Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Going into The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we know the movie was setting up more than just future Spider-Man movies, also spin-offs. We know that the film would boast three villains (Goblin, Electro, and Rhino), plus deal with the repercussions of Peter Parker/Spider-Man‘s relationship with Gwen Stacy after the death of her father and the edict Peter stay away from her. That’s a lot to fit into a film, and it shows with a plot that gives short shrift to the numerous stories contained within. I’m going to start with the good, work my way to the mixed, and then end with the bad when it comes to this review, because the film has a mix of each.
The good is, the film achieves its goal of expanding Sony’s Spider-Man universe, spinning it off into numerous possible franchises, along with their current cash cow. With the introduction of so many characters in one film, and an ending that might have said “To Be Continued” in Back to the Future II fashion, they’re building to a future expansion, an opportunity that was missed with the series’ first trilogy. The company has a clear goal with this movie, and they got to it, for better or for worse (I lean to worse). The movie also is a big summer popcorn flick. There’s little you have to strain to think about, or issues as a whole with the flow of the film, it’s a sit back, turn your brain off and enjoy the ride movie. And I generally expect that from Spider-Man movies (though other “comic” films have shown you can have the ride, and think at the same time). Luckily there’s also a few nuggets for comic fans with some characters who will likely be playing larger roles in future movies.
Interestingly enough, the think that sticks out the most to me from the entire film is its soundtrack. There’s some great use of music to set the mood and give us further insight into the characters. Watch the scene of Jamie Foxx‘s stumbling into Times Square, and tell me the music doesn’t enhance the scene, cause you can’t…. cause it does.
There’s lots of mixed in the movie, particularly, the center of the film Peter and Gwen’s relationship. Director Marc Webb pours on the angst of relationships that we’ve seen in some of his previous work like 500 Days of Summer. The reason I give throw this in the mixed area is because how the relationship plays out feels rushed, due to the confined space of the film and events withing. It’s almost too off again, on again, throwing real high school drama to extreme levels that becomes frustrating at points. I remember being mopy at their age, and having relationship drama, but things always played out over many months, not confined to such a time span that it became comical.
And that “comic” vibe also is a mixed blessing. At moments, the film really plays off the whimsical and smart-ass character that is Spider-Man giving us a comic vibe on screen, but that vibe works poorly too at times, especially with over the top acting that gives Batman Forever a run for its money in that department. Webb does get that aspect of his character, but when you throw in relationship drama, the two very different vibes don’t work together, giving mixed tones, and a movie that doesn’t know exactly what it wants to be, fun and cheery, or serious and about relationships. What’s interesting is Webb again has shown you can do both with the before mentioned 500 Days of Summer. I think the prime example of this is the opening chase scene that veers too far into the comical, and had me straining to not scream at the screen.
Visually, the film is impressive, giving off the vibe of an amusement park ride, especially with the 3D which to me is the biggest draw here. Watching Spider-Man dive off buildings and swing through New York City brings a certain excitement and fun about it all. But those visuals also pulled me out of it, especially at the end fight between Electro and Spider-Man. At moments it was very cool, but with the slow motion movement, I felt I was immersed into a video game, it just wasn’t interactive. I was prepared for the moments where I would be prompted to press buttons to dodge attacks and have to get the pattern right or the boss battle would continue.
The plot itself is a mixed bag with Peter dealing with his relationship with Gwen, trying to figure out the truth about his parents. There’s also the newly return Harry Osborn who takes over the family business and must deal with a family curse, and then finally the villains Electro, and Rhino-ish. Throw in the Goblin, setting up further films, a scene/event for those who read the comics/know Spider-Man’s history know is coming, and it all is WAY too much packed into the 2 hours and 2o minutes. Cut out the Goblin part, and the “big” moment associated with that for a third film, and you’d have had a much more streamlined and enjoyable film. Hell, cut out the subplot of Peter’s parents and the film is way more enjoyable…. (a hidden Subway, really!?).
The bad of the film is long for me, but I’ll keep this section relatively short.
Lets start with the acting. For real life couple Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, the relationship and interactions felt artificial during moments. Unlike the first film, I didn’t believe these two were really together, as their moments when they interacted consisted mostly of them flashing smiles at each other or attempting to win the other back through their various social tics. Paul Giamatti falls from grace with his Alekssei Sytsevich with a Russian accent so bad it didn’t create a scary bad guy, but a goof I wanted to laugh at the entire time. Jamie Foxx’s Max Dillon/Electro channels Jim Carrey in Batman Forever. I can see someone responding when he asked what they were looking for pointing at the movie and saying “this, just do that.” What’s sad is Foxx is a fantastic actor, and they really could have shown off some great pathos and how someone could so easily slip to evil. But this depiction is barely skin deep, much like the film. Out of the acting, Sally Field as Aunt May, and Dane DeHaan as the Green Goblin put in good performances for what they were given. It just wasn’t good enough to put this in the mixed category.
As I mentioned before, the tone and movie itself doesn’t know what it wants to be. The whimsical comical comic book movie. The brooding relationship film. The serious and dark action film. It attempts to be all things to all people, and succeeds in none of them.
With those spin-offs on the horizon, the film doesn’t feel complete, instead clearly there are continuations coming. Due to that, the film doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion. I’m not saying you can’t continue a story, and seed plot points for later (comics do that all the time), but the film should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is missing that end part, especially with numerous false endings. I awaited for a somewhat neat wrap up towards the final battle, only to be denied at least 3 times. Due to that, and how it actually left things, I felt there was no actual conclusion, a problem I also had with Back to the Future II, though that film can be watched on its own, unlike this one.
Overall, the film is a step backwards for the franchise and comic book movies, harking back to a time of those films I’d rather forget. It’s too much stuffed into one film, much like Spider-Man 3, and both are examples that more isn’t better. Overall, the movie is all flash with little substance. Many would say summer movies are exactly that, but we’ve seen in other examples, “comic” movies can be so much more. Sony had a goal, to expand the franchise, and they made that happen, they just hurt a movie by doing.
Direction: 7 Acting: 6 Plot: 6.75 Overall: 6.5