The Amazing Spider-Man 2 REVIEW

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 film review.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Release Date: 16 April 2014
12A | 141 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti

It’s just not Peter Parker’s day. But when is it? In this sequel to the 2012 reboot, Andrew Garfield’s arachnid-affected youth has problems with his love life, worries about his late parents, difficulties with old pal Harry Osborn and a supervillain or three wanting to pummel his face. There’s a lot going on. Which is one of the problems with this blockbuster, and yet, conversely, part of its value: like a big tin of Quality Street, it’s so packed with little treats that you’re bound to find something you like, even if you do have to sift through the coconut eclairs.

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 was pilloried in some quarters, a little unjustly, for having too much content, too many baddies. Perhaps Marc Webb was a fan, though, as his film builds a story of similar complexity. We begin, after a violent incident on a plane set in the past, with Spidey foiling fright-faced gangster Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) while on the way to his alter ego’s graduation. When Peter finally drops in, his fellow graduate, girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), has just delivered a speech whose message will resonate throughout the film. But things aren’t plain sailing for the bonny pair, with Peter haunted by Gwen’s dead father’s warning him off her.

Meanwhile, the son of Oscorp’s Norman Osborn, Harry (Dane DeHaan), is back in town, thrust into a position of power which he may abuse, particularly because of a shocking discovery he makes. Then there’s Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), an electrical engineer for Oscorp, whose fragile mind is further frazzled by a rather unpleasant incident that will have health and safety fans wincing. There’s also the mystery of Peter Parker’s late parents, whose father may be even more important to Peter than he initially believes. And if all of that isn’t enough, Aunt May (Sally Field), um, gets a job as a nurse…

Yep, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a hectic experience. Its jarring changes of tone make it even more so – one minute it’s a romcom, the next a mystery with a dash of espionage, the next a fully-fledged superpowered slugfest with blazing pyrotechnics (with a bizarrely eclectic soundtrack to match, switching from Hans Zimmer boomings to hip-hop to, briefly, classical). But what pyrotechnics: Electro is wonderfully realised for the big screen in just the manner comic book fans have wished for, and his Big Apple battles with Spidey are among the high points of this uneven but gutsy movie. What a shame though, that Jamie Foxx is hopelessly unable to breathe believability into the pre-transformation Dillon; his mumbling, shambling persona is a poor attempt at a muddled boffin.

Acting honours go instead to lead pair Garfield and Stone, displaying a deepening chemistry here, and in particular DeHaan as the perpetually bewitched and bothered Harry Osborn. He’s very entertaining as a character on the edge – somehow, though, he’s less satisfying when he’s tipped over that edge.

Harry’s machinations do bruising battle with the story’s other elements, particularly in the film’s middle act, which could have been pared down considerably. With a running time in excess of two hours, you can expect younger members of the audience to start getting a bit twitchy around this point, especially during the “lovey-dovey” bits. You also start to question what the film is actually about. Is it a tale of vengeance? Is it a tale of thwarted love? Is it about the individual’s struggle against the rest of the world? Well, probably all of these things, and you can’t help but cast your mind back to Sam Raimi’s more focused take on the material – as second instalments of a Spider-saga go, this is definitely weaker than Spider-Man 2. Electro is no Dr Octopus and Garfield’s Parker, smooth and likeable as he is, is not as warmly sympathetic as Tobey Maguire’s character, a lad who strained every sinew to be an honourable superhero.

It is, however, superior to Webb’s 2012 film, thanks to its buoyant confidence and the fact that it doesn’t have to tell an origin story. Humour, crucially, is never far away. Technically it’s superb, with the accomplished 3D making the viewer feel like they’re swinging every inch of the way across the skyscrapers with the webslinger – those with a fear of heights, consider yourselves duly warned. The intricacies of certain action sequences dazzle, such as Spidey saving a busload of passengers from Electro’s rage, or avoiding the sputtering bullets of Aleksei Sytsevich’s machine gun. They must drain the budget, which is probably one of the reasons why the costumed crimefighter disappears for a good chunk of the movie halfway in!

That’s one of a few surprises – some a lot bigger than others. You can’t help but be disappointed by the treatment of one of the three supervillains, so heavily trailed and yet such a minor presence. It makes sense in context, but it’s a little frustrating. Similarly, why reveal in a trailer the two costumes of a certain pair of supervillains hanging on a wall? Why not save that for the movie itself?

So there are quibbles to be had with this latest addition to the Marvel universe. But you must see it. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s a tentpole extravaganza that demands attention. And there are more than enough caramel swirls and strawberry delights in the tin to make it enjoyable.

Russell Lewin

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