Movie Review: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014) – Too Many Villains. Again!
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 suffers from, almost exactly, the same problems as its predecessor from two years ago. While having brilliant potential, and really reinventing some very cool concepts from the existing Spider-Man franchise by Sam Raimi over 10 years ago, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (TASM2 from here on out) fails in the same regards as the original Marc Webb directed feature in 2012. (My Review here.)
After the conclusion of the first film, the sequel gives us an established Peter Parker as Spider-Man and brilliantly sums up the superhero and his many struggles with an adrenaline packed action sequence. Having to stop a Russian mob’s attempt to steal dangerous materials from Oscorp, during a high speed chase through the city, when he’s supposed to be at his own High School Graduation, supporting his Valedictorian girlfriend, is just another day in the life of the friendly neighborhood Web-head. The beauty behind this character, just like Buffy or any other high school role model archetype, is how their outrageously fictional life is a metaphor for the constant juggling and real life stress that everyday teenager can relate to. Every kid can feel like Peter Parker trying to do all these things all at once and keeping everyone happy. 1 scene captures beautifully what the previous movies failed to do with the entire feature length runtime.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Garfield’s good looks and robust charm help sell this persona of Peter Parker even more, making everyone eventually forgive his tardiness and, what they perceive to be, immature irresponsibility. While everything seems to be going great in Peter Parker’s life, being adored by the general public, having a great girl, having this super hero thing down pat, his parents’ past still haunts him. The first scene of the movie very nicely ties in the first and second movies, with an expansion on the opening sequence of the first film, and a more in-depth look into what actually happened to Peter’s parents. On top of his parents, the promise that Peter made to Captain Stacy in the previous movie, to keep Gwen out of his life, and out of harm’s way, also weighs on Peter, jeopardizing his relationship with her.
It’s a beautiful set up to the character, and to the emotional turmoil that one would expect to unfold through out the film, complicating Peter’s life as Spider-Man. However, it’s all squandered when the movie becomes a quirky Indie movie romp waist deep in the canals of unnecessary teenage angst and dripping with go-nowhere scenes and dialogue meant to be ‘cute’, but just eat up screen time that could’ve been better used to develop the story and its characters.
TASM2 lightly features on the origins of Peter’s parents, and how it’s tied to Peter’s own transformation after the spider-bite. However, it’s disappointing when the movie doesn’t focus too much on that, but is busy setting up future sequels and developing the franchise. This is TASM2’s biggest problem, just like Webb’s first attempt, the focus in tone and content of the movie being more of a romance, than an action adventure movie, undermines any heroic elements from the story. Spider-Man’s relationships with the women in his life are meant to define him, as Spider-Man. His sacrifices, let downs and even deaths… ultimately make Spider-Man who he becomes. To give us a story where the focus is on the relationship, with a bumbling Peter trying to salvage his relationship, moping over his girlfriend, and displaying emo-teen angst as he weeps in bed with his earphones on with hipster music, is not only not a good Spider-Man story… it’s not a good dramatic story either. Especially when it comes at the expense of any real conflict, with anyone else, other than some very cool fight scenes. Unless Marc Webb is trying to re-invent the Webslinger as a new-age romantic hero, this tonal shift in TASM2 serves no purpose.
The larger, franchise-tying storyline here culminates in the return of Harry Osborn, Peter’s long lost friend, and son of the ominous Norman Osborn, featuring Chris Cooper in a very wasted role. Dane DeHaan captures Harry perfectly, as the dynamic in TASM2 between the two characters explains the nuances of their relationship better than any other on screen depiction thus far. Harry’s self deprecating ‘rich-boy’ jokes combined with Peter’s flippancy & sarcasm truly show us how these guys from different backgrounds can maintain such a deep friendship. The chemistry between the actor’s help as well.
While the introduction and character arc of Harry Osborn seems abrupt and out of nowhere, the actor and the chemistry between Garfield & DeHaan truly solidify their friendship in the short screen time they have together. Harry Osborn, and his eventually inevitable turn happens gorgeously in the film, but a few more minutes spent developing his arc, would have been better served to gradually show the progression of the character, rather than the 5 minute flip that occurs in the 3rd act, which makes little sense.
The main villain, played by Jamie Foxx, is simply put, brilliant. Jamie Foxx plays Max Dillon, an underwhelming and under appreciated employee of Oscorp, who just wants to be recognized, seen and remembered. This need is what drives him to insane lengths after an accident imbues him with special powers. The character development of Max, AKA Electro, is done wonderfully. Unlike Rhys Fans in the first film, Max’s eventual downfall into a murderous villain is gradual, consistent and most importantly, human. One can even sympathize with the character, which is a great accomplishment by the writers and the actor as well. Unfortunately, the last few scenes with Electro undermine all this beautiful development by reducing him to a blunt tool, crudely aimed at Spider-Man as part of the bigger, franchise-creating picture.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is by no means a bad film, but it’s weighed down by a lot of sloppy storytelling elements, which hold it back from truly being epic. As mentioned by a friend, Andrew Garfield is the embodiment of Peter Parker / Spider-Man, however, he’s stuck in a sub par super-hero movie which acts more like Film Festival entry about tragic high school love. The third act of the movie is busy with setting up the future of the franchise, rather than following through elements and characters that was wonderfully set up in the beginning of the movie. The ending leaves one feel cheated and unresolved.
The marketing campaign for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 created so much hype for the movie, that the movie itself was a huge letdown in comparison. The editing of fight scenes, the larger than life promises of ‘his greatest battle’, all serve to underwhelm the actual movie, given how much of these epic scenes were already show in the Trailers themselves. It becomes even worse when one finds out that the climax, literally the last frame of the movie itself, is used very prominently in the every single Trailer to try selling the movie to its audience.