While it certainly wasn’t a bad film, I can’t say that I was amazed by “The Amazing Spider-Man”. Maybe it was just too soon after the previous trilogy and a rebooted origin story simply felt too familiar. I liked the movie but it didn’t stay with me. As you would expect in today’s modern Hollywood, a big budget sequel was already in the works and it arrives only two years later in the form of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. It is director Marc Webb’s $250 million continuation of the web-slinging superhero’s story, at least this version of it.
Spider-Man is probably the most popular superhero in the Marvel Comics universe and he has been box office gold for Sony Pictures. That trend has proven to continue. This film has already raked in over $350 million worldwide only one week into its United States release. People flock to Spider-Man pictures. But are they flocking to a good movie? Quite honestly the trailers for this film did little to excite me. Still, I’m a comic book guy so any chance to visit these great characters piques my interest at least to some degree.
Andrew Garfield returns to play Peter Parker and Emma Stone is back as Gwen Stacy. It’s high school graduation and the two are still romantically involved although Peter still struggles with a promise he made to keep her out of his dangerous crime-fighting life. He’s also still haunted by the truth surrounding the disappearance of his parents many years earlier. We are also introduced to Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) who returns to Manhattan to see his dying father Norman (Chris Cooper). We also meet a lonely, unassuming man named Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx). He works as an engineer for OsCorp and he has a longing to be needed and noticed. All of these characters plus more find their way into this busy story.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is the perfect definition of a mixed bag. Several of the film’s components work really well while others drag the film down or hinder the storytelling. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the movie tries to cram in too much story and too many characters. This results in some characters who are thin and who feel terribly underdeveloped. More importantly there are significant story angles that are never given the time they need to build. This makes certain parts of the story feel forced and shortchanged which ultimately waters down their effect.
On the flip-side, the movie does shine in the more human emotional moments. Garfield and Stone create a strong and truly believable romance hindered by the complications their lives have brought. The two have really good chemistry and they share several fantastic non-superhero scenes together. I do miss the changes made to the Peter Parker character. Gone is the nerdy awkwardness that has always been a defining quality. There are also some good scenes between Peter and his Aunt May (Sally Field) as well as one particular good scene where Peter catches up with his old high school buddy Harry. The movie was at its best when focusing on the human elements.
But this is a superhero movie so naturally you look for and expect certain things. First off, Garfield is very good behind the mask. He has a lot of personality and I found several of his quips to be quite funny. Of course the majority of his fighting is presented through CGI. Sometimes it looks good, other times the animation is obvious. But even he suffers due to the film’s lack of a bankable villain. Jamie Foxx’s Electro is a huge stretch from the comic book inspiration and frankly this version is not that interesting. I’ve never been sold on Foxx as an actor and he is very dull and uninspired here. But it’s hard to put the blame squarely on him. He’s given flimsy material and he doesn’t have the chops to rise above it. I also didn’t care for DeHaan’s Harry Osborn. He barely resembled this important character in Spidey lore and there were times when he was just painfully bad. The movie needed these characters to work and I didn’t buy into either of them.
So basically this movie works on the human level but only occasionally where it needed to the most as a superhero movie. It’s a cramped and underdeveloped story which is surprising considering the film is a long 2 hours 20 minutes. There are so many plot lines that feel shoehorned in and that barely contribute to the movie as a whole. There isn’t a good villainous presence and the rebooted series has yet to find itself an identity. It does have its moments, but in the end it doesn’t feel like the movie that this character and his great history deserves. Despite its scattered good scenes, I still felt Spider-Man deserved better.