My pulse is racing
Can’t ignore the paranoia
Agony inside of me…
This review contains spoilers for The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Enter at your own risk.
The first movie in The Amazing Spider-Man reboot was a delight to watch despite the fact that we were basically catered a repeat story that everyone– comic book fan or not– knows. Reintroducing Peter Parker with a story that has already been told was something the critics… well, criticized, but the differences between Garfield’s and Maguire’s Spidey are very notable, and each carry qualities that effectively separate their renditions of Spider-Man’s character. Where Maguire was charmingly awkward and hopelessly naive, Garfield is the embodiment of cockiness, especially after achieving his new abilities. However, these specific qualities just work for Garfield’s character. Add in the decent presence of Gwen Stacy and the mystery surrounding Peter’s parents (despite the fact that it’s now a bit exhausting), and you have a retelling of an old series that still feels like a bit of fresh air.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 continues where the first left off, with Peter fully embracing and honing his new spider-like abilities. I love the fact that the citizens of New York seem to actually appreciate him in this series, and the banter that occurs between Spider-Man, the appearance of Rhino, and the pedestrians in the beginning is nice to see. The horrible past that contained Uncle Ben’s death has healed. While it’s obviously still noted repeatedly, it isn’t a lingering, festering sore anymore (for Peter anyway).
However, one ghost that does linger for Peter is Gwen’s father and the promise that he just couldn’t keep. Peter seeing the ghost of Captain Stacy is a nice touch to reiterate the fact that he’s severely jeopardizing Gwen’s life, but it isn’t overdone and smeared into our faces. It’s easy to relate to Peter’s mindset about this particular situation. Yes, Gwen is in constant danger because of Spider-Man. Yes, it would be much safer for Peter to distance himself from Gwen (something that he has apparently tried to do multiple times off-screen). But we love Gwen and Peter so damn much that we just don’t care. They deserve to be together. However, this adds a nice touch of fragility in their relationship which is only escalated by Gwen’s decision to accept a scholarship for Oxford.
It was easy for me to feel the tear between Peter’s commitment to Gwen and his new-found responsibility as the protector of the city, and we get a good glimpse at the fact that there is no Peter Parker or Spider-Man. Peter and Spidey are one in the same. There’s no tearing the two apart anymore. This very visibly adds more weight to his shoulders as the movie’s main villains begin to show themselves.
Rhino isn’t a villain that’s worth lingering on too much. Paul Giamatti’s role is meant to offer a glimpse into the future, with him first appearing as a common criminal before later pulling out the infamous Rhino suit. The two villains worth focusing on are Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin.
Max Dillon was meant to be a sympathetic character. He’s a brilliant-minded, overlooked, and invisible guy who obviously has some major issues. He’s lonely and carries no self-confidence, and when he was first introduced, I sincerely cared for him. However, my care for him was immediately obliterated when he showcased his major obsession with Spider-Man. Seeing him talk to his own Spidey shrine, while humorous, really took away from Max’s potential. It effectively gave him a bit of a creepy edge, but it transformed him into an even more predictable character. His love for Spider-Man would soon turn into hate.
I really enjoyed his transformation into Electro, particularly as he stumbles into Time Square. Moments like these make you want to just slap the normal humans, especially the police in this scene, who remain hostile toward the confused Electro who begs them to stop because this transformation isn’t his fault. His confusion and fear is a nice, sincere moment, and it made me wonder what would have actually become of this character if the people actually listened to him for a change.
Spider-Man, after a nice scene with Gwen, swoops in to save the day as he tries to talk to Max who is in awe at the fact that Spider-Man just happened to remember him. With his new, villainous appearance highlighted across Time Square, he begins to embrace this change. Finally, people are paying attention to him. Spider-Man’s paying attention to him. He has power, and while he doesn’t fully understand it yet, it’s obvious that it’s something he enjoys. However, he will always be a weak character mentally, and this causes his eventual spiral into pure villainy.
Feeling that Spider-Man has betrayed him, Electro begins his rampage. This is where the potential of his character fails and he becomes another overpowered villain who isn’t worth caring about anymore. One particular thing that makes Electro fun to watch is the music that accompanies him. Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams did an amazing job creating an accompaniment to complement Electro’s character, which really pulls us into the character’s fragile mind. The lyrics really display Electro’s thoughts, and at first I actually thought it was a voice-over from Foxx instead of actual lyrics in the music.
The one who impressed me the most was Dane DeHaan who played a very creepy, but endearing Harry Osborn. The introduction of Harry is nice, particularly as he reunites with Peter. While not much is said, there is a very powerful sense of camaraderie and you learn that these two guys really do care about each other, even as things become very dark. I really enjoy the fact that DeHaan’s Harry didn’t come across as overly whiny and entitled, which would have been so easy for him to fall into. Instead, he displays an obvious bitterness toward Oscorp and his wealth in general, twisting it into a nice sarcasm that doesn’t seem forced. Suffering from the same condition that has already claimed his father, Harry learns that Spider-Man’s blood could cure him. This part of the story really ties in the mystery of Peter’s father, and while the final revelation does contain a moment of, “Ah, that makes sense!”, it feels a bit overshadowed when surrounded by everything else that is going on. I felt a bit of relief when that mystery was finally concluded. However the mystery shrouding Norman Osborn does offer a nice moment of wonder. Is he really dead?
One character that I have to focus on is Aunt May. She’s so easy to bypass because of the other larger-than-life characters, but she is such a warm, sympathetic character. Sally Field does an amazing job portraying May as a struggling widow. With Ben gone, she has become the sole guardian of Peter and she tries so hard to act as the mother Peter never really had, even stating that she considers Peter “hers”. For all intents and purposes, Peter is her son, and the connection between the two is so amazing to watch. The whole story earns more depth whenever May is on-screen, and it will be extremely interesting to see how she grows along with Peter as things become more dire in the future.
Outside of the characters, the action was phenomenal to watch, and the detail was really interesting to see. Spider-Man’s suit ripples as he swings through Manhattan, his spider senses also add a nice touch, particularly in the first action scene between him and Electro. The emotion is palpable, and the movie does a lot right. There was a lot of worry that the movie would emanate a chaotic mix of action since there is technically three villains, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 manages to blend it together in a nice and not-so-confusing way. Instead of randomly tossing in known villains and letting the action roll, the movie manages to tie each character into each other, and creates a nice story that successfully builds up what we will be seeing in the future. While a lot is covered and resolved, even more is left unanswered, and it will be nice to see how this fact changes and manipulates Spider-Man as a superhero as well as Peter Parker as a normal guy.
We also have to look forward to the inevitable introduction of Mary Jane, which will be very very difficult to appreciate beneath the overshadowing power of Emma Stone’s presence. I’m just hoping that she doesn’t become a constant damsel-in-distress like she was in Raimi’s series. With all that is left to be introduced and revealed in the future, now may be the time for fans to become worried. This is when the series could become overcrowded with too many details… but at least we have a while to wait and see.
And maybe in the next movie, they won’t add an extremely random X-Men clip in the middle of the end credits. What the hell was that about?!
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 misses the mark in some pivotal areas, but the overall emotion, story, and action manages to redeem the film’s shortcomings. If you are a Spider-Man fan, go see it!