Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, B.J. Novak, Embeth Davidtz, with Paul Giamatti and Sally Field
Written By: Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci and Jeff Pinkner (based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)
Directed By: Marc Webb
When did I get so jaded about the summer blockbuster? The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is probably a tad better than the first entry in this rebooted series and yet I’m giving this one 1/2 a star less than the previous film. This is perfectly adequate entertainment but it doesn’t feature an ounce of originality or innovation.
Had this film been released ten years ago, I probably would have enjoyed it much more, but with the onslaught of superhero movies year after year – the filmmaker’s are going to have to try a lot harder to make their outings worthwhile. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t nearly as unabashedly enjoyable as the recent Captain America 2. It’s a serviceable, yet underwhelming way to kick off the Summer 2014 movie season.
This almost feels like a remake of the first movie, with plenty of plot points revisited such as the mysteries behind the ongoings at Oscorp, Peter Parker’s (Andrew Garfield) trying to cope and understand why his parent’s left him during childhood, the complicated romantic relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) – and of course, the emergence of superhuman, scientifically mutated villains.
Garfield is a better Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire was and him and Stone share a winning chemistry (the two are dating in real life), but both actors are let down by cheesy dialogue and a dull romantic subplot. The film takes too many dead halts to focus on the uninteresting relationship between Peter and Gwen – with some scenes playing out like they belong in a film adaptation of a Nicholas Spark novel rather than a comic-book.
The film is also over-plotted, featuring too many villains – none of whom get a decent amount of character development or screentime. Jamie Foxx does a good job as the meek and lonely Oscorp employee Max Dillon who transforms into the evil Electro, a blue entity composed of nothing but electricity. The character’s motivations don’t make a whole lot of sense – he’s a Spider-Man superfan (in a Mark David Chapman kind of way) who feels shunned and betrayed by the web-slinger, not to mention society as a whole. You might actually feel pretty bad for Max Dillon and kind of can’t blame him for wanting to exact revenge on a world that’s been so unkind to him.
Paul Giamatti overacts in the little screentime he has as Russian gangster Aleksei Sytsevich who eventually dons a giant metal contraption shaped like a rhino, his baddie pseudonym aptly being The Rhino. Giamatti’s appearance is nothing more than a setup for him to play a bigger part in the third film.
The most interesting character in the movie is Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), Peter’s childhood friend who was sent away to boarding school at a young age by his billionaire father, Oscorp CEO Norman Osborn (an uncredited Chris Cooper). DeHaan gives one of the better villainous performances of recent superhero movies, at times generating the manic energy of Christian Bale in American Psycho. As most know, Harry will transform into The Green Goblin yet once again, this character serves mostly as a setup for the next movie.
Director Marc Webb does a fine job of handling the material with the action sequences being very well done on a technical level. But at this point – it’s to be expected that a summer movie feature fantastic special effects – so as incredible as it is that the filmmaker’s figured out a way to make the destruction of New York City look so realistic, the apathetic moviegoer syndrome kicks in once again (we’ve seen this all before). The most impressive scene in the film is a showstopper staged in the middle of Times Square when Electro first discovers his rage and attempts to electrify tourists and the police. There’s some clever use of Spidey’s web and rubber suit in deflecting the electricity, making for an interesting dynamic in good vs. evil.
However, when we’re not focused on the villains or Peter and Gwen’s relationship, the film gets bogged down by more subplots such as flashbacks to Peter’s father Richard (Campbell Scott) and Peter’s adoration for his Aunt May (Sally Field). At 2 hours and 20 minutes, the film is overlong and could have used for cuts to help tighten the pacing.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is good enough. That’s probably the nicest thing to say about it. It’s certainly no disaster like a Joel Schumacher Batman movie nor is it a failure in functional terms. It’s basically a big-budget, paint-by-numbers, ho-hum summer blockbuster. It’s a diverting enough production, but far from the amazing experience that the self-congratulatory title suggests.