May 4, 2014 by Paul Curtin
With the reboot’s origin story now out of the way, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was director Mark Webb’s chance to step out of the shadow that Sam Rami created a decade ago with the superb Spider-Man 1 & 2 films. While Webb proved his ability to direct great action sequences with his first Spidey film, he’s somehow managed to get stuck in the same tangled trap as Rami did in Spider-Man 3.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 starts off strong. The film opens with an exhilarating plane sequence that successfully does what Sony has been promising to do all along – tell the untold story of Spider-Man and more importantly, his mysterious scientist father, Richard Parker.
After the opening, Webb takes us back to present-day New York where Peter Parker is trying to balance his ordinary life with cleaning up the streets as Spider-Man. Peter, played again by Andrew Garfield (who is now 30 in real life), is shown finally graduating from high school… and with Garfield’s age starting to show, it’s good that Webb made the decision to emphasis that Peter is finally becoming an adult. But while Peter may be growing up, he still lives at home, which leads to some great awkward comedic moments between him and his Aunt May, played again by industry vet Sally Field.
Like the first film, both Garfield and real-life girlfriend Emma Stone bring their off-screen chemistry to the big screen. Both actors deliver great performances that are more true to the comic’s version of Peter/Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy than the original films. At times their story can be a bit melodramatic with too much teenage romance problems, but this is what you would expect from young adults in their scenarios. And while not as much cheese as the original, there’s still the occasional goofy moment like Spidey putting on a firefighter’s helmet before using their hose in an urgent situation because it’s something that the kids might like.
Unfortunately, while Garfield and Stone are as good as ever in their roles, other newly introduced actors are misused. Even with the new characters fitting their roles well and everything being set up perfectly, the story quickly begins to devolve into a convoluted mess that again makes you question why this reboot was ever needed.
New plot devices like Parker’s blood being the key to him getting his powers take away from the original idea and appeal of Peter being a nerd who is just like everyone else. In the reboot, only someone with Parker’s blood can have the special powers he has, which leads us down Hollywood’s far too often treaded road of characters who are the “chosen one” fulfilling their destiny.
And then there are the supervillains… one after another… after another. Jamie Foxx does a great job at the beginning of the film playing a nerdy and lonely scientist who gets his powers from a freak accident. Like a Riddler/Dr. Manhattan mashup, Foxx becomes Electro, allowing for a great opening battle scene with plenty of memorable moments. But his character isn’t ever fully fleshed out; he does bad things just because he’s been treated poorly his whole life… and NEW UNLIMITED POWER! ARGH, SO MAD AND CRAZY!! There’s never any real reason for him to become so evil considering how harmless he seemed without power and that the actual evil people are the ones trying to take advantage of him.
With Electro being a new character we haven’t seen yet in a Spider-Man film, there should have been more time given to him, yet Webb ignores all the mistakes of Spider-Man 3 (maybe in part due to Sony’s influence) and tries to cram in even more bad guy origin stories. Dane DeHaan is great as Harry Osborn, but his relationship with Peter and transformation into the Green Goblin is insanely rushed. Paul Giamatti’s talent is completely wasted as he’s thrown in as the Rhino just to meet a villain action scene quota and is primary just there to tease future films. Even worse is that the Green Goblin and Rhino aren’t done yet and as one scene and the credits hint, there’s even more villains from the original threequel coming in addition to the already bloated cast.
Putting all the issues with the story aside, TASM2 still succeeds in being an enjoyable summer action movie. The special effects at times truly are amazing, and the few scenes where Spider-Man is swinging around the city completely justify the added ticket price for IMAX 3D. TASM2 delivers on the action, but like the last film, again fails on justifying its existence other than to help Sony keep their best-selling superhero in the spotlight and set up bigger future films in his universe. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets 3 out of 5 stars (Good).