[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00JKHCPNE][/pullquote] What a year 2014 is turning out to be. We’ve had the excellent Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well as having franchise installment X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy in the pipeline. Sandwiched in between and in some ways forgotten about is The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The original was a fine piece of entertainment, but struggled to establish itself during the release of The Avengers and by the time we reach the sequel, Sony has decided to go the crossover route of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for which this film seems to be the gateway.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is graduating high school. Still haunted by ghosts from the past, his relationship with Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) is strained to the point of breaking and following a showdown with newly created villain Electro (Jamie Foxx) it ends. Then while delving into his parents history along with recently returned school friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), Peter makes a discovery that reveals the truth of the experiments run by his and Harry’s fathers.
One of Marvel Comics most valuable comic book franchises, Spider-Man and his rogue’s gallery current film rights belong to Sony Pictures who are responsible for the original Sam Raimi trilogy and the first The Amazing Spider-Man film too. Having seen the success of the crossover Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony have wisely laid out plans for future films including The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and 4 as well as standalone films based on The Sinister Six and Venom in an attempt to create a similarly structured super-franchise. The success of this franchise relies quite heavily on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and in this regard the future looks positive.
While World-building in franchises can be a chore (Iron Man 2 I’m looking at you), Spidey and friends manage to shoehorn enough hints at the future without too much detriment to the main narrative. Those worries about a repeat of Spider-Man 3‘s ‘too many villains’ problem may rest easy too as this film solves the problem by simply reducing one of them to a veritable bystander.
One of the consistent issues in the Spider-Man films is the special effects. Everything from floating characters in the early films to downright impossible physics in the latter. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 goes a long way to addressing these problems. Electro provides a series of stunning moments based on his abuse of electricity and while there are still some issues surrounding getting Spidey’s weight to behave in a normal fashion this is a big step-up. A note on 3D too: Normally I’d recommend avoiding it, but here it was used to great effect and it really added something to the web-slinging action. I was as surprised as anyone.
The real highlights aside from the gorgeous visuals and stunning slow-motion action rely on the interplay between Stone and Garfield. With such stunningly easy going chemistry on display it is easy to relate to both characters emotions throughout. Andrew Garfield proves that he is perfectly cast as everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man dealing in one-liners and eating up the fame and notoriety that being the web-slinger provides. Director Marc Webb and script-writers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci are clearly keen to remove the angst of earlier Peter Parker’s in order to deliver a character just like in the comic books. If ever there was any doubt over who the better Spider-Man is, Garfield demolishes them with a cheeky one-liner.
Stone’s Gwen is another in a series of strong female characters in recent comic book films. So impressive is both her intellect and easy-going-charisma that she not only holds her own alongside her super-powered beau, but in many cases steals the show. There are strong indications that she is just as concerned with her personal future without the need to tie it to Peter’s and latterly that she is more than capable of taking care of herself. Sadly a lot of this character development is lost in the final act as she assumes the role of quite literal damsel in distress, but for most of the film she is the highlight.
If the original had problems with its final act, the sequel transcends it comfortably. Gone are the awkward pro-services scenes from the first and Webb is given reign to unleash a fully-fledged comic book film. His extra confidence is never more apparent than in the wonderful slow-motion action scenes. Other comic book action films prefer the quick-cut technique, but Webb wants his heroes antics to be seen and appreciated. It is a masterstroke. It is a shame then that the World-building antics that are necessary in today’s multi-film franchise become so apparent during the second act.
The action slows and it begins to feel like a series of mini adventures rather than one whole story. The information about Peter’s parents is actually far less important and relevant than we are lead to believe and 2 whole origin stories for villains is a step too far. Fortunately in Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan the film has two character actors who make an impact.
Foxx camps it up to begin with, playing his origin story like something out of Batman Returns, whereas DeHaan’s Osborn is twitchy and malevolent, driven to action by forces out of his control. Sadly without the buildup of previous films, he is something of a disappointment compared to James Franco. Still the door is always left open in comic book films for a return for any villain one way or another and I’d be surprised if this was the last we see of either of them.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 really is a Godsend for Sony. It establishes a huge world, full of interesting characters who can easily be brought back in any of the other scheduled films, while working effectively as a standalone too. Some will argue that it is the best Spider-Man adventure to date, and they may be right, although for me Spider-Man 2 still holds that’s honour. It’s a touch long, although this is understandable with everything they were trying to achieve and is ultimately something you have to come to expect in a modern blockbuster.