Amazing by name, but not unfortunately by nature, this bloated second installment in the hastily rebooted Spidey franchise fails to trap you in its web.
When Sam Raimi brought Spider-Man to the big screen in 2002, it landed at a time when the new era of comic book movies that had begun with X-Men two years earlier was still in its infancy.
Fast forward to 2012 and Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man arrived in a far more crowded market place, dominated by the double whammy of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and Marvel’s The Avengers.
While it did good business, when compared to these two box office behemoths, The Amazing Spider-Man felt like a lesser film. Lest we forget, it had only been five years since Raimi’s forgettable Spider-Man 3 and Webb’s reboot felt like what it was – a money-grabbing exercise by Sony Pictures to muscle in on the comic book movie boom.
The strongest aspects of that film remain the highlights of this follow-up – namely the performances of Andrew Garfield as awkward teenager Peter Parker turned superhero Spider-Man and Emma Stone as his smart and spiky love interest Gwen Stacy; and the winning chemistry both actors have together.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 finds Peter struggling to maintain the promise he made to Gwen’s father to stay away from his daughter in order to keep her safe, while also settling into his role as Spidey. With great power comes great responsibility and Peter’s responsibility to the people of New York is severely tested by the arrival of powerful supervillain Electro (Jamie Foxx), formerly sad and lonely Oscorp engineer Max Dillon.
Meanwhile, Peter’s long-absent childhood pal Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns home in time to take over the reins of Oscorp from his dying father (Chris Cooper) and it’s not long before Spider-Man gets in the way of their friendship.
The film inevitably draws comparisons to 2004’s Spider-Man 2, easily the best in Raimi’s Spidey trilogy, but falls short. The narrative is pretty similar – a brilliant Oscorp employee accidentally mutates into a supervillain and, with the help of a vengeful Harry Osborn, faces off against Spider-Man. However, while that film featured a properly three-dimensional villain and a storyline that zipped along, Electro’s arc feels underdeveloped, the action set pieces fail to properly engage and the pace often flags (at 142 minutes, it’s at least half-an-hour too long).
It also falls into the same trap as too many other comic book movies (Spider-Man 3 in particular) of believing that bigger is always better. Paul Giamatti’s Russian nutjob Aleksei Sytsevich is as superfluous as he is ridiculous and has presumably been injected into the film as a platform between this film and the next chapter in the franchise, while the curious shifts in tone between comic book goofiness and brooding seriousness suggest a movie that’s trying to be all things to all people, but ends up coming off as directionless.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s saving grace are the trio of Garfield, Stone and DeHaan. The strained relationship between Peter and Gwen is effectively brought to life by both actors and Stone in particular radiates in a role that commands strength, purpose and fortitude. DeHaan, meanwhile, is great as the increasingly desperate Harry and employs a smile that turns more crooked as the film wears on.
Special mention should go to the soundtrack, crafted by Hans Zimmer in collaboration with Pharrell Williams and several others. The music that introduces the newly created Electro is particularly effective as it both drives the action and provides a schizophrenic audio accompaniment to the confusion and anger coursing through the character’s mind.
However, a trio of great performances can’t save what is, at best, a very average movie and another underwhelming entry in a franchise that’s so far failing to live up to its title.