Review – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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.

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

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

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.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) investigates the death of his parents in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) investigates the death of his parents in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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.

Nerdy Oscorp employee Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) shortly before becoming Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Nerdy Oscorp employee Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) shortly before becoming Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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.

Peter Parker's love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Peter Parker’s love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) catches up with old buddy Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) catches up with old buddy Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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.

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27 comments

  1. ruth · April 24, 2014

    So it definitely didn’t live up to its name, eh? Well I kind of have a hunch about this, plus Foxx as Electro just looks preposterous, and not in a good way. DeHaan looks good as Harry but once he becomes Green Goblin he looks laughable though. Btw, I reddited this Mark 😀

    • Three Rows Back · April 24, 2014

      I’m afraid not! I didn’t mention DeHaan’s Green Goblin makeover, but yes, it is very silly. I’m not sure how he kept a straight face to be honest! Thanks for the Reddit!

  2. ckckred · April 25, 2014

    Nice review. I’ve never been too big on superhero movies but I enjoyed Raimi’s take on Spider-Man (the first two, not the third). I was pretty bored by the reboot and I don’t have much interest in this.

    • Three Rows Back · April 30, 2014

      Thanks very much. I enjoyed them too (the first two, not the third). I was hoping for something better than this to be honest.

  3. Tom · April 25, 2014

    Aww…this is a review that I trust so much, and this makes my heart heavy with the news. I was concerned how this would turn out trying to balance multiple villains, multiple story arcs and carry on the story in general just being a sequel. I personally am in the camp that really enjoys the arrival of the reboot. But I have to admit the writing isn’t really much of an improvement over Raimi’s. Great review Mark

    • Three Rows Back · April 30, 2014

      Cheers man! It’s better than Spider-Man 3, but not a lot.

  4. Zoë · April 25, 2014

    Dammit man. The reviews are coming back so mixed. Love your write up though Mark! I am going to see this tonight, I am hoping to not leave the cinema feeling as though I was kicked in the teeth, but in all honesty I am going for DeHaan more than anything else.

    • Tom · April 30, 2014

      You may just feel zapped in the teeth. . . Electro is supposed to be crazzzyyy!!!!!! 🙂 🙂 😀

      • Zoë · April 30, 2014

        Zapped…. noooo hahahaha!

    • Three Rows Back · April 30, 2014

      Thanks Zoe! Fair points. Tom, Electro IS crazzzzyyyy!!!!

      • Zoë · April 30, 2014

        “DeHaan, meanwhile, is great as the increasingly desperate Harry and employs a smile that turns more crooked as the film wears on.” – There is so much truth to that statement. I must say that I absolutely adored DeHaan in here!

      • Three Rows Back · April 30, 2014

        He was good wasn’t he? Until he turned into the Green Goblin. Then, not so much!

      • Zoë · April 30, 2014

        I am such a DeHaan fan it is insane. Yeah they really could have worked that better. I liked listening to him and all that, but his transformation was really rushed, and his appearance a little sketchy… meh.

  5. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop · April 25, 2014

    Top review mate! I thought it had some good moments, but it definitely falls short. I was wary of DeHaan has Harry but thought he was actually really good and I’d have liked to see more of him. And it was definitely too long!

    • Three Rows Back · April 30, 2014

      Cheers Chris. I’ve got a lot of time for DeHaan and he’s great… until he becomes the Green Goblin (man, that was bad).

  6. Gene · April 25, 2014

    My trouble with most superhero flicks now is getting caught up in the beauty of the action shots and the “nerdy-ness” of seeing them on screen, and letting many things like you mentioned (similar/weak narrative, etc.) just slip through the cracks. Thanks for pointing them out. Gotta keep my nerdy side composed 🙂

    • Three Rows Back · April 30, 2014

      Ha ha. You’ve gotta have a decent script or it just won’t work, no matter how nerdy we all get!

  7. Niejan · April 25, 2014

    Nice review, but you make the (popular) mistake in your reasoning by comparing this film to the Raimi films which will lead to the inevitable conclusion that this installment doesn’t live up to its name. However, I think it’s better to compare it to the first part in the Webb generation. To be honest, I didn’t quite enjoy TASM1 (because I had to compare it to the Raimi films; there was no other option), but I think TASM2 is a really solid comeback when comparing it to the first film. Or perhaps that’s just me setting low standards/expectations?

    • Three Rows Back · April 30, 2014

      Appreciate your feeback. Well, if you compare the first ASM to Raimi’s films I think it’s going to be inevitable that you compare ASM2 to those films too. I think the short space of time between both sets of franchises doesn’t help. I like the character of Spidey and wanted these films to work; I just feel they show little or no ambition and waste the acting talent they have in Garfield and Stone et al. That’s my two penneth worth anyway!

  8. Dan · April 26, 2014

    I actually enjoyed the first film a lot. I preferred its styling over Raimi’s efforts (a trio of films I’ve never liked) and felt it had a stronger hero and villain. So I was looking forward to this one but it definitely doesn’t look like it lives up to expectation. Even reviewers who enjoyed part 1 are ripping it to shreds.

    • Three Rows Back · April 30, 2014

      I really wanted the reboot to work and was willing to forget about the Raimi trilogy (I liked the first two, not the third one). However, it just failed to ever get going and this film, though better, suffers from that same inertia.

  9. Movie Review World · April 26, 2014

    Great review although I think I enjoyed this entry more than you. I somewhat found it to be a breath of fresh air in a market saturated by a formula and thematic structure that plagues all MARVEL STUDIO films. Sony still having the rights and reigns here I found to be bonus as they did not have to worry about the restraints of tieing into other Marvel franchises. Thus, left them to explore a more believable character arc. I also found the visuals to be as striking as they were thrilling. A first time for a comic book movie to leave that impression on me – Batman Trilogy aside

    • Three Rows Back · April 27, 2014

      Fair dues. I hear what you’re saying; the market is saturated no doubt, but this doesn’t do anything special or different in my opinion. Garfield is very good and the interplay with Stone was strong, but that’s as good as it gets for me.

  10. Victor De Leon · April 28, 2014

    Nice review! I was actually really looking forward to this film but the more slo mo shots and all of the extensive and gamey CGI I see in the clips, the more my enthusiasm has tempered. The first ASM did absolutely nothing for me (I did like Sheen and Fields) so I am not too sure this one will change anything. The actors may be strong but I need the material to be just as good.

    I wasn’t in that camp that really welcomed the reboot (I felt kind of meh about the whole deal) and I know, for some reason, it is hip to trash the Raimi films but I really like them (I’ve collected the comics since I was a kid) and don’t care who knows it. Good work on this write up. I really trust your perspective. I may still give it a go but maybe not right away. Thanks!

    • Three Rows Back · April 30, 2014

      Thanks Vic! I was pretty unmoved by the first one and the trailer for ASM2 didn’t look too great either. Shame the finished movie lived down to the trailer.

  11. sati · May 3, 2014

    I think I’ll skip this one – I didn’t even finish the first one and I’m really annoyed someone of Stone’s charm and talent wastes their time in soulless franchise.

    • Three Rows Back · May 7, 2014

      Fair dues. If you couldn’t sit through the first one you’d really struggle with this.

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