I love Spider-Man. More than any other of Stan Lee’s creations, Spider-Man has always been the one I related to the most, the one I felt the most like. That’s because when he isn’t webbing up bad guys and saving the day, Spider-Man is a socially awkward teenager who struggles with juggling work, student life and his relationships with his family and friends. He’s not a genius, playboy philanthropist or a billionaire orphan. He’s a person, and he’s much easier to relate to because of the very real struggles he faces when he’s outside of the costume.
Such is the reason why #TheAmazingSpiderMan worked so well as a reboot, and its sequel #TheAmazingSpiderMan2 follows through with the changes that Peter Parker is experiencing. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely weaknesses to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The script stretches itself too thin at times, some of the performances are just obscenely pompous and the filmmakers seemed more concerned with setting up for future installments rather than focusing on one coherent story. These things do not take away from its core appeal, and despite some of the narrative choices, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is still an entertaining, funny, energetic and surprisingly emotional continuation of Andrew Garfield’s stint as Spider-Man.
The film has been widely criticized, mostly for its abundance of villains and jam-packed Easter Eggs. It was blamed for killing the rebooted franchise, and while some of these viewpoints are fair criticisms, I think many viewers have been unfair to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and for what it was trying to do.
Here’s why I think The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not just a great Spider-Man sequel: it’s a great film, period.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The Humor Is On Point
Let’s cut to the chase here: #SpiderMan is a smart mouth. Long before Deadpool came onto the scene, Spider-Man was the guy who baited criminals using a constant stream of sarcasm and quick-witted dialogue. While the Tobey Maguire movies faithfully adapted the dramatic aspect of Peter Parker’s double life, it was sadly lacking in his humor department. The Amazing Spider-Man took a step in the right direction with that hilarious car thief scene, but it still left audiences wanting more from the new wall-crawler.
The great thing about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is that it deftly balances the humor with the drama, giving us a lighthearted Spider-Man without shortchanging the emotions he’s experiencing. The opening action sequence with Paul Giamatti’s Rhino is among my favorite chase sequence out of any superhero movie, not just because of the action, but because of Peter’s fun and snappy personality is beaming through it all. Be honest here: what other superhero (besides Deadpool) would land on the side of a speeding car, extend his hand out to a criminal, and say “Hey, name’s Spider-Man! You can call me Web-head, you can call me amazing, just don’t call me late for dinner, get it?”
But it’s not just that scene where Spidey’s humor shines most: it’s nearly any scene when he’s in his red-and-blue suit. From blending in with a cosplay crowd, to stopping a criminal mid-cold while buying cough medicine, to drowning out a super villain with a fire hose while sporting a firefighter’s helmet, Spider-Man livens up the scene no matter what danger he's facing. My favorite outburst was when the film’s villain, Electro (Jamie Foxx), tells Spider-Man he’s going to be like a God to the human race. Expecting a serious response, we instead hear Peter inquire: “A God named Sparkles?”
Oh, I love this Spidey’s sense of humor.
The Villains Are Imposing
Besides the Rhino, who was so over-the-top hammy that he threatened to become a cartoon character, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has some very interesting villains that make compelling, grounded characters in their own right. While Jamie Foxx’s pre-Electro-incarnation of Max Dillon comes off as a little obsessive and awkward, his transformation into Electro, well, electrifying. His motivations for becoming a villain make sense, as his peers have hated him as much as Peter’s high school classmates did him. Giving in to that hatred, Max becomes Electro to lash out at humankind for hurting and ignoring him, and he becomes a powerful force to reckon with. He’s not the best villain by any means, but Foxx’s portrayal still makes him a fascinating, intimidating character in his own right.
The standout, however, is Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn, who later transforms into this film’s version of the Green Goblin. DeHaan is perhaps the most grounded villain in The Amazing Spider-Man films, mostly because his motivation isn’t reptilian or electric voices talking to him in his head. No, DeHaan’s reasoning for villainy is actually much more relatable: he’s dying. Cursed with a genetic disease (that isn’t really explained well in the film), Harry is desperate to siphon a cure from Spider-Man’s blood, only for Spider-Man to refuse him and flee. Desperate to live, Harry reaches for any solution he can grasp, including injecting himself with raw spider venom that intensifies his condition – transforming him into the Green Goblin.
