After the rise and fall of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise the series arguably needed (and deserved) a much needed reset. Unfortunately Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man wasn’t as much a reboot as a re-tread with added ‘Spidey-skating’ and a scaly villain with PowerPoint presentation exposition skills. Now with the villain-palooza marketing that’s making The Amazing Spider-Man 2 look like Raimi’s Spiderman 3 had an orgy with Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin, you, like this reviewer, are right to have been hesitant to give Spidey a fifth shot at your cash. I’m extremely pleased to say that there may be hope for our friendly, neighbourhood spandex wearing New Yorker.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is settling into his role as Spider-Man; he and girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) are graduating from high school and he’s being haunted by the emphatic plea of Mr Stacey (Dennis Leary) to protect her by keeping his distance. The vortex for all things creepy, Oscorp, is covering up another accident that turned engineer and weirdo Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) into the crackling powerhouse Electro. While heir to the Oscorp fortune Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan) is back on the scene which prompts Peter to start exhuming the secrets of his past.
The relationship of Peter and Gwen is essential to the success of The Amazing Spiderman 2. Webb and his two leads craft such a beautiful and whimsical chemistry between Garfield and Stone that no matter how awesome Spidey is swan-diving between skyscrapers, or the air vibrating at Electro’s whim – Peter and Gwen’s exchanges snap, crackle and pop off of the screen. Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner have thankfully gone back to decades of source material to realign movie Spider-Man with the comic archetype. Garfield relishes and absolutely nails the cheek of Parker and the playful adolescent manner that informs his crime fighting style. This IS New York’s ‘OG’ superhero and his swagger and theatricality is what a teen superhero in NYC would have to be. While Peter/Spider-Man is right back on track Kurtzman, Orci and Pinker keep Stone’s Gwen Stacy fresh and modern by not allowing the character to be helplessness like the plethora of super hero dames before her. Instead there’s a kind of badass thrill-seeker abandon to the fact that she knows her relationship with a superhero means that she’ll be close to danger. She’s beautiful, smart but her love for Peter screams that the juice is worth the squeeze — so to speak.
The highlights in the supporting cast are Sally Field’s Aunt May who exposes the full extent of the loss of Uncle Ben and she tries to influence Peter to remain strong — one particular scene may get your tear ducts tingling. The wünderkind DeHaan informs Harry with the darkness of his manipulative father Norman (Chris Cooper) while being able to bring an implied rich backstory to his childhood relationship with Peter. His emergence as the Green Goblin though felt like it played in fast-forward. Kurtzman, Orci and Pinker are tasked with tying the loose ends of the original, an expansion into Peter’s parents disappearance, setting the scene for the expansion of the Spidey-verse, or inferences to the future Sinister Six film that take the focus away from the central plot; and it’s to the films detriment.
Foxx’s Electro is a huge missed opportunity. Unfortunately, he’s lumped with an almost identical origin story to Batman Forever’s the Riddler (Jim Carrey). He’s dorky, friendless and obsessed with our protagonist. His social ineptitude and downright dimwittedness allows him to be used as a battering ram for Harry Osborn’s Green Goblin instead of ascending to the god like potential that his character’s powers deserved. Let’s just hope that there’s a Dr. Manhattan (The Watchmen) return coming in future films.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2, thanks to the beautifully conceived and portrayed characters at the heart, is the best Spiderman film to date.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: Alex Kurtzman (screenplay/screen story) & Roberto Orci (screenplay/screen story) & Jeff Pinkner (screenplay/screen story) and James Vanderbilt (screen story)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane Dehann, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field