So, a few weeks after Captain America returned to the big screen with his sequel, so too is another Marvel superhero – who, sadly, is not technically in the same universe due to those pesky film rights. (Sure, we can imagine, but that raises awkward questions about where the heck he was when the Chitauri were destroying New York in The Avengers.) So, how does The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hold up?
Since the first movie, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is well-established in his vigilante work as Spider-Man, but he’s got a lot to deal with this time round. First, OsCorp engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) falls foul of the questionable safety protocol that plagues laboratories and tech companies in superhero films, and is transformed into a human battery called Electro, who soon starts causing trouble. Then, Peter gets back in touch with his old friend Harry Osborn (Dane deHaan), who is looking for a cure for his genetically inherited illness and hopes that the research done by Peter’s father may hold the answer – which, in turn, leads Peter to start looking into the circumstances of his parents’ disappearance again. On top of that, Peter is struggling to stay with his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) even though he promised her father he would keep his distance, which isn’t easy for either of them.
As you can see, the overall web of sub-plots is fairly complicated, but not so much that it’s difficult to follow – indeed, all the sub-plots intertwine quite nicely for the most part, without the contrivances of Spider-Man 3. I also really liked the acting: not because it’s going to win any Oscars or anything, but because it all feels real. The interactions, the delivery – there’s quite a few scenes where it feels like the actors are just making it up as they go. I don’t tend to focus on acting in this way unless it’s noticeably poor, but I really noticed the quality here. Andrew Garfield is still a solid Peter Parker/Spider-Man, not least because we see far more Spider-Man mid-fight banter than we did in the Raimi trilogy.
Peter’s relationship with Gwen also feels real due to its complexity: between really wanting to be with Gwen (and actively maintaining the relationship) and being haunted by Captain Stacy’s ghost, there’s no simple answer for him. It might have been good to see more negative impacts that being Spider-Man has on Peter’s life, besides complicating things with Gwen – but then, we already saw that in Spider-Man 2, and this film series is trying to be fresh and new, and succeeding.
While the action is generally exciting and impressive, sometimes it’s not well paced – I was a bit disappointed by the first fight between Spider-Man and Electro. The pacing for the film in general goes back and forth as well: sometimes things are covered too quickly, sometimes it drags. But while this is a very long movie, I didn’t think it needed too much trimming overall.
I wasn’t impressed when we got our first look at Max Dillon: before becoming Electro, he’s just this completely cliché nerdy loser with no friends that we’ve seen a million times before in movies – I would have liked more originality there, but maybe there just wasn’t time to develop him further. As Electro, he’s certainly visually impressive, but still not terribly interesting as a character. Fortunately, we also have Harry Osborn, whose gradual path to villainy is more fleshed out and compelling.
(Slight spoiler alert)
Also, about two-thirds of the way through, I suddenly realised, “Hey, wasn’t Rhino supposed to be in this?” I mean, we see him in all the adverts, and on some of the posters – but it’s really a bit of a cheat, because Rhino doesn’t turn up until right at the end, and we don’t actually get to see Spider-Man fight him. Oh, well. It’s just Rhino.
Overall, if you enjoyed the last film, you should enjoy The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – while flawed, it’s still another solid outing for the web-slinger. Rating: 3.5/5.