As the internet will tell you, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has been subject to some pretty polarized reviews. Many critics have praised the film for a great cast, amazing effects and exciting fight scenes, but others have pointed out some detrimental flaws. From a convoluted ensemble of villains to questionable narrative choices, it seems that the general consensus of this year’s take on everyone’s favorite web-slinger is that it’s below average at best. Yet, despite these disappointing reviews, I, along with my equally superhero-obsessed older brother, found myself seated in the middle section of our favorite movie theatre on May 2 for the premiere of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Afterwards, as we made our way through the dense crowd exiting the theater, we both had the same question: what the hell is all the fuss with this movie? Before I get into my review, let me be clear: I completely understand the points made by the numerous disparaging reviews of the film. In fact, I agree with a lot of them to a certain extent. However, as you will see, there are plenty of reasons why this year’s Spider-Man film, although rocky in many respects, is most certainly not a lost cause.
Mo’ Villains, Mo’ Problems (sort of)
One thing I keep reading and hearing from other critics/viewers of “The Amazing Spiderman 2” is their frustration with the film’s handling of the villains. As the trailers have shown, there are a number of them, including Electro (Jaime Foxx), the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan), and The Rhino (Paul Giamatti). As we can all see, this is a large amount of characters for a single film to work with. Similar to the critically annihilated “Spider-Man 3” back in 2007, it seems that director Marc Webb has bitten off more than he can chew with this large cast of antagonists. As the film attempts to squeeze each character into the plot, some bad guys do not get enough screen time compared to others (without spoiling any plot points, The Rhino makes an absurdly brief appearance in the film). Yet, unlike many other viewers, I do not find this large cast to be a total disaster. Of course I wish I could have seen more of Jaime Foxx’s excellent take on Electro and yes it would have been awesome to see Rhino tear up midtown NYC in a mechanized military suit (this costume was poorly done in my opinion … too bulky), but the thing I kept thinking to myself was simple: the finale of this movie series will be worth the wait. Unlike Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3,” Webb’s cast of bad guys is extremely conducive to the universe he is attempting to create, especially with the villain-centric “Sinister Six” (basically the Avengers, but evil) set to release in a few years. This becomes clear during the point of the film that I alluded to earlier, which gives us an enticing look at Spider-Man’s next challenge: defeating all of these guys at the same time. Some may see this as a further complication of the story, but I am confident that Webb, given enough time, can fit all of these story arcs together into a single, cohesive film.
Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker. End of Discussion.
I feel very strongly about this point. As a massive fan of the Spider-Man universe, I came to love the Webhead for more than his amazing powers and his cool costume. Unlike the original trilogy’s take on Peter Parker, this year’s film built on the accurate depiction of the titular character that strongly resembles the hero from the comic books, especially in the comedy department. Due to Tobey McGuire’s insanely awkward demeanor, Peter Parker is widely seen as the nerd next door who is desperate for female attention from a certain redhead next door. Now, with Garfield at the helm, Peter Parker has been completely transformed. Throughout the movie, we come to really care about the character that Garfield has brought to life. We get to see wonderful moments where Peter toys with villains (especially when he refers to Electro as “Sparkles”) and hilarious encounters with his aunt as he scrambles to conceal the fact that he is the spandexed vigilante protecting NYC from certain doom. Yet, as often as Garfield makes us laugh throughout the film, we also come to understand Peter Parker’s internal battle. Not only does this young kid need to protect a population that largely despises his vigilantism, Peter must also come to grips with the fate of his dead parents (without spoiling the truth, we come to learn that Richard and Mary Parker were part of something much bigger than many of us could have guessed). At the same time, Peter finds himself in a difficult love situation. With Captain George Stacy’s (played by Denis Leary) dying request for his daughter’s safety lingering in his mind, Peter finds himself at a crossroads: should he leave Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone) in order to keep her safe or should he ignore her father’s dying in order to be with the woman he loves? This dynamic is heart wrenching as we see Peter oscillate between these two paths, which provides “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” with surprising depth.
The Action is Satisfying
It wouldn’t be a Spider-Man flick without some adrenaline rushing fight scenes. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” immediately delivers on the action when Spider-Man attempts to stop an armored truck robbery that is tearing up the streets of New York on the day of his high school graduation. Later on in the film, the movie’s action sequences really take off. Spider-Man’s “spider-sense” stands out as a highlight of many of the action sequences. As time slows to a near stop, we get a real sense of how powerful and insanely fast Spider-Man really is when things become chaotic. Similarly, Electro’s powers become a dazzling spectacle as he fires powerful electric bolts at both the citizens of New York and Spider-Man himself. The work done on the CG effects for this movie’s fight scenes is among the best ever implemented in film and I applaud the effects team for bringing this story to life in such a spectacular way. Along with the action sequences, Garfield shines as the trash-talking Peter Parker from the comic series. I mentioned earlier that Spider-Man tends to quip at his foes before and during fights. Although some of the jokes land flat at some points, as to be expected from a smartass teenager, the energy that Garfield projects during every fight sequence explodes off of the screen and truly entertains the audience throughout the course of the movie. The only real complaint I have with some of the action in the film is the limited amount. There is a certain point in the film where the story seems to become stagnant and we spend a lot of time with Peter Parker instead of Spider-Man. Although these moments provided key plot points, I felt as though Webb could have benefited from providing a few more action-packed sequences to balance out the story slow-down.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
In no way is “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” a perfect film. Issues arise with the inclusion of too many villains, chief of which being a slight lack of character development, but I believe this film to be a great step in the right direction for the future of the series.