THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
2014, PG-13, 142 mins.
2014, PG-13, 142 mins.
Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker / Spider Man / Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy / Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon / Electro / Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn / Colm Feore as Donald Menken / Felicity Jones as Felicia / Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich / The Rhino / Sally Field as Aunt May / Marton Csokas as Dr. Kafka / Embeth Davidtz as Mary Parker / Denis Leary as Captain Stacy / Chris Zylka as Flash Thompson / B.J. Novak as Allistar Smythe
Directed by Marc Webb / Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner
WATCH my review of the film on CTV Morning Live Saskatoon HERE
If you pardon the immediate pun, it’s amazing – if not a bit head-scratchingly incredulous - how new sequels commit the same cinematic sins of past sequels, but that’s precisely what THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 does.
is the fifth film in twelve years involving everyone’s favorite Marvel
Comics wall-crawler, the second film in the new retrofitted series and
the fifth if you include it with Sam Raimi’s original SPIDER-MAN
trilogy. Although arguably
unnecessary, 2012’s THE AMAZING
SPIDER-MAN reboot was a welcome surprise for how it added a
refreshing layer of grit and dramatic edge to the character, which made
the film stand well on its own two feet. THE
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is a bigger, bolder, lighter, more colorful and
action packed film than its predecessor, but more, alas, does not mean more.
That, and the film is replete with too many characters, too many
subplots, and too many unresolved story arcs for its own good.
This is the same
undesirable fate that struck SPIDER-MAN 3, a well-intentioned, but messily
and haphazardly written send-off entry in Raimi’s series, which felt
compelled to cram in far too many new villains without really developing
them to their fullest. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 does much of the same, this time
throwing in not one, not two, but three super-powered antagonists
(albeit, one is more of a book-ended cameo) on top of continuing a mystery
storyline involving the disappearance of Peter Parker’s long-absentee
parents. Beyond that,
screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, and Jeff Pinker are also forced
to deal with the on-again/off-again love affair of Peter and Gwen
Stacey, Peter’s guilt over a vow he made to her deceased father, and
Peter’s own turbulent relationship with his aunt.
There’s enough material for two or three films, let alone one,
but THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 regrettably feels like it hastily threw in as
many canonical elements from Spidey lore as possible in pathetic hopes of thinking
that they would all smoothly coalesce together in one 142-minute film.
As THE AMAZING
SPIDER-MAN 2 kicks off we are introduced to a more cocky, self-assured, and
free-wheeling teenaged Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, actually 30, but
blessed with 18-year-old good looks) that has hit his full stride as his
spandex clad vigilante, whom has now become a mostly loved – but
somewhat feared – crusader of justice for Manhattan.
Even though Peter seems to get unending thrills from his super hero
extracurricular activities, he’s still somewhat haunted by the promise
that he made to Captain Stacey (Denis Leary), who died in the previous film, but beforehand
made Peter swear that he’d stay clear of his daughter Gwen (Emma Stone)
to keep her safe. While
struggling with his feelings of love versus his honor bound duty, Peter
still desperately tries to keep his alter ego a secret from his Aunt May
(Sally Field) while dealing with further angst ridden feelings over the
abandonment of his parents all those years ago.
Peter’s long list of woes is the appearance of Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx)
in his life, a meek minded engineer working for Oscorp that develops a
huge man-crush on Spider-man after being saved by him.
Unfortunately, Max falls victim to a terrible accident involving
him falling into a vat filled filled with mutated electric eels (ouch) and is
transformed into Electro, who soon develops a deep harboring hatred for
Spider-man. Concurrent to
this is the reappearance of Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), an old pal of
Peter’s that has returned from boarding school to see his dying father,
Norman (Chris Cooper, criminally underused here), who is dying from an
illness that will eventually – through heredity – strike poor Harry. As he begins to exhibit symptoms, Harry discovers that the
key to his survival lies in Spider-man’s blood. However, when the hero
turns him down out of fears of unwanted possible side-effects of such a risky experiment,
to utilize an even riskier Oscorp procedure that horrendously mutates him
inside and out, leaving poor ol’ Spidey having to deal with two super
villains with deep grudges.
