Hopefully at some point in his fictional life, Peter Parker will actually catch a break. An orphan whose foster father/uncle is also killed through his own error; calling Peter a tragic hero is an understatement. Even having amazing (pun intended) spider powers fails to improve his life dramatically; after all, with great power comes great responsibility.
It’s fair to say that with Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of the webbed wonder, we found amusement in his constant failings. With Andrew Garfield’s younger turn as Parker, the whole thing is slightly more emotionally draining. In this sequel to 2012’s reboot, his relationship with Gwen Stacy is put through the ringer by visions of her recently deceased father, serving as a constant reminder of Peter’s promise to stay away from her; Sam Raimi’s film trilogy never dealt with the psychological effects of playing the hero like this.
This sort of exploration is exactly why Mark Webb’s Amazing reboot has been so thoroughly enjoyable. The focus on the man behind the Spider mask results in less action scenes than any other superhero focused film but it also leads to a stronger set of characters who we actually want to see succeed. That sort of emotional attachment works wonders on a character like Peter Parker and Amazing Spider-Man 2 succeeds simply by continuing down that path. It’s especially good to see that whenever Spider-Man goes toe-to-toe with his super-powered foes, the civilians of New York City still come first in his mind as he zips, swings and flips to keep them safe at all costs. It’s a lesson that a lot of other superheroes could learn from (I’m looking at you Superman and your building destroying ways).
The biggest success story of this reboot though is Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. Equal parts brain and beauty, she’s never content to sit idly by and let Peter take all the heroic plaudits. In doing so, she’s arguably one of the best superhero sidekicks around; she certainly carries a lot more interest than your typical damsel in distress. Her relationship with Peter is so important to this franchise that it dominates the early scenes of the film though it never borders on tedious; their lovey-dovey banter may be a bit cringe worthy from the outside looking in but isn’t that the case with most relationships?
Even the main villain gets enough care and attention to create an entertaining story, to begin with anyway. Jamie Foxx was always a bizarre casting as Electro but Mark Webb seems to have embraced that by handing him the most bizarre supervillain origin you’re likely to ever see. Amazing Spider-Man 2’s main villainous star begins life as Max Dillon, a nerdy but quiet Ozcorp worker who one day avoids death by car thanks to Spider-Man’s timely interference. Dillon soon turns Spider-crazy, turning his apartment into a shrine for New York’s finest and every scene featuring him is laugh out loud entertaining.
Even his inevitable demise and literal fall comes as a result of his own goofiness but it’s after this transformation that the character suddenly falls flat. Turned into a walking insectocutor, Dillon suddenly finds all eyes on him for the first time and he loves it… Until Spider-Man shows up and the attention returns to him. It’s plausible but the switch from adoration to hatred is too sudden and it honestly feels overly dramatic. Then again, Electro really isn’t given enough time to develop his villainous side properly as the pre-release worries start to rear their ugly head.
If you know anything about Spider-Man’s comic book adventures, you’ll see the ending coming a mile off but impressively, it still manages to shock. It’s the film’s greatest achievement; the emotionally charged finale only comes courtesy of all that came before it and it pays off dramatically well.
Unfortunately though, Amazing Spider-Man 2 simply introduces too many new character and story arcs to be contained in one film. Many are left unfinished (the introduction of several future villains, like B.J Novak as Alistair Smythe, will pass most people by) and those that receive some sort of closure never really satisfy. Harry Osborn’s descent into madness is rushed and as a result, Green Goblin receives minimal screen time (although he’s the most impactful villain on the film in that short timeframe) and Paul Giamatti’s Rhino, who was featured heavily on pre-release materials, plays a cameo role. Worst of all, it pushes several of the series’ major characters to one side; Aunt May has little impact on the story, despite some entertaining scenes, and Uncle Ben is barely mentioned.
One long lingering story arc is brought to the fore-front in this sequel too with Mary and Richard Parker’s final moments shown in the opening scene. Again though, despite spending more time with these two characters, we’re almost none the wiser on who they were actually running from, leaving little doubt that their story will again be shifted over to the third film. It might seem an odd complaint to criticise a film for extending its story lines but forcing so many together in such a short space of time (the film clocks in over two hours but thankfully doesn’t ever drag) means we end up hopping from story to story for a bit. The movie even ends in the middle of a fight scene, a decision that might seem anti-climactic to some.
Ultimately, the movie spends too long building up to future instalments; the newly announced Sinister Six movie especially. As a stand-alone movie, there’s plenty to enjoy in Amazing Spider-Man 2; there’s just enough action to satisfy your average cinema goer and there’s still a great sense of humour running throughout. The bigger problems arise when you look to the future and see that Columbia Pictures have already announced a further four films for the series; it would be such a shame to see the quality of the films compromised by a desire to cash in.
Long story short…
Amazing Spider-Man 2 continues where the first film left off and betters the previous trilogy again with interesting characters and a real sense of what makes Spider-Man so Amazing in the first place. Too much time is spent building up the Sinister Six spin-off but it never fully detracts from the thrilling yet emotional experience.