Does The Amazing Spider-Man 2 swing high, or does your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man spin a confusing web?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Chris Cooper, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field
Directed by: Marc Webb
Whew…this is going to be…. I mean…. Look, Spider-Man is my absolute favorite character. He means more to me than I can ever put down in words, so naturally, I expect a lot from the interpretations of him in other media. So, while Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a lot of moments that I loved and really nailed the essence of the character, there were more moments that not only frustrated me, but also actually made me say out loud “you have to be kidding me”.
If you didn’t see that giant “SPOILER” warning before the text, I’m going to warn you one last time. I’m going to SPOIL the hell out of this for the next few paragraphs. It’s the only way I can effectively explain the multitude of thoughts and emotions swirling through my brain at the moment. If you don’t want anything ruined that hasn’t already been ruined in the trailers, scroll down or forever hold your piece.
Ready? Here we go.
First things first, my fears about the Green Goblin were realized. Yes. They kill Norman Osborn. Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis (next to Doc Ock currently) is relegated to one scene with Harry where we learn why exactly he’s been “dying”, and then he’s gone. I understand that the producers wanted to focus more on Harry’s story of friendship and betrayal, but removing Norman from the film completely alters the Harry and Peter dynamic. Gone is the constant threat of Peter’s best friend not knowing that his father is a psychopath. Gone is Harry’s motivation to destroy Peter because he falsely believes that Spider-Man killed his father. All that’s done away with, and it seems like a situation that is less “oh this could be a really cool idea” and more “Sam Raimi already did that 10 years ago, and people are still pissed that we rebooted, so let’s not do that here”.
On the plus side, Dane DeHaan is a great Harry Osborn. He really sells the idea of the kid being cast aside by his dad at a young age who desperately wants to connect with his father. Dehaan’s few scenes with Andrew Garfield are really good, and you can see that in a different movie, DeHaan would’ve stolen the show. Instead, the script quickly makes him transform into the Green Goblin by way of the crazy bag lady with, quite honestly, one of the worst looking character designs I’ve ever seen. Say what you want about Willem Dafoe’s costume, but at least the mask looked Goblinish.
Speaking of the script, that’s this movie’s greatest enemy. Events that could have played out in two or even three films get crammed into one movie. The first montage of Spidey being Spidey is fantastic, and actually contains a part of the movie that almost moved me to tears (more on that later). However, by the third montage you start to feel like the film is stuck in fast forward. It never slows down enough on the parts that you want to see more of, and starts to sag during he parts you want to get over with.
But enough about the bad stuff. Andrew Garfield, to me, is still a better Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire. I’m sure that ruffled a few feathers, but watch any scene where he’s Spider-Man and compare it to Raimi’s films. His jokes are better (hell, he actually TALKS when he’s Spider-Man), he physically looks more like Spidey, and he seems to be having the time of his life. The best parts of the film are when he’s in costume swinging around and interacting with the citizens of New York City, and leads me to the moment I mentioned earlier. In the scene, Spidey helps a young boy who’s being bullied. After scaring the bullies off, he webs up the child’s science project and asks him “did you make this? It’s incredible!” He then offers to walk the boy home. This scene got down to the exact core of what I believe Spider-Man is. He’s the role model for everyone who’s been picked on in their life, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I wish I had Spidey swoop down and offer to walk me home at various times in my childhood. Even now I’m having a hard time keeping my emotions in check when I think about it. There’s a sweetness to that scene that shows you the potential that this movie had. It’s so powerful, and it’s a shame that the rest of the film doesn’t live up to it.
Also adding to the positivity is Emma Stone, who continues to be absolutely adorable whenever she’s on screen. The chemistry between her and Garfield is light years ahead of the chemistry between Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. Of course though, this movie details the infamous SPOILERS“The Night Gwen Stacy Died” and while it’s borderline blasphemous that the Harry Osborn Goblin is the Goblin that leads to her death, the scene where Gwen meets her maker is incredibly well done, and surprisingly brutal for a film that a lot of kids will go see. Garfield’s reaction is heartbreaking, and the following scenes where he’s sitting at Gwen’s grave are some of the most emotional scenes in the film.
But now the pendulum swings back. While Stone and Garfield are great together, the film yo-yos between Gwen and Peter breaking up and almost reconciling. I get that the filmmakers are trying to show how complicated young relationships can be, but by the fourth time Peter and Gwen awkwardly try to get back together, you start to roll your eyes at the whole thing.
Despite this, the action scenes are pretty great. Marc Webb has definitely listened to the critics of Amazing Spider-Man in that respect. You’ll see Spidey bust moves that he’s done in the comics for years and it looks incredible. Plus, this movie has hands down the best version of Spidey’s red and blue tights that I’ve ever seen on screen. Watching him swing through New York City always put a smile on my face.
But what about Rhino and Electro? Well, the former has a total of about 5 minutes of screen time, and if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve pretty much seen everything there is to see of the Russian. As for Electro, he was fine, but Jamie Foxx’s scenes before his big transformation go from goofy to downright horrendous. It’s very much Jim Carrey’s performance in Batman Forever, and the comparisons to that Schumacher Batman film don’t stop there. Oh no. There are a few scenes in particular that take place in Ravencroft that I swear had Schumacher fill in for Webb. In fact, one reviewer, (Mr. Fat Movie Guy himself) summed this movie up perfectly when he described it as the “Batman Forever of the Spider-Man films”.
It sucks that I feel so torn about this movie. It should’ve been an easy sell to me, because I love Spider-Man so much. Could I blame Marc Webb’s directing? Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, or Jamie Foxx’s performances? Sure. But at the end of the day, I feel like this is all Sony’s fault. This is a prime example of the bad side of The Avengers making a billion dollars. It’s apparent that Sony wanted to set up their own world for the Spider-Man franchise, and while I can see what they were trying to do, it all comes off completely wrong. In the end, the guy wearing a Spider-Man costume t-shirt with a symbiote zip up hoodie over it felt nothing when it comes to the latest Spider-Man film. That speaks volumes.
-Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
-The action scenes
-No clear main villain
-The dialogue is pretty bad, and at times feels extremely Schumacher-esqe
-Plot is extremely rushed