To me, Spider-Man was never just a comic. That’s what he started out as, and that’s where my first exposure to him was, but he was never just a comic-book character. He was a symbol. He was everything that I wished I could be. He was my hero. It goes without saying that I have a certain soft-spot for the good old web-head.
Now sure, everybody loves Superman and Batman, whereas I always hated Superman, but I did like Batman. But as cool as Batman was, I could never relate to him. Out of every comic book character, it was always Peter Parker whom I could relate to the most. He wasn’t practically invincible or completely stinking rich. He was a tall, lanky, awkward nerd whom I could totally relate to. There were many a time when I would immerse myself in the Spider-Man lore, because it was always so much better than real life. I read all the comics, played with all the action figures, watched the 90s cartoon religiously, had the costume and ran around the house with my own web shooters, much to the chagrin of my parents. If I wasn’t a Jedi for Halloween then I was Spider-Man without fail. He was someone I wanted to be when I didn’t want to be myself.
Two years ago, Marc Webb rebooted your friendly neighbourhood skintight red and blue wise-cracking nerd to mixed results. Even if it tread on much familiar ground, I still found value in the first film such as the inspired casting of Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, the action and inclusion of The Lizard, etc...Now Webb is back with the inevitable sequel.
Webb is more confident a director than he was last time, that's for sure. His level of humor and playfulness which was there last time has definitely improved with the second cinematic outing. Same goes for the action that's more polished. Whenever the viewer gets to see the webhead's Spidey-Sense go off, the film goes into super-slow-mo and/or does some neat frame-ramping techniques which are some of the best parts of the film. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone continue to have fantastic chemistry with each other, but their relationship is choppy and poorly handled. We all know that Gwen Stacy was Peter's first love. Garfield and Stone do what they can with their material, but their relationship never grows or develops in a believable or natural way. They laugh, smile, Garfield talks fast, Stone habitually scratches her nose and laughs adorably, they argue, rinse and repeat.
While it's by no means a bad film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a jumbled and convoluted mess that more or less Iron Man 2-ed everything . Like Tony Stark's pre-Avengers sequel, Webb's wallcrawler sequel feels less like a film and more like a glorified placeholder for future sequels. Don't get me wrong, I'm just as pumped to see a Sinister Six film as much as the next guy, but did we really need to bog down 2 just to set up for it? No. No we didn't. The biggest problem with the film lies in the fact that there's no real focal point.
Months before the film's release, I was voicing doubts about the amount of CGI and the amount of characters/villains involved. Like the first film, I wasn't too sure about all of the effects beforehand, but when the time came for the film, they worked for the most part just fine. Characters and villains-wise the movie is a mess. I mean did nobody watch Spider-Man 3? Actually, it's as if they all decided to watch Raimi's third Spidey flick and use everything that didn't work in it. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets hamstrung by having too many characters and plotlines in its runtime. Paul Giamatti is pointlessly cast as the Rhino in two scenes (both just setting up for Sinister Six) and Jamie Foxx plays a good Electro, but his character's arc and motivation is rushed and unconvincing. Shailene Woodley got the axe for her two days of work as Mary Jane and I can definitely now see why. Let's also briefly put in Felicia Hardy just for the fans, even though there's too much already going on.
The most disappointing aspect would be that of Harry Osborn played by Dane DeHaan. He's a good actor (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines), but the writing of his character's arc, motivation and transformation is also rushed and unconvincing, because he's also just there to set up for Sinister Six. I will say this, if you're a comic fan, then you can probably put together what's going to happen. Visually, that scene looked great, but thematically also felt maddeningly rushed, because the rest of the film was just so overstuffed with so many other characters and plot-threads. Not to mention there are a lot of key scenes given away in the trailer, like the very last shot.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 works because of the fun action, humour and chemistry of its romantic leads. However, that's all bogged down by an overly complicated narrative that doesn't feel like a genuine story in favour of setting up for future films instead, and too many villains to give any one of them the proper development they actually needed. That is unlike Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn/Green Goblin or Alfred Molina's Otto Octavius/Doc Ock. At least this one didn't have an embarrassingly goofy dancing Emo Peter in it. So there's that.
2.5 stars out of 5