This past Wednesday, I was lucky enough to attend an advanced screening of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the sequel to the 2012 reboot. (Disclaimer: It was a free screening, but I was not invited as press, nor was I paid to write this review.) I am definitely a fan of the first TASM, but I didn’t think it held a shine to the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films (save the last film). Where TASM impressed with visuals, it fell flat on story. When every comic-to-film adaptation is guaranteed to be a visual stunner, it’s the attention to story that will make a film memorable. That being said, TASM 2 is a worthy addition to the franchise, that competes well with the corresponding Tobey Maguire Spider-Man flick.
The film follows Peter Parker as he wraps up high school and heads into another phase of his life, all while being the web-slinging vigilante of New York City. Thanks to great consideration of continuity on the part of the new writing team, we see that Peter is still haunted by the death of Gwen’s father in the previous film. Peter struggles with the choice of listening to his heart and continuing to be with Gwen, or following the promise he made to her father and staying away to keep her safe. It’s the A-typical superhero dilemma.
This film’s baddie is Oscorp electrical engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx). Max is the often the object of workplace ridicule, and his loneliness feeds an obsessive behaviour over any attention or kindness sent his way, including when Spider-Man saved his life. As we all know, having an accident at Oscorp never ends simply; so, when Max falls in a tank of Oscorp eels, he gains new electrifying powers. As any reasonable superhero would do, Spider-man swings into action to calm down this new threat to the city. Max realizes that Spider-man is not his friend and ally, and things continue to spiral downward from there.
TASM 2 is an improvement from the first TASM. Make no mistake, the crux of this story is not Spider-Man and Electro, it’s the story of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. I’m glad they decided to cut out Shailene Woodley’s MJ, as it would have taken away from the gravity of the Gwen/Peter relationship. What I loved seeing is how Gwen’s world does not just revolve around Peter. She makes that very clear, and reaffirms her independence, stating that Peter doesn’t make her decisions for her. However, there is a moment near the end of the film that is a mere cop-out and belittles Gwen’s strong intelligence. (Highlight the following for spoilers:) Near the end of the film, she tells Peter that she is the only person between the two of them who knows how to reset the energy grid. After surprising Peter in the middle of his big climactic fight, she runs to the control station and there she is all ready to reset the grid. Yes! This is the time to see a female companion character help save the day in a meaningful way, right?! Wrong. In the control station, she finds the big lever in the middle of the control board, with a cover that is labelled ‘MASTER RESET’ in all capital letters. The build-up was all wrong for the payoff in this scene.
This film also sees the return of Harry Osborn, childhood friend of Peter Parker, and played by the gem that is Dane DeHaan. Thanks to great acting between Andrew Garfield and Dane DeHaan, it does feel like they had been friends for a long time before being separated from each other. Their friendship is much more interesting to me than the Peter-Harry friendship in the original Spider-Man films. The two aren’t just an unlikely pair because of economic status, but instead share a connection of having absentee parents. (Mild Spoilers ahead) What is also interesting about the Osborns is that being the Green Goblin isn’t just a matter of technology, but also a matter of a genetic health condition that the Osborn men have. Unfortunately, the writers failed to explain exactly what that disease does.
Further developments are made concerning Peter’s quest to learn more about his parents. A beautiful scene occurs between Aunt May (Sally Field) and Peter, which adds more layers to the already confusing conundrum of his parents’ disappearance.
Peter himself, I felt was well-written. His inner turmoil as a young superhero is incorporated in the story and performed by Andrew Garfield. The story doesn’t suddenly make Peter a heartthrob. There is no token gratuitous shot of a sweaty Peter Parker brooding just to make the viewers swoon. Peter is portrayed as goofy with a sarcastic sense of humour, while also having a heart that cares for the average stranger.
This film is a bridging sequel to get to the next film(s) in the franchise. The writers need to get Peter Parker to a certain state for their following films, and TASM 2 serves it’s purpose well.
From destruction in the city to seamless fight scenes, the special effects in this film are incredible. In TASM they attempted CGI scenes from the eyes of Peter Parker, which were cool in concept but were still very visibly CGI-generated. In 3D AVX, this film follows Spider-Man around with much more believable visuals. I even felt my stomach even lurch during one of the sequences (this is a good thing). Spider-Man swings through the sky as slick as a gymnast, making for fight scenes that didn’t take you out of the magic. While I would have appreciated more practical fighting shots without the CGI, the smooth and acrobatic sequences in the film do not disappoint. If you can see it in 3D, do it.
The music used in this film is expertly crafted and curated. Minimalist looped tracks reminiscent of Steve Reich and Philip Glass are used to help illustrate the inner thoughts of the villain, Electro, to create an ominous and haunting sound scape. Contemporary pop songs are also incorporated, like Phillip Phillip’s “Gone, Gone, Gone”. Also keep those spidey-senses perked for a taunting rendition of a familiar nursery rhyme.
While Andrew Garfield’s pretty face and potential to be a ‘heartthrob’ is definitely part of the reason why he was cast, he does a good job of playing Peter Parker accurately as an anxious 18-year-old who is unsure of the future and the past. If you don’t think he looks the part, he does play the part.
A few writing blunders don’t excuse The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from being a staple Summer blockbuster this 2014 that features great performances from three actors (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan) who are bound to be fixtures in Hollywood for quite a while to come.
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