Mark Webb, who
previously made THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, is back at the directorial helm
again and, more than ever, seems to really have an affinity for getting
into the headspaces of his actors, which benefits this sequel quite
finely. THE AMAZING
SPIDER-MAN 2 is at its most endearing when it’s honing in on quieter,
more introspective moments between the characters, which is greatly
assisted by the wonderfully nuanced, natural, and unforced chemistry
exhibited by Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
Their respective performances always manage to bring a low-key
verisimilitude and dramatic honesty to the story that films like this desperately
require, which helps make the more outlandish moments in THE AMAZING
SPIDER-MAN 2 that much easier to swallow.
Garfield himself – as shown before - has an immediate
likeability, even when Peter’s own youthful arrogance and naiveté gets
the better of him. Garfield’s
Peter is still the lonely outsider that Tobey Maguire’s version was, but
this Peter seems more darkly conflicted and emotionally uncertain. As is the
case with all comic book films, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is in solid form
when it focuses in on the man behind the mask.
it’s Webb’s insistence on stripping away the grit that he concocted in the
first film while simultaneously overstuffing this new film with an
overabundance of…well…everything…that sort of betrays the rock
steady performances. Visually,
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN just may be the best looking of all five films, and
no expense was spared in giving us virtuoso CG-enhanced shots of the
arachnid-powered hero in action (more than ever, you get an adrenaline
rushing first-person feel for what it would be like to scale buildings and
swing through the city as the hero so easily can).
Yet, for as glossy and well orchestrated as the effects and action
are here, they seem to draw too much fetishistic attention to themselves
and have the negative effect of subverting any sense of earth-bound
tension and intrigue in the film.
mindedness in trying to marry a summer tentpole/event film aesthetic with
thoughtful characters and drama aside, the director can’t seem to get a
sense of tonal ebb and flow to the proceedings. The all-over-the-map
screenplay further stymies the film, especially when trying to develop and
embellish both Electro and Harry Osborn as well rounded and compelling
antagonists. Jamie Foxx’s
Electro is a large misfire, who seems to be the product of the BATMAN
FOREVER school of campy and one-note super villains.
Dane Dahaan, the wonderfully intuitive actor from CHRONICLE,
LAWLESS, and THE
PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, is a terrific fit to evoke the sad, tragic,
and downright creepy downfall of Harry Osborn, but his arc with Peter
could have been that much more nurtured if Electro were excised from the
film altogether. Added to
this is an inexplicable blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo by Paul Giamatti
as Russian baddie Aleksi Sytsevich, who comic book aficionados know from
the source material as The Rhino. Yet,
I must ask: Why hire an Oscar winning talent to appear in a film like this and then
give him virtually nothing to do but serve as a placeholder wink to future
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 achieves a rather strong, gut-punching emotional wallop in its final 15 minutes that echoes a famous storyline from the comics, and it's handled with reasonably assuredness by Webb and his fine cast, but far too much of the film feels like one overlong and cobbled together two and half hour build up to it. It’s sad, because Garfield’s moments with Stone and Field (so thanklessly good as her empowered, but deeply vulnerable surrogate paternal figure) ring with so much truth, but the unfocused, unbalanced, and too-jam-packed scripting fails to compliment them. I understand the need for films like THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 to deliver as an extravaganza summer film and as a big budget sequel, but its undoing is that it tries to achieve too much and cater to too many fanboy whims. This is not a bad comic book film, per se, as much as it is just an undisciplined and overcrowded one.
Let’s hope they get it right for number three.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012) 1/2
And, for what it's worth, his ranking of the SPIDER-MAN films:
1. SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004)
2. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012) 1/2
3. SPIDER-MAN (2002)
4. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014) 1/2
5. SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007) 1/2