The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: Sony) Running Time: 136 minutes approx
Despite mixed reviews the The Amazing Spider-Man reboot in 2012 was successful enough to please the money men at Columbia studios so little time was inevitably wasted in announcing a sequel to the world.
Andrew Garfield returns as the friendly neighbourhood web slinger and his alter-ego Peter Parker with Emma Stone reprising her role as girlfriend Gwen Stacy. While battling violent Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) Spidey saves meek, put upon OSCORP employee Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) from danger, which the loner takes as a personal endorsement of friendship.
On his birthday Max is ordered to stay back and take care of problem in the electrical generator but it struck by a blown connection, falling into a vat of genetically mutated electric eels which ravage his body. Declared dead OSCORP hides the accident and wipes Max from their records but he comes back to life, transformed into a being engulfed by electricity. After causing a power outage in Times Square Spidey comes to the scene and promises to help Max but a trigger happy police officer ruins the deal, causing Max to distrust his “best friend” Spidey.
But wait – there is more! You’ve heard the expression “too many cooks spoil the broth”? Well this film has FOUR writers which explains the numerous subplots which we dip in an out of. Granted these threads are all brought together by the end of the film, setting the scenario for the next film, but with so much going on the focus on the key plot points get obfuscated by their overlapping presence.
What should have been the emotional core of the film ends up being another plot line vying for screen time, and that is the truth behind the death of Peter’s parents, which was briefly discussed in the first film. Recalled in piecemeal revelations and flashbacks this essentially serves as a conduit for the storyline involving Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) who not only inherits his father’s company when he dies but a debilitating terminal illness. No spoilers but Spider-Man is a vital ingredient to the cure but can Peter Parker help his best friend without revealing himself?
Superhero yarns by their very nature require a suspension of disbelief and in comic form we find that much easier to do than in a real live action presentation. Because of the vast gallery of colourful enemies Spidey makes the big screen interpretations don’t lend themselves to an easy transition as was demonstrated even in the praised Sam Raimi films. While our central hero couldn’t really be tampered with on an aesthetic front, the villains required some understandable alterations.
For Max’s alter ego Electro (a name he apparently came up with for himself while in stasis) he thankfully doesn’t have that electrified star mask his comic book predecessor had; instead he is a glowing blue hunk of electricity and has the power to literally dismantle his body into tiny electric particles and travel through the cities’ electrical grid (which he designed).
If you cast your mind back to Willem Defoe’s Green Goblin in the first Sam Raimi film and the criticism that outfit evoked, I am sure the same awaits the “updated” version we have here, which does nothing to disguise the goblin’s true identity. However the biggest derision will be reserved for Rhino. Obviously they couldn’t put a guy in a rhino suit like in the comic books so the mecha suit is a great compromise – the problem is it just looks silly! There is no other word for it.
Whether it was from fear of failure or arrogance that there would be a captive audience regardless, the decision to overload this film with so many subplots is not a successful one. Tonally the film flits between light comedy with Spidey’s quips and playful interaction with Gwen then switches moods as everything dear to Peter Parker starts to fall apart. If not that, we often jump from simple human drama to over the top CGI explosions and set pieces on a whim.
Had the script focused on just one or two elements the substance over style balance might have yielded a healthier dichotomy for the audience to immerse themselves in. The cast however do their best to keep us engaged and while I’m not fan of Emma Stone or Andrew Garfield, they do create a palpable chemistry when together. Stone’s Gwen is certainly more dynamic than Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane. Sally Field gets more to do as Aunt May but is still underutilised in her gravitas role.
Jamie Foxx might be a marquee name but his character felt too comedic and clichéd in being the ignored nerd who becomes the centre of attention through his new found powers while Paul Giamatti is an immensely talented actor who is wasted as Rhino. Dane DeHaan is quite the surprise as the tortured Harry but his Green Goblin – from the brief appearance we got of him – doesn’t hold much promise of being anything more than a pantomime villain.
With the nature of the comic book film genre always being open to severe criticism from the film snobs one feels duty bound, as a fan, to leap to its defence regardless but when the results are as unfocused and cluttered as they are here, the flaws leap out to the point of being almost indefensible. The film isn’t *that* bad but its drawbacks are too many to warrant blanket praise.
The biggest shame is how these obvious blunders were allowed to happen in a project as huge as The Amazing Spider-Man 2. With a five decade legacy to uphold this is a franchise which deserves to be treated with the utmost respect and not be exploited as a cash cow. With the third film on its way let’s hope some quality control is implemented regarding the script and the content quota as the mistakes made in this film cannot be made again.
English, English Audio Descriptive, Hungarian, Polish and Turkish Language
English, English SDH, Hindi, Polish, Turkish and Hungarian Subtitles
Deleted & Alternate Scenes
Filmmaker Audio Commentary
Alicia Keys “It’s On Again” Music Video
Ultra Violet version
Rating – ***
Man In Black