Back in 2012, ‘(500) Days of Summer’ director Marc Webb broke out into the mainstream with ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’, a reboot of the classic Marvel hero that explores little known elements of Peter Parker’s life, including the fate of his parents. Now that story continues with the next installment of this Sony Pictures franchise, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, which finds the wall-crawler making some tough decisions about balancing his life as a superhero and a high school graduate with a loving girlfriend. Of course, those hard choices quickly become more difficult when a new foe is thrown into the mix and an old friend asks for a favor that could prove deadly.
While the first film in this series was good, it was largely forgettable to me. It definitely didn’t outshine the first two Sam Raimi ‘Spider-Man’ movies in my book. The sequel, however, did surpass Webb’s first go with the character. I felt that we got to see a lot of growth from the filmmaker as the action was a lot more memorable and the audience was more emotionally invested in Peter and Gwen. That’s partially because of the fact that we’ve had a whole other movie before this to get to know them, but I really think that Webb’s fast-paced action and beautiful shots on top of the casts’ strong performances tied the film together nicely. It was also a nice touch to see the director use as many practical effects as he could. In a world where CGI seems to be the standard, it’s refreshing to watch tactics used by Buster Keaton and Fred Astaire stay alive by seeing them utilized by Spider-Man.
Though I may not have been the biggest fan of the first film, one awesome thing that carried over was the excellent nods to the source material. In this second movie, there were a lot of cool things taken directly from the comics that made the whole experience richer. From wardrobe choices to hidden details like the time on a clock during a certain scene to cameos from non-superpowered alter egos, it was fun to find things like that throughout the film.
One thing that I wish that didn’t carry over from the comics was the hokey dialogue. Mind you, I’m aware that this is a comic book movie, but something just felt overdramatic when Gwen declaratively states with a stern face in the middle of Chinatown, “I dump you.” That line sounded like it would fit better in a word bubble in a comic than said outloud in a movie. There were a couple of other moments like that too, but I think they were hidden in humor, so it was a bit more forgivable, although they may have used the word “amazing” one too many times.
Despite a few missteps in the dialogue, the script was fairly solid. People who were worried that Webb would pull a ‘Spider-Man 3’ and bury the story with too many villains need not fear. This tale is much more focused than Raimi’s final chapter and it managed to tie everything together in an interesting manner. Some might actually draw a parallel to Joel Schumacher’s ‘Batman’ movies visually since Jaime Foxx’s Electro follows a similar path to Jim Carrey’s Riddler and ends up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze, but once we get into that first Spidey vs. Electro battle, it’s easy to see that the Marvel villain is a superior foe compared to those 90s relics.
Finally, I cannot wrap up this review without going into detail about the awesome cast. For starters, Dane DeHaan is incredible. I’ve said it since they cast him as Harry Osborn, but he just proved my point in this movie. He handles the darkness of Norman’s son and the madness of the Green Goblin flawlessly. That kid is going places. Speaking of Norman Osborn, it was a shame that Chris Cooper wasn’t utilized more. To cast someone of that caliber for one scene is such a bummer. The same can be said for Paul Giamatti as Rhino, but it pretty much goes without saying that we’ll see him again. Last but not least are our two leads. The chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield is so amazing. Their real life connection carries over onto the big screen and it really helps with some of the more emotional moments of the movie. Oh man, I’m gonna stop right there before I venture into spoiler territory.
Basically, it was a great job all around when it comes to ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’. Since I’m supposed to be critical of these things, the weakest part of the movie was the villains. It definitely wasn’t crowded, but there were moments where things were rushed, especially with the Green Goblin. That being said, the bad guys had great motivations, provided some epic showdowns with Spidey, and possessed the right amount of believability in their backstories to make it all work. So if that ended up being the worst part, then that’s not so bad right?
At the end of the day, I think that after seeing ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, I will consider myself a fan of this franchise. Prior to this, I was a casual observer, but I have been converted, True Believers. I loved how dark things got for Peter, though never as dark as Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman’, and how emotionally invested I found myself during the course of the film. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that this is my favorite ‘Spider-Man’ film since 2002. I highly recommend splurging and going for the IMAX experience. After you see those fight scenes, you’ll thank me.