electro is short changed, he gets less room to play around with the character.
The fun I mentioned? It’s here in spades. While the first film is bogged down in seriousness, ASM 2 finally plays around with how cartoony Spider-Man comics really are. Garfield gets to do something other than be awkward all over the screen, there are hilariously bad puns and jokes, Peter has the “Spider-Man! Spider-Man!” theme as his ringtone, and the music in this film is ridiculous in the best way. Seriously, Electro uses the power of Dubstep. At one point he even uses that power to play out a very familiar theme. You just have to be willing to wade through the web of exposition to get to the fun.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ultimately suffers from franchise syndrome. As it seems intent to focus on the future, we don’t get quite a fulfilling present. There’s kooky fun to be had, but we’re never given enough time to enjoy it before we’re given more information about future movies. In fact if you took all of those extra scenes out (and believe me, they are extra), we’d have the best Spider-Man film, hands down. I really loved everything else, so I wish someone would have reigned it in a bit.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 slings a web that catches a good amount of flies but, instead of enjoying them, it’s only focused on the flies it hasn’t caught yet.