After the disappointment that is known as Spider-Man 3 you’d think Sony would be smart enough to recognize their mistake and not oversaturate their prized Spider-Man film with too many villains and plot points in one film. Yet, here we are, 7 years later and the same conclusions can be drawn from Sony’s second attempt at a Spider-Man franchise. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is full of story but weighed down heavily by its ambitious undertaking. Asking why isn’t going to help either, believe it or not, there is some good in TASM2 but the bad outweighs the good, slightly. It certainly has heart and spirit shooting from the magnetized web shooters Peter (Andrew Garfield) created.
Following an unusually similar approach to the first two films TASM2 sees Peter and his complicated girlfriend/not girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) graduating from college and making their way into the world. Peter works for the Daily Bugle, but no J. Jonah Jameson is found, only said aloud. People love Spider-Man – actually, they idolize him while some obsess over the web head a little too much. Norman Osborne (Chris Cooper) dies suddenly leaving everything to his son Harry (Dane DeHaan) including Oscorp who turn out to be shadier than they lead on to be having a hand in creating 2 out of the 3 villains in Max Dillon’s Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Harry’s Green Goblin.
While Spider-Man must stop the threats to the city, Peter constantly relives George Stacy’s (Denis Leary) warning to leave Gwen alone. On top of that solving the mysterious disappearance of his parents Richard Parker (Campbell Scott) and Mary Parker (Embeth Davidtz). All of this while setting up a potential 3rd film to conclude the trilogy and spin-off films. Safe to say TASM2 is convoluted.
What made TASM great was the charismatic chemistry between Andrew and Emma. From dating each other in their personal lives, their timing, banter, and body language is in sync for the entirety of the 141-minute runtime. Both are charming, sweet and leagues better than Tobey and Kirsten’s on-screen presence. That same chemistry is even stronger in TASM2 as if the two never missed a beat. While Tobey made for a better Peter Parker, Andrew makes a better Spider-Man. If you’ve read the comics at all (especially the early ones) from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man words are Peter’s thoughts. When the spandex is on, Spider-Man is sarcastic, funny, goofy and quick on his feet – Andrew nails it 10 out of 10 times.
Both Sam Raimi and Marc Webb’s version of Spider-Man have their own identity. Raimi’s trilogy had a centralized theme of responsibility and forgiveness. Each film had those thematic elements weaved into the scripts. TASM & TASM2’s centralized theme deals with grief and mourning. Spider-Man as a character loses more than he wins especially after the moments the two lives cross paths. Telling people you’re Spider-Man is never an optimal solution – the story always ends in death, its inevitable. First Peter loses his parents followed by his Uncle Ben and then Captain Stacy all while shouldering this massive responsibility. TASM2 piles on the loss and how Peter deals with that grief makes him a better hero even when he wants to forget the double life he’s lived.
While the good of TASM2 shines throughout the film, the bad shines brighter. TASM2 is effects heavy sometimes relying on it to shoulder the burden for its mediocre action sequences. CGI is easily noticeable in the third act of the film while Spider-Man battles Electro. Going along with the battle is an electronic version of a Spider-Man song. The term too many cooks in the kitchen perfectly describes TASM2’s score from Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr, Mike Einziger & Junkie XL. All 5 composers seem to be getting lost within the overall feeling the score should provide – choosing style over substance.
Character design is another opportunity TASM2 missed. Electro looks like a Blue Man Group superfan who was angry because they didn’t let him come on stage. Electro’s origin is cool (I guess) but who knew one of the perks of becoming a supervillain was getting the gap in your teeth fixed without visiting a dentist. Leave it to the eels.
Possibly the biggest issue surrounding TASM2 involves the script written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner and James Vanderbilt. Again, too many cooks in the kitchen. I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, TASM2 is oversaturated and stuffed to the brim with plotlines that could and should have been left out entirely. I just don’t care about Richard and Mary Parker and what happened to them. Harry feels shoehorned in as a character even though Dane DeHaan is a wonderful actor. Look what he accomplished in Chronicle. He should be everywhere, and he does the best with what he’s given. At least Aunt May (Sally Field) is given the attention the character deserves after Rosemary Harris knocked it out of the park in Raimi’s trilogy.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t bad, but it isn’t good either – its a middle of the road Spider-Man film. It has its moments that that dazzle and dare I say sparkle and captures the identity of what Spider-Man is like once the tights are on. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are captivating together – one never outshining the other but the writing, special effects and too many villains and storylines keep TASM2 from being on the same level as its predecessor or two thirds of Raimi’s trilogy.
It’s a shame Sony got hacked and sensitive information was released, I really would liked to have seen a third film with what Sony was planning.
Written By: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner & James Vanderbilt
Directed By: Marc Webb
Music By: Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr, Mike Einziger & Junkie XL
Cinematography: Dan Mindel
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti
Release Date: May 2, 2014
Running Time: 2 Hours 22 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%
My Score: 2.5 out of 5
Based On: Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko