The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

Posted: August 22, 2014 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels like a Saturday morning cartoon brought to life in the best possible way, a colorful and energetic confection of action, heart and humor that’s hugely entertaining and surprisingly involving. In terms of tone, it feels like it has more in common with Joel Schumacher’s two Batman films than the more gritty and serious-minded superhero movies of late. That sentence most likely has the majority of you already asking, “But, Michael, isn’t that a bad thing?” by now, but my answer is no. Now, I’ve never been a comic reader, but I know enough about the character of Spider-Man as presented in the comics to know that he’s a more lively hero, always ready with a sarcastic quip or observation and unafraid to taunt his foes in the face of danger. This sequel, like Spidey himself, captures an almost playful quality, but manages to be much more successful than the two aforementioned Batman debacles because it is able to carefully balance out its playfulness with some effective emotionality. The end result is a film that’s a hell of a lot more involving than I was expecting it to be.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has become perfectly happy balancing his personal life with his superheroic responsibilities. He’s also chosen to ignore the dying wish of Gwen Stacey’s (Emma Stone) father and has started a relationship with her. But said relationship becomes strained when the guilt of Peter’s actions starts haunting him, and it becomes even more strained after Gwen receives an offer for a scholarship at Oxford University. Meanwhile, Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to the city to take over OsCorp Industries from his dying father (Chris Cooper, in a cameo role). In so doing, though, Harry discovers that the crippling disease killing his father is hereditary, and Harry’s time is ticking away. In his desperate attempts to find a cure, Harry discovers that Spider-Man’s genetically modified blood may hold the answer for him. While all of this is going on, an OsCorp electrician named Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), who idolizes Spider-Man after his life was briefly saved by the web-slinger one day, is turned into a blue, pulsating human electric generator after a fatal accident. Calling himself Electro, he needs to feed on electrical power to remain strong, and this turns him into New York City’s latest threat. Between Electro and an increasingly maddening Harry Osborn, the work of Spider-Man is never done.

Like all successful sequels should do, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 distinguishes itself enough from its predecessor to avoid falling into the trap of simply retreading the original while providing a very entertaining experience with its new stuff. I applauded the first film’s grittier feel from the three Sam Raimi-directed movies, but I’m perfectly okay with this film’s overall lighthearted and carefully cartoonish tone because it’s done so well. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a fond reminder of what the superhero genre was before Christopher Nolan came along and steered it in a more serious direction (not that I’m complaining, though). It’s almost like these two new Spider-Man movies are the opposite sides of the same coin: one is grounded in as much reality as possible, and the other just embraces the zaniness of the universe and has a blast with it. I’ve found that, over the past two years, this superhero genre on average has started to become saturated with a numbing sense of “sameness,” but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a quite electrifying (no pun intended) burst of energy, action and humor that I very much needed.

But don’t take that to mean The Amazing Spider-Man 2 puts too much emphasis on everything else besides giving the audience a reason to care, because it certainly doesn’t. Between the script penned by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman & Jeff Pinkner, and the two strong central performances by Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, there’s a firm level of emotionality throughout this movie that hooks us beyond the technical aspects and also a fluidity to the story. Basically, it feels like everyone involved here, from the stars, writers and director Marc Webb have their hearts poured into this film, and it shows. Another aspect of Spider-Man lore I’m familiar with is that it’s always been about the struggles Peter faces in attempting to find a stability between his personal life and his responsibilities as Spider-Man, and just like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, this film’s effectiveness comes from how it finds compelling drama in that balancing act and structuring everything around that idea. Furthermore, this film is also centered around the idea of time, accentuated in various ways in the different plights of the characters, but most of all in the relationship between Peter and Gwen.

Speaking of, both Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone once again hit it out of the park. Whenever the two of them share the screen together, their chemistry is so electric (again, no pun intended), that there’s the feeling that if you reach out toward the screen during any of their scenes, you just might get zapped by that energy. On their own, they’re equally strong. Andrew Garfield remains a compelling Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and as much as I loved Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2, Andrew Garfield is just so much more naturalistic in the part. His Peter Parker feels more like a typical teenager, in a good way, than Maguire’s and his Spider-Man is an infinitely more lively and entertaining on-screen presence. Not only that, but his version of Spider-Man is also really funny, a quality I understand was true about the character in the comics. Bottom line, Garfield makes you care about the character quite easily. Emma Stone, meanwhile, is still a much more satisfying love interest than Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, because she’s given the opportunity to go past the standard damsel in distress archetype. Then you’ve got franchise newcomers Dane DeHaan and Jamie Foxx. DeHaan is really good as Harry, finding a delicate balance between arrogant and tortured and he handles the character’s whole arc surprisingly well. On the other hand, Jamie Foxx’s Electro is this film’s weakest element. Foxx himself is good in the role, but he’s let down the script, which hardly develops his character and consequently gives him practically little next to no real motivation for turning into a villain. Again, Foxx himself makes it clear through his performance that Max Dillon was never right in the head, but more could have been done.

Marc Webb, meanwhile, has clearly stepped up his game anywhere he can on the directing front. Here, he’s more confident and enthusiastic with his action scenes and sense of scope, while still remaining committed to instilling the film with a palpable sense of emotion. In watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there’s no doubt that Webb was obviously going for a true comic book-y tone, and he achieved it. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how energetically-directed this movie was. Webb finds any opportunity he can to do something fun, and one of my personal favorite examples of this is how he directs a certain transformation sequence near the end of the Second Act almost like a scene out of a horror movie. Also, I really love Hans Zimmer’s score for the film. He creates lots of interesting and exciting themes, most notably my favorite piece of music from the film, the dubstep-inspired Electro theme that plays during the big Times Square scene. Not only does it reflect Electro’s state of mind really well, it also weaves into the scene brilliantly:

Out of all five Spider-Man movies thus far, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is my second favorite. Given all that I know about this universe, it captures all the various elements of it in what feels like a faithful fashion. It’s a movie bursting with energy and humor, emotion and action and in many ways, feels like a comic book truly brought to life. While I wouldn’t exactly call it amazing, it’s still quite the exceptional Spider-Man.

***1/2 /****

  1. Kristin says:

    Hey there! Nice post. I think you make a lot of good points about the Spider-Man franchise. Personally, my favorite Spider-Man film was Raimi’s Spider Man 2. I felt like the story was better written than any of the other Spider-Man films’ screenplays, and it just stood out to me as the most compelling. I would agree that both Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone make for better leads both as Spider-Man and as the lead love interest. It’s their chemistry that’s put on display in the movie, and they’re nothing short of great in it. I really enjoyed ASM2 over ASM1, feeling like the latter was much more of a copycat film of the Raimi’s first film. The score was considering better for ASM2, and I think the switch from James Horner to Hans Zimmer definitely showed that.

    One other comment I was going to make – I think the reason the ASM franchise works better as lighter material versus Christopher Nolan’s darker Batman films is that Marvel usually deals with lighter characters and stories than DC does. Batman is a dark character, so it made sense that Nolan went in that direction for his films. I love the character Spider-Man – he’s one of my favorite comic book characters, I think Marc Webb has done a nice job.

    Great post! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it.

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