This portrayal of Harry is much more intense than James Franco’s incarnation in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, but it works so well when applied in this context. By making the Green Goblin the same age as Peter while simultaneously turning Peter’s best friend into his arch-nemesis, they effectively make Harry the more immediate contrast to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man. This is much more personal than turning his friend’s father into the villain, and it becomes even more emotional when he’s involved with the death of Peter’s love interest. In the many shades of this incarnation of the Goblin, Harry is harsh, angry and desperate, but more understandably so because of his circumstances. DeHaan brings layers into the Goblin, and it would have been fascinating to see how his story may have panned out if they continued the series.
The Tragedy Of Heroism Is Captured Honestly
By the time we get to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter has experienced loss in many forms: he's lost both of his parents, he's lost his Uncle Ben, he's lost George Stacy. By the time the film ends, Peter experiences perhaps his biggest loss of all: Gwen Stacy.
Throughout the film, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone play up their chemistry so much that it stands out from all of the action and spectacle. Their relationship exists as the crux of the story, and why wouldn't it be? We've all been enamored by our high school loves before, but Peter has the added complication of his double life as a superhero. Experienced with having the people he loves the most die because of his actions, he's terrified that he will cost Gwen Stacy everything she has. So he distances himself from her for her own safety.
But like a positive charge to a negative one, they keep coming back to each other. They meet up at night. They laugh and kid around and joke about the things they like the most about each other. They know they shouldn't be together, yet they can't resist each other. Some viewers were irritated at the inconsistencies of their relationship, but that's exactly what relationships are. They're messy, frustrating and emotionally confusing. Perhaps that's why it's so worth it when they finally do end up with each other.
But then the crushing blow is dealt: Gwen Stacy dies. Peter's greatest fear comes true in his arms, and the grief overwhelms him. People close to him have died before, but somehow this one feels more heartbreaking. It's a devastating moment for Peter's life, and it understandably shatters his world.
So Peter does the one thing we would completely understand anyone doing: he gives up. Spring turns to summer to fall to winter, and each time we see Peter standing over Gwen's grave, reliving that night and all of the mistakes he's made. It's a sad image, but it's also a truthful one.
By the end of the film, Peter once again dons the mask as Spider-Man for many reasons. Part of it is because Gwen wanted him to live his life to the fullest, part of it is because the city needed him once again, but perhaps the biggest reason why is because Peter needed to be Spider-Man again for himself. By this point, he's taken on armed criminals, giant lizards, electrified men, Green Goblins and giant metallic Rhinos. Peter can overcome any physical challenge that comes his way. With Gwen's death, an ailing city and with many citizens desperate for hope, Peter had to overcome the most difficult enemy of his life: himself.
Similar to Spider-Man 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 shows the costs of being a hero and what it means to sacrifice, to love and to grow. As Peter said in Spider-Man 2:
"Sometimes to do what's right, we have to be steady and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams."
In this film's context, Peter's dream is Gwen Stacy, and he is ultimately forced to give her up so he could continue to do the right thing.
This is why The Amazing Spider-Man 2 works so well as a Spider-Man film: it got his story right. People don't love Spidey because of his web-shooters, his wall-crawling or the nifty gadgets in his suit. They love Spider-Man because at the end of the day, his struggles reflect our own. They may not be captured as well in The Amazing Spider-Man films as they are in the Tobey Maguire movies, but they capture the true essence of Spider-Man nonetheless.
That's why I'll say while The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not the best Spider-Man movie by any means, it deserves just as much to be compared to its peers all the same.
What did you think? Do you think you misjudged The Amazing Spider-Man 2, or do you think it deserved the poor reviews that it received? Let us know in the comments below!