It’s been about two years since the release of Sony’s reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise, with returning director Marc Webb and with Andrew Garfield (Never Let Me Go) donning the tights. The Amazing Spider-Man was a fun but flawed movie, but with some web-slinging experience behind him, will The Amazing Spider-Man 2 be the Spidey movie we want, or the Spidey movie we deserve?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a definitely fun movie – more fun than the first, funnier in many ways, with cracking action sequences and ingenious use of webshooters that make it worthy Spider-Man movie. Director Webb also brings his 500 Days Of Summer capabilities to the fore here, making use of the chemistry between Garfield and Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) to full effect and leading to what can be seed is possibly the most bitter-sweet romantic moment ever seen in a summer blockbuster (we saw it in a 15 min preview and it’s still so good on second watch).
Dane DeHaan does a great job as Harry Osborn (is it just me or is he a young Leonard DiCaprio), while it does feel that Jamie Foxx (Max Dillon / Electro) could have been given more to do with his role beyond being a poor, ignored human. That’s where the problem starts – we’re starting to near Spider-Man 3’s level of villainy (ie: Have as many as possible), which would be fine if balanced. But here it’s clear that all of them are part of a buildup to the Sinister Six movie and even The Amazing Spider-Man 3. So the movie gets cluttered with a lack of focus – the movie seems to be saying “I’m important because I’m a a pivotal moment in Spider-Man’s life, but hey! Sequels!”
Too many villains? On top of Harry and Electro, Paul Giamatti’s there as Aleksei Sytsevich. While it’s clear Giamatti is having a lot of fun hamming it up as the future Rhino, this is one of the problems of TASM2 as it pivots from wise-cracking action-adventure to woe-is-me melodrama. I’m not saying that both can’t be in the same movie – but in trying to balance it TASM2 feels like about 3 different movies at once. Given how one villain is more Batman Forever, and the other more The Dark Knight Rises, seeing how they finally do interact in a Sinister Six movie would be interesting, with a jokey Rhino hamming it up against an angry Electro. A few other Spidey villains also appear (by their real name, or by their costume), so fans will have fun spotting them all.
Garfield still continues to do a great job a Spidey (making a stronger case than ever against Tobey Maguire), and the writers giving Spidey more of a mouth and a comedic bent is a welcome move. However, Peter Parker is a bit more of a mixed bag – no real fault of Garfield – as he vacillates between being a selfish child and someone whose great powers are meant to induce great responsibility. Sure, it’s not wrong to want to know more about your origins, or to be a crazy stalker (well, maybe), but here Parker seems more involved and interested in what he feels and thinks than the thoughts of others, and the angst he feels in the end is more beyond his control than a willing sacrifice. The excuse that he’s still young won’t work for long: He is, after all, in his second movie, and any sense of selflessness is still missing.
Nonetheless, there are tons of good ingredients in the pot, but it just means that this movie is less than the sum of its parts – which is a pity. After all, it’s far from a Sharknado-style movie, but yet it takes itself too seriously to enjoy the little bit of fun it has from time to time. A lot happens in its 142 min runtime, and the movie could have been just tighter. But to slam it as a shitfest of a movie (like, say, Man Of Steel) is wrong: It’s still a recommended watch – and the 3D is actually pretty good (necessary? no) – and there’s tons of little easter eggs in there for the long-time Spidey fan.
But wait! Yes, there is THAT scene. Spoilers follow.
*Major spoilers follow*
So, the scene which has been talked about for ages – a story so famous that even non-comic-book readers know about it. In a sense, Webb and team have written themselves into a corner – by referencing it (and boy you see it in almost all the trailers so it’s obvious they want to play it up) you can’t escape it and he is expected, in some way or another, to do it justice. If you tease it and Gwen doesn’t die, you can’t quite use it again, and if she does, then it isn’t quite a shocker. One wonders if they ever considered deviating from the comic books – after all, they were more than happy to do it throughout both movies – because then maybe the weight of expectation won’t weigh so heavily on the movie.
“There are times where we feel obligated to follow the source material, and there are times where we feel the need to deviate from it, and besides, Emma Stone is a very talented actress, and we like having her around.” – Marc Webb (IMDB does not provide a source for this quote.)
When it does happen, Webb admittedly does the actual scene justice – some details might have changed, but the shock, the loss, the maybe, the what ifs, they all hang in the air before being lost in the wind. The pain lies in how they reached there – how they had to force a college graduate, who was headed to Oxford, to stupidly sacrifice her safety all because she was the only person who knew how to press a big honking button. Maybe it’s because the Spidey we have here, the callous version of him, induced similar behaviour in her – but what it simply is just the sheer inability to actually get the story to where they want to go without hitting the characters with a stupid stick.
That is why the loss stings. It isn’t because Emma Stone is beautiful, or that she IS Gwen Stacy – it’s purely that a better Spidey wouldn’t have lost her, not this way. Maybe. Still, it’s not like we’re given time to mourn – four seasons past in mere moments before Spidey is out there swinging again, as Giamatti reappears in full armour. I’m just hoping that this time he’s learnt how much weight he does carry on his shoulders, but I’m guessing he won’t.
*End major spoilers*
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens islandwide on May 1, 2014.