The Movie Waffler New Release Review - <i>The Amazing Spider-Man 2</i> | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Spidey finds himself targeted by three new villains.

Directed by: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Denis Leary

Peter Parker (Garfield) has just graduated high school and finds himself torn between his love of Gwen Stacy (Stone) and the promise he made to her dying father (Leary) to keep his distance to protect her. When his childhood friend, Harry Osborn (De Haan), returns to New York to take over OsCorp following the death of his estranged father Norman (Cooper), Parker reconnects with him. Like his father, Osborn is dying from a rare disease, which he learns can be cured by the spider DNA in Spiderman's blood. Knowing Parker has access to Spiderman, Osborn asks his friend if he can help him acquire a sample of Spiderman's blood. Meanwhile, a socially outcast low level employee of OsCorp, Max (Foxx), has an accident at work that transforms him into Electro, a villain with the power to manipulate electricity.
While Marvel have bored us by creating a Universe at the expense of a world, Marc Webb has created a superhero series set in a tangible world, with well rounded human characters and recognizable drama. The first movie did an impressive job of introducing us to the wisecracking smartass teen Peter Parker and his charming girlfriend Gwen Stacy, and their relationship added the touch of humanity that's been sorely lacking from rival comic book franchises. Here, the relationship is on the rocks, as Parker faces a dilemma: should he heed the warning her father made with his last breath to keep her out of danger, or throw himself headlong into the relationship and to hell with the consequences? Being a typical red blooded teenager (though admittedly Garfield is no more convincing a teen than the thirtysomething Luke Perry was in Beverly Hills 90210) he opts for the latter. The audience is thankful, as the couple's scenes together provide the movie's most charming moments. A real life couple off screen, Garfield and Stone have a fantastic chemistry, trading quips here like a Generation Y Tracy and Hepburn.
Created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spiderman and his various colorful nemeses were inspired by the sci-fi B-Movies of that era and Webb's film is very much a B-Movie in blockbuster wrapping. Like the countless well-intentioned scientists who found themselves transformed into human fly hybrids, hideous sun demons and numerous other B-monsters, the villains of this series are themselves victims. A cross between Richard Pryor's computer programmer of Superman 3 and Ben Stiller's Walter Mitty, Electro starts out as a nice guy who just wants someone to notice him. It all goes pear-shaped for him, however, when, during a visually stunning sequence in Times Square, New York's finest turn Electro into an angry villain by opening fire on him, like the military goons of countless fifties sci-fi flicks. Osborn, meanwhile, just wants some help from Spidey, and when the web-singer refuses to come through for him, he takes matters into his own hands, vowing to destroy the masked hero.
Few comic book movies can boast a cast of this quality, and everyone's at the top of their game here. Sally Field plucks at the heartstrings as Aunt May, terrified of losing her "boy" when Parker begins to look for answers regarding the disappearance of his father. De Haan has quickly established himself as the most interesting American actor of his generation and gives Harry Osborn a depth sorely lacking from James Franco's take on the character in Sam Raimi's forgettable series. Some actors are simply wasted, however. The Rhino's inclusion is pointless here, adding nothing to the overall plot and providing the movie's most cringe-worthy moments, thanks to some awful attempts at comedy that feel like they belong in an entirely different movie. Thankfully, the character's screen time is limited, though it's a shame the casting of an actor of Giamatti's quality has been squandered. Likewise Felicity Jones, whose character exists solely to provide a pivotal line of exposition. On first appearance I thought she was set to be introduced as Mary Jane, but sadly this isn't the case. Mary Jane is nowhere to be seen here, which seems odd given the nature of the plot.
Based on arguably the most famous storyline from the comics, TAS2 creates a level of tension that will be lost on those unfamiliar with its source material. Having read the referenced issue over and over as a youngster, I was on edge throughout, like a parent watching their child walk through traffic. But an audience shouldn't have to be familiar with a movie's source material to get the full effect and this is a major flaw of Webb's film. 
As with any movie penned by the duo of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the script has its fair share of issues. The scenes between Garfield and Stone clearly contain a level of improv but much of the dialogue is bland and Spidey's smartass wisecracks aren't nearly as smart as those of the previous film. 
Another issue is the lack of threat to the wider world beyond Spidey. All three villains have personal vendettas against our protagonist but pose little danger to New York beyond Electro's threat to defrost the Big Apple's freezer compartments. 
To Kurtzman and Orci's credit, though, they keep things moving at a rapid pace and, at 2.5 hours, the film is never dull. There's a lot packed into this movie; the introduction of no less than three major villains, Parker's investigation into his Father's affairs, and his relationship struggles with Stacy. But the movie never forgets the day to day details of being a superhero, with Parker finding time to save a young fellow science geek from bullies and attempting to keep his Spidey costume fresh when it's his Aunt who does the laundry in their house.
The biggest complaint of the current crop of comic book movies is that they all climax in the same manner, with an overlong sequence of destruction designed to evoke memories of 9/11. Webb thankfully steers clear of such cliches and gives us a tense climax involving no more than three people, all of whom we've grown to care about by this point. The only piece of New York history evoked here is the blackout of 1977.
If you like your superhero movies dark and brooding, TAS2 isn't for you. If, however, you prefer the light but substantial tone of Richard Donner's Superman, you'll have a blast with this one.

Eric Hillis