Should I Watch..? 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'
What's the big deal?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an action superhero film released in 2014 and is based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It is the second and final time the character would be played by Andrew Garfield as the character would next appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) played by Tom Holland. The film sees New York's favourite wall-crawler battle against a crazed supervillain called Electro as well as his conflicting feelings for his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. The film co-stars Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti and Sally Field and was directed, appropriately enough, by Marc Webb. Despite a lukewarm critical reception, the film went on to earn $709 million worldwide - the least amount for any Spider-Man film at that point. Due to the film not meeting Sony's expectations, plans for sequels and spin-offs (heavily hinted at throughout the film) were dropped which persuaded Sony and Marvel to relaunch the character via the MCU in 2016 in Captain America: Civil War.
What's it about?
Continuing to suffer guilt after failing to save his girlfriend Gwen Stacy's father, Peter Parker continues to fight crime in New York in spite of a mixed response to his actions from the city in general. After apprehending Russian criminal Aleksei Sytsevich and saving the life of lonely OsCorp electrical engineer Max Dillon, Peter just about makes it on time to his graduation although he misses Gwen's valedictory speech. Remembering his promise to her father to keep her safe and uninvolved, Peter reluctantly breaks up with Gwen. Shortly after, the news breaks that Norman Osborn has died and Peter decides to reconnect with his old friend Harry Osborn who is now the sole owner and CEO of OsCorp.
Infecting with the same genetic condition that killed his father, Harry accesses numerous secret files and projects within OsCorp and deduces that the only thing that might save him is Spider-Man's blood. While Gwen has to break the news to Peter that she is moving to England, New York faces a new threat after Max accidentally falls into a tank of electric eels in OsCorp and becomes Electro, capable of generating vast amounts of electric energy. Can Peter gather his thoughts and defeat Electro or will his lack of concentration have dire consequences for all?
Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Max Dillon / Electro
Harry Osborn / Green Goblin
Aleksei Sytsevich / Rhino
Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner*
Release Date (UK)
16th April, 2014
Action, Sci-Fi, Superhero
What's to like?
Perhaps wisely, the film sticks to its strengths because this film is actually pretty poor. But in Stone and Garfield, it has a couple of actors who can stare googly-eyed at each other until the cows come home. They generate real chemistry as Gwen and Peter and makes their on-off relationship feel organic and believable. Of course, if you're familiar with the characters then it also makes the character arcs heart-breaking and if you're not, the film contains one heck of a sucker-punch waiting for you. The film's other strength is the action which has Spidey swinging along endless New York streets, physics-defying fisticuffs and a reimagined Electro for the big screen. Yes, dispensing that silly costume in the comics might upset traditionalists but it's necessary.
The film also takes one or two narrative cues from the comics, even if this does come at a cost. The film reminds us of Peter's friendship with Harry and the fact that Peter is orphaned after the mysterious circumstances behind his parents disappearance. But the film still has no-one playing Mary-Jane Watson or J. Jonah Jameson despite the characters being deeply associated with Spider-Man (apparently, they didn't think anyone could improve on JK Simmons' performance in the role first seen in Spider-Man) and the film is littered with important characters who are tragically underwritten from Field's Aunt May to Foxx's nerdy electrician. Speaking of which, he never feels that threatening as a baddie and the same can be said for Giamatti who, if we're being honest, is little more than a cameo.
- There were scenes shot featuring Mary-Jane, played by Shailene Woodley, but these were cut from the final film. Felicity Jones' role was also severely cut from the final film due to time constraints with only a few of her scenes left in. Rumours suggest that her character and Harry would develop a romantic relationship.
- The first Spider-Man film to be filmed entirely in New York state and also the largest film production to be shot in New York itself.
- When Spider-Man webs Gwen's hand to the open trunk lid before swinging away, she yells out "Peter!" before covering her mouth with her hand. This was a blooper on Stone's part - she was supposed to call out "Spider-Man!" but the producers loved the fact that she stayed in character and kept it in.
- The film has numerous references to other characters within the Spider-Man universe including Doctor Octopus' mechanical arms, Vulture's flying wings and Shocker's costume. This film was intended to led by spin-offs including films based around the Sinister Six and Venom. Venom would have his own movie in 2018, played by Tom Hardy but all other plans have been shelved.
What's not to like?
The film makes so many errors that I'm amazed they weren't picked up on sooner. Besides Garfield and Stone, the film is littered with performances that either reflect the lack of thought behind him or are so hammy that it makes the film feel like a pantomime. DeHaan is bad as the younger but equally evil Osborn (by contrast, Chris Cooper as the dying Norman Osborn hints how good he might have been if he's been given a larger stage) but by far the worst is Marton Csokas as the horribly out-dated German stereotype Dr Kafka. Together with the underwritten Foxx as the main antagonist, the film seems to strive to match the 2005 version of Fantastic Four in tone but instead turns much darker in the final act and settles for a deeply unsatisfying conclusion.
I also didn't like the excessive reliance on CG which is understandable for a film like this but saying that, The Amazing Spider-Man got by without using as much as this sequel and actually felt a lot more exciting. By contrast, this film is like watching someone play quite a boring video game as characters flip and fly about the place like they're stuck in The Matrix. The plot is quite leaden, switching between the on-off relationship between Peter and Gwen, some inconvenience caused by one of the film's antagonists and Peter discovering long-lost laboratories in a search for the truth about his parents. The film never flows as well as the wall-crawler does himself and the whole film seems to have no real cohesion. I didn't understand why Dillon idolised Spider-Man one minute and then wanting him dead the next or why the obligatory Stan Lee cameo came as early as it did. But most of all, it made me want to watch some of Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2 or settle down for some familiar MCU action with Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Should I watch it?
It's surprising how badly Sony dropped the ball with this big-money sequel, given how much was riding on it. But I'm afraid The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't all that. With an inconsistent tone throughout, a dull and confusing storyline and disappointing effects, the film is saved from ignominy by decent performances by Garfield and Stone as the star-crossed lovers at the heart of the story. If anyone thought Marvel were too quick to sweep this under the rug with their own take on the character, one look at this mess will reassure you that they did the right thing.
Great For: Stone and Garfield (who hooked up during production), the little dog they adopted, restless paparazzi
Not So Great For: Spider-Man fans, anyone wishing Marvel would purchase the rights to the character back, Tom Holland
What else should I watch?
Marvel's game-changing decision in 2008 to create an entire universe of characters that interacted and cross-referenced each other in a single continuity proved to be a death-knell for the competition. Iron Man, Thor and the others paved the way for superhero films to become less about making a quick buck and more about telling stories and satisfying a rabid fanbase. With the hugely successful and highly enjoyable Avengers Assemble, the MCU had become a vast multimedia machine that continues to churn out films with worrying regularity.
In terms of the Wall Crawler, fans now seem spoilt for choice from Tobey Maguire's fun run in the role from 2002-2007, Garfield's semi-successful tenure from 2012-2014 and Tom Holland's wide-eyed and baby-faced performance as Parker since 2016. Maguire's best film was Spider-Man 2 which featured Alfred Molina's scene-stealing Doc Ock as well as Sam Raimi having fun in the director's chair. Holland has only had the one solo outing so far but his second, Spider-Man: Far From Home, is due for release later in 2019 and I for one cannot wait.
© 2019 Benjamin Cox