To say I’ve been excited about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (TASM2) for a little while now would be an understatement.
Back in July 2012, I signed off my review for the first film saying -
“Here’s hoping future installments deliver on the early promise [that at least some of] the cast have shown.”
Well, did it?
And I’ll get to why shortly. But first, the good stuff.
TASM2′s main players are perfect (it’s the secondary characters that make you cringe*). Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker just as much as he is Spider-Man. The latter of the two, especially in the earlier action scenes, never better in fact. Funny, fast-talking, and clearly very much at ease with who he is, Spider-Man of 2014 is pretty darn spot on.
On a related note, much has been said about the outstanding chemistry between Garfield and his leading lady, Emma Stone. This, again, is a definite highlight and the screen sparkles and shines whenever the two of them are together throughout. In fact, some of the film’s best laugh out loud moments come from their quick-fire back-and-forths and that can only be a good thing.
Jamie Foxx, as new villain Max Dillon – aka Electro – is actually really good too. His journey from ignored nobody through to genuinely messed-up-in-the-head super-villain is superb and in all honesty, probably deserved more screen time than he actually got (but we’ll come back to that).
Dane Dehaan is a great Harry Osborn but again, not for very long. I haven’t seen Dehaan in anything since the seminal super-powers flick, Chronicle, so it’s good to see him bringing the gravitas and pain to the always conflicted character that is Harry Osborn.
Finally, on the casting front, it must be said that Sally Field is one of the best things in the entire film. Her screentime can only add up to something around 15mins in total, but the emotional punch her Aunt May delivers in one particular scene (as well as others) makes her stand head and shoulders above all else and the film is much better for it.
All those great actors, all those great performances – what could possible go wrong?
It’s terrible. I mean, really really terrible. There were rumours of multiple rewrites and myriad changes constantly throughout the making of this film (an entire character, in the shape of Shailene Woodley’s Mary-Jane Watson was written, shot, and then later edited out) and the script has clearly suffered for it. Admittedly Jamie Foxx is a great actor, but he’s worthy of an Oscar nod for pulling off this line with a straight face -
“Soon, everyone in the city will know how it feels to live in a world without power, without mercy, without Spider-Man”
If TASM2 had an honest movie poster it would read:
‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Great actors do their best with terrible lines.’
To say the plot [and pacing for that matter] of TASM2 is ‘convoluted and messy’ would be an understatement. In the previous set of Spider-Man films, it is universally accepted that Spider-Man 3 is the worst of the trilogy. With the blame, amongst other things, being placed firmly on there being too many villains and not enough time. Sadly, you can say the exact same thing about TASM2.
The Goblin’s arrival seems unnecessary and rushed, especially as Dehaan was doing such a great job as Osborn (and moreso when you remember it took James Franco a full two-and-a-half-films before he finally turned), and the appearance of the mechanised Rhino later on in the film is almost laughable in its whole only-reason-to-exist-is-so-that-we-can-sell-more-toys cheek.
It’s a joke.
Thing is, it’s not only that TASM2 tries to cram in as many references as humanly possible, but its also Sony’s whole ‘we’re building a world/platform for sequels’ thing.
The problem here is twofold. First, the story loses focus and feels bloated. Second, and this is the major deal-breaker, as a result of this ‘sequel-itis’ Spider-Man never really goes through any real sense of surprise of peril.
Don’t get me wrong, while more bad things happen in this film than the first one, there isn’t any real point throughout that you think ‘Oh no! How will Spider-Man get out of it this time?’
I get it. He’s a super-hero. But still.
Even his lowest low point doesn’t actually feel that low.
And that’s a really bad thing.
As I’ve already said, the casting is almost perfect and the film gets away with a lot because of it. However, more time should’ve been spent on the story at hand, not on the wider sequel-set-ups and, as a result, TASM2 lacks any real emotional impact.
#SpiderMan2 is a good Spider-Man film, featuring a collection of decent actors let down by a rushed script and no real sense of peril.
— James Whatley (@Whatleydude) April 18, 2014
What this franchise needs is a change of director.
Yes, my main points of contention have been about story and scripting, however, perhaps a new/decent director wouldn’t let those things through the net. Marc Webb has already been signed up for TASM3, and I really don’t hold out much hope for it to be much better than this. Which is a real shame, because he makes a darn good trailer.
Two supporting characters in particular really SUCKED for me.
First: Paul Giamatti. It’s clear PG is meant for bigger things to come in [the already planned/announced] TASM3 however, as Russian gangster Aleksei Sytsevich – aka The Rhino, I can’t work out if he’s woefully miscast or utterly wasted. Whichever one it is, he brings the film down.
Second, Marton Csokas turns up in a random cameo as Ravenscroft Institute’s Dr Ashley Kafka and, when that happens; the whole film takes a swerve into Batman Forever territory. Every time I saw him, I just though the director was just out for lunch or something. Ugh. I genuinely wanted to throw popcorn at the screen it was that bad.
It’s worth nothing that many publications are reporting that there’s an X-Men: Days of Future Past scene midway through TASM2’s credits. This is not the case at the IMAX.
But it is happening at other, regular cinemas. FYI.
DO see this film if you’re a comic book / Spider-Man geek and you want to make your mind up about it yourself.
DO NOT see this film if you thought the first TASM was a bit lacklustre. Part 2 will only let you down further.