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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Directed by: Marc Webb

Premise: A sequel to the 2012 film. Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) uncovers the truth about his parents while struggling to maintain his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). At the same time, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) takes control of Oscorp and an industrial accident turns one of his employees (Jamie Foxx) into super villain Electro.

What Works: Like 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, the chief strength of the sequel is the casting. The picture is led by Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Garfield fits this role perfectly. He is convincing as the witty nerd-turned-superhero and he is able to do the drama, the action, and the comedy equally well. Emma Stone returns as Gwen Stacy, a scientifically gifted young woman who is also Peter Parker’s love interest. She is more than the hero’s arm candy and the on-screen chemistry between Garfield and Stone really sparks, more so than a lot of romantic pairings in the movies. The romance is the heart of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the scenes of Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker are consistently the best moments of the film. New to the cast of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn and DeHaan is very good as a troubled young man. DeHaan played a similar character in 2012’s Chronicle and like his part in that film DeHaan brings a lot of vulnerability to his role. The main villain of the new Spider-Man film is Electro played by Jamie Foxx. Before his transformation, Foxx plays the character as a lonely manic depressive and like DeHaan’s version of Harry Osborn, Foxx’s Electro is someone who has been hurt by the world’s indifference and that makes him more interesting than the typical super villain. At 142 minutes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 runs pretty long but it generally does not feel its length. The story is constantly on the move, bobbing from one subplot to the next and the action comes at a steady pace. The set pieces aren’t especially distinguished but they do hold up with the scenes from the first picture. One element of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that is unique is its music score. At times the picture steps away from the choral bombast that has defined the music of blockbuster films of the past decade and incudes music that combines the score with the contemporary music of artists like Pharrell Williams and Alicia Keyes. 

What Doesn’t: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an overly ambitious movie and there is too much plot getting in the way of the story. There are a ton of subplots in this picture. The film alternates scenes of Peter Parker searching for the truth about his parents with the on-again-off-again relationship between Parker and his girlfriend and these dramatic moments are interrupted by moments of action that are sometimes, but not always, related to the other subplots. In the course of the movie the audience is treated to the origin of Electro, the introduction of Harry Osborn, the office politics of Oscorp, and eventually Harry’s corruption and the emergence of the Green Goblin. There is so much going on that none of these subplots are done well and the story jerks around erratically from one to the next. The filmmakers attempt to keep all of these plates spinning and they do but none of the payoffs are all that satisfying because there is no dramatic build up. The filmmakers introduce the nub of a storyline, jump to the other subplots, throw in a few action sequences, and when they finally get back around to that initial conflict, the filmmakers resolve the issue with very little learned, won, or lost. This becomes really apparent in the ending which is severely miscalculated. The story organically concludes on a downbeat moment that ought to be very impactful and bring the film to a close. Instead, the filmmakers artificially prolong the movie and cheapen their ending. The lack of drama is also apparent in the action sequences. As established in the previous film, Peter Parker is not invincible like Wolverine or Superman but in this movie Spider-Man is constantly hit with charges of electricity that ought to kill him. This inconsistency violates the assumptions of the Spider-Man movies and annuls the jeopardy of the action scenes.

Bottom Line: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t bad but it’s simultaneously too much and not enough. In the effort to set up a vibrant world for future Spider-Man sequels the filmmakers have sacrificed the storytelling integrity of this picture. It is certainly entertaining but the narrative is a mess.

Episode: #490 (May 11, 2014)