Director: Marc Webb Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone & Jamie Foxx Synopsis: “Peter Parker runs the gauntlet as the mysterious company Oscorp sends up a slew of super villains against him, impacting on his life.” Runtime: 142 minutes Rating: 12A
“You’re Spider-Man, and I love that. But I love Peter Parker more.”
Adapting Spider-Man for the big screen has apparently been a bigger problem than many people think. Sure, the films are very successful and have pulled in enough money to buy a few Premiership football teams, but have we had the perfect Spider-Man movie yet? The original trilogy, directed by Sam Raimi, was a fun if flawed series that had its high point with Spider-Man 2. Whereas Marc Webb’s first entry into the rebooted series revolved around telling Peter Parker’s origin story once again, a factor which unfortunately held the movie back from being anything other than average. So, the attention turns to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a movie free from the burden of having to retell a familiar story and one that can stake a claim at being the best Spider-Man movie yet.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 kicks off shortly after the events of the first movie, with Peter Parker (Garfield) embracing his role as Spider-Man and continuing to work on his should they/shouldn’t they relationship with Gwen Stacy (Stone). The two are graduating from high school and things seem to be going well for the pair. This being a Spider-Man story, the good times don’t last long and before we know it the story is beset with grieving best friends and super villains who want to put an end to the annoying little spider who keeps getting in their way.
Some reviews have pointed to this being one of the major drawbacks of the movie, filling it with characters and stuffing the story line so much that nothing seems resolved by the end and that some characters inevitably suffer (Ala Spider-Man 3). I find the opposite in this movie, despite my initial reservations, each character seems to get their 15 minutes and for the most part it is really quite fulfilling.
Jamie Foxx’s nerdy Oscorp employee, Max Dillon, stutters his way through his early scenes helping to create the sense that the character is somewhat of a social outcast, and who just seems happy when anyone remembers his name. Dillon, like Parker, soon falls afoul of the lax health and safety procedures in place at Oscorp and is soon on the receiving end of an agonising encounter with some electric eels. This leaves Dillon seemingly dead, that is until he awakes on a table in the morgue and then walks all the way to Times Square and inadvertently wreaks havoc in a wonderfully filmed standoff with Spider-Man.
Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn also shows up as Peter’s estranged best friend, and son to Oscorp founder Norman Osborn. DeHaan handles the role well, playing the disillusioned child and fierce corporate exec to near perfection. Despite DeHaan’s Harry not being around in the first movie, his character arc feels like it goes full circle here, and credit must go to DeHaan for making such an impact in such a small amount of time.
Some characters however don’t fare so well. Paul Giamatti’s Russian gangster merely bookends the movie and seems a waste of such a talented actor. Having said that, adding another villain to the plot would have surely brought about the same problems we saw in Spider-Man 3. Felicity Jones as Felicia Hardy only serves as fan service, she must have less than five minutes screen time, and I feel her comic book alter ego, Black Cat, will show up in future installments of the franchise. The mystery surrounding Peter’s parents, seen here in flashbacks, is solved but the characters serve little purpose. The returning Aunt May (Sally Field) gets a little more meat to her role now that she doesn’t have to play second fiddle to Uncle Ben, and makes the most of her time here. She shares a particularly touching scene with Peter surrounding his parents disappearance and her responsibility in bringing him up as if he were her own child.
The stars of the show are undoubtedly Peter & Gwen though. The two share an alluring chemistry, which is no doubt helped by the actors real life relationship. They bicker, they banter, they fight, they make up but most of all they compliment each other perfectly. Her smarts and genuine likability play off against Peter’s determination to protect her from danger, and despite his efforts to stop her, she just won’t stay away from helping him as Spider-Man, and try as they might to fight it, the two of them are inseparable.
Director Marc Webb seems to have more assurance about himself this time around. He handles the character moments perfectly, but where he needed to improve on the first movie was the action. Here Webb treats us to some great comic book action. A thrilling start is complimented by his understanding of Spider-Man as we enjoy some berating from the wall crawler as he brings down Giamatti’s Russian crook who has just raided a Oscorp warehouse. Alongside the big boss battles we also see Spidey stopping some petty crooks, and intervening when a nerdy science kid is getting picked on by a group of bullies. These scenes really compliment the character and show us what he gets up to when he’s not fighting the like of Electro or the Green Goblin.
It is clear that this version of Spider-Man is a part of something bigger, and in Sony’s attempt to keep up with Marvel in their universe building, it feels at times as if things aren’t quite done. Of course there will be sequels, already announced are an Amazing Spider-Man 3 along with spin offs from The Sinister Six and Venom, but you get the feeling that the studio are planning on competing with something they don’t quite have the capability to do. Spider-Man has a great cast of villains to make many movies from, but the idea of seeing them all together at some point seems more like an attempt to copy Marvel as opposed to having a really great story planned.
So, is this the best Spider-Man movie yet? I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes. Personally, I haven’t enjoyed a Spider-Man movie this much since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. The various elements of the movie could have created a movie that felt overstuffed and unbalanced, but somehow Marc Webb has managed to create a movie that gives the various plot threads & characters a sense of gratification. Yes, there is more to come from some of them but right now, this is one of the most pure comic book movies that has been released in a long while.
In summary: A ridiculously fun movie that has reignited my own interest in Spider-Man, and one that has me once again looking forward to his next set of adventures.