By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
For those who feel that The Amazing Spider-Man takes things too seriously and doesn’t offer enough comic book fun and excitement, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will come as a breath of fresh air delivering the costumed heroic action and thrills that made the Raimi movies great. However, this sequel, which tries to ambitiously accomplish a lot storywise, has other issues of its own. Though director Marc Webb and screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, Jeff Pinkner, and James Vanderbilt attempt to recapture the spirit and energy of the Raimi films, they try to accomplish a bit too much by continuing the plot involving the romantic troubles of Peter Parker, his parents’ story, and also introducing new villains, eventually setting up a spinoff film (The Sinister Six). Though this film isn’t too overstuffed and tedious as Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 can be, certain story elements and characters needing better development feel rushed and tossed in last minute to set up further episodes.
Our favorite web head, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) always has his hands full juggling crime fighting, finishing high school, and dating Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Since we last saw Spidey, he has earned his share of detractors as well as his loyal fans. One particular fan, an Oscorp scientist by the name of Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) has developed a bit of an unhealthy obsession with the crime fighter. When a laboratory accident transforms Dillon into high voltage Electro, the off kilter fan soon becomes an enemy after feeling betrayed by his hero. To add to Peter’s distress, his old friend Harry Osborn returns to New York and puts Peter in an awkward position when he makes an unusual and desperate request. If that’s not enough on Peter’s plate, he continues to have trouble coping with the mystery behind his parents’ disappearance and the broken promise he made to Captain Stacy (Denis Leary).
When The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is fun, it is an absolute blast. Webb and his writers have decided to take their dark and mopey Peter Parker and give him the confidence he should have as hero. When in costume, Spider-Man has a ball swinging, web slinging, and wise cracking when he battles his foes. This is the best characterization of Spidey and Peter that fans have been wanting and Garfield nails it. The villains, on the other hand, have brought different problems with them this time. With three villains in the film in addition to the love story and the parental backstory, something has to give and in this case, it is strong character development for Spider-Man’s foes. The Electro subplot basically is a rehash of the Riddler’s story in Batman Forever. It is another case of an obsessed fan not getting the treatment he believes he deserves and turns on his hero when he acquires power. Jamie Foxx does his best with the silly and cheesy writing, but doesn’t have much to do except act awkwardly goofy as Max Dillon and grimace and growl as Electro.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 also introduces a villain named Aleksei Sytevich, a Russian thug easily handled by Spidey until he acquires an awesome exo-suit with advanced weaponry. Talented actor Paul Giamatti nails the Russian accent, but the character, which has no development whatsoever, is given hammy, clichéd villain material, and is merely introduced for later adventures. As much as I love Giamatti as an actor, his talent is wasted here. Any roguish looking actor could have played this role.
As for Harry Osbourn, his character at least gets some stronger writing and more credible motivations for his story. Actor Dane DeHaan does a fine job portraying the confident and sometimes smarmy rich kid with daddy issues. Even though his subplot starts off promisingly, his journey to villainy gets rushed so that he can have his climactic moment in the last acts of the film. At least in Raimi’s films, Harry’s journey is developed over two films. Of course his villainy is ultimately weak and disappointing in Spider-Man 3. In this movie, thankfully, Harry becomes a truly menacing and frightening villain.
As for our lead actors/characters Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) do share a lovely chemistry that gets marred a bit by occasionally goofy and annoying writing. They play that annoying couple that is always making goo goo eyes with each other. I feel that Webb, his writers and actors could have toned this down a bit. Despite some of these cheesy scenes, Garfield and Stone perform well in their roles and both bring their natural charisma to their characters.
That likability helps the audience actually care about what happens to these characters and this quality, along with thrilling heroic sequences, make this film worth watching and more enjoyable than the first film. Webb and his writers realized that Spider-Man is a fun character and not really of the dark and brooding variety. Unfortunately, the filmmakers want to do too much with their film and introduce too many villains without proper development. Still, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an improvement from the last film and one can only hope that with the next one, Webb and his producers learn from their mistakes and come up with a greater movie.