RELEASED: May 2nd 2014
DISTRIBUTED BY: Sony Pictures
DIRECTED BY: Marc Webb
WRITTEN BY: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner & James Vanderbilt
PRODUCED BY: Avi Arad & Matt Tolmach
MUSIC BY: Hans Zimmer & the Magnificent Six
STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Marton Csokas, B. J. Novak, Felicity Jones & Chris Cooper
I have to say, it’s a pretty weird strategy putting the last shot of your movies in all the trailers. It’s happened at least twice now, with this and Venom. Why is Sony doing this? Who knows.
Anyway, you may have heard the news, Jamie Foxx is currently in talks to return as Electro in the upcoming MCU Spider-Man 3, after previously playing him here, in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It seems like a weird choice, so I thought I’d go back and re-watch this older film, to see if I was being too harsh on Foxx’s character:
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 follows Peter Parker as he tries to uncover the truth behind his parent’s death all those years ago. Meanwhile, the shunned Oscorp engineer Max Dillon suffers a fatal accident at work and is reborn as the godlike Electro. As if that weren’t enough for Spider-Man to contend with, his relationship with his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy is on the rocks as she debates going to university in England, while Peter’s old friend Harry Osborn has returned after a ten-year absence to find a cure to his unusual degenerative disease.
There’s a lot going on in this film. Too much. After being hit with a flashback to the death of the Parkers, some insight into Spider-Man’s current status quo, Peter’s graduation and the start of his relationship problems with Gwen, the origin of Electro and the return of Harry Osborn, I assumed we’d be some ways into the film, but alas, by that point it still hadn’t hit the half-hour mark.
This movie is far more packed than it should be, as it seems Sony is determined to go down the same path they did with Spider-Man 3 and cram in as much as they can. This time with the end goal of setting up the now-cancelled (but-maybe-uncancelled?) Sinister Six movie. It’s understandable. The prospect of Spider-Man facing off against the Sinister Six is an exciting one, but this film demonstrates a decided lack of patience on Sony’s part, to the film’s detriment.
There’s so much going on that it’s hard to care about a lot of it, as it’s often just taking you away from whatever you do find interesting here. Plus, most of it seems unnecessary, especially now that we’re four years past The Sinister Six‘s release date and, obviously, the film does not yet exist.
The script, beyond being something of a muddled mess, also struggles with character work and a lot of the time dialogue in general. For instance, you’ve got Jamie Foxx – great actor, point behind this rewatch – and his character is just… wrong. I don’t really know how to describe it. Foxx himself gives a fine performance, but the character isn’t likeable or particularly interesting in the way he acts. He’s just going through the motions as he becomes a supervillain, at which point he’s almost a completely different character to where he starts, saying weird campy supervillain shit along the way.
The same can be said about quite a lot of the characters in this film, particularly the other villains. Why do half of them have campy over-the-top European accents, as if they’re starring in a completely different film to the rest of the cast? Why are all their motivations so hurried, to the point that if the Sinister Six were to actually come about, none of them would be interesting or unique, due to the fact that OsCorp literally made them all?
Even the non-villainous characters come off as weird. While Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is always a delight, the other characters are used in the strangest ways. In an effort to show Peter’s growing confidence as Spider-Man, yet anchor him in his nerdy roots, Garfield’s performance just comes off as a bit of a goofy weirdo. Felicity Jones joins the cast as Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. Black Cat, but with no references to her alter ego or even hints that she is the same character, beyond having the same name.
None of this is the actor’s fault, Garfield is still an enjoyable presence, just strange in the way he’s been directed to convey his awkward youthfulness.
And speaking of Parkers, why does his father have a super-secret science-base that rises out of the ground like a super-villain lair? Who built all that?
If I cared more, I’d have so many questions for the writers, but for now, I’ll just assume it comes down to a lack of a clear roadmap and greed on the producers part. ‘We want everything and we want it now’.
There is good in this film though. Despite knowing on some level this wasn’t the best film, I do remember leaving the cinema all those years ago have enjoyed the experience, and upon rewatch, it’s pretty clear why.
The ending of this film is much better than it has any right to be, considering what’s come before it. While Paul Giamatti’s Rhino is a misplaced goof, the final few sequences of the film highlight Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man at his best, and what he means to the city, and how, as Peter Parker, he struggles with all that loss and responsibility.
Similarly, the visuals are great. Not necessarily always from an obvious CGI standpoint, but when you examine the physicality of the actors and the characters. Spider-Man is perhaps at his most Spider-Man-ish in this film, bobbing and weaving throughout the city, in and out of gunfire. When web-swinging, he feels like he’s been pulled straight out of the pages of the comic books. The same is also true of Electro and to some extent, Green Goblin and the Rhino. Their designs may not be the best, but the way their powers are portrayed is brilliant.
Electro’s electricity consistently looks awesome and seeing him and Spider-Man clash makes for very entertaining watching. The Times Square sequence is especially good.
It makes me wonder if this film would be better if you just muted it throughout, but then you’d be left without Han Zimmer’s great score. There are a few missteps, such as the ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ bit, but otherwise, it’s every bit as rousing and emotive as some of the best superhero scores, and perfectly fits the characters they represent.
And the way it builds up to the Alicia Keyes/Kendrick Lamar/Han Zimmer end-credits song leaves you with a deceptive feeling of joy for what you’ve seen, regardless of how good you actually thought the movie was in the moment.
In short, Amazing Spider-Man 2 thrives when taking on titanic clashes between good and evil, but fails at most of the stuff in between.
But due to that feeling of elation that comes from seeing Spider-Man step up at the end of the movie, I’m going to be generous and give it a…
Thanks for reading! What did you think of The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Is Garfield’s Spider-Man series an underrated gem, or best forgotten? Let me know in the comments below!
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