Cary, NC — I was not a fan of the first Amazing Spider-Man that came out two years ago.
The tone was too dark, the villain was lame and it was a retread of an origin story that we had already seen a few years beforehand.
The films’ lone bright spots were its perfectly cast leads, Andrew Garfield as our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and Emma Stone as his love interest, Gwen Stacy. The two had a charming and easy chemistry and they almost made the entire film worth it. Thankfully, that chemistry is easily recreated for this sequel, and director Marc Webb has been able to correct a few things here, specifically with a much brighter tone and comic book feel.
However, there are still a lot of problems with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, most of which stem from plot lines planted in the first film, which results in a frustrating viewing experience.
Garfield is the Perfect Spider-Man
I cannot praise Andrew Garfield enough as Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
I say that as a big fan of Tobey Maguire’s work as the character in the three films directed by Sam Raimi over a decade ago. Garfield completely embodies this character as fans have come to know him perfectly, with a sense of snarkiness and playfulness as he fights bad guys and has a blast doing it.
He is a teenager after all, and what teenager wouldn’t love beating up bad guys and having superpowers all protected by the anonymity of a mask? There is even a great moment where Spider-Man stops some bullies from messing with an 8 year old boy. Not only does Spider-Man take time from fighting crime to protect this kid from said bullies, he even fixes the kid’s science project that was ruined and walks him home. It’s one perfect Spidey moment in a movie filled with them, and it makes everything that doesn’t work in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 stand out all the more.
Disappointing Villains and Boring Plot
As with the first Amazing Spider-Man, part 2 really drops the ball when it comes to its villains. Last time, it was more the choice of villain than the execution, although that wasn’t very good either.
This time, they chose the more recognizable Green Goblin and Electro, played by Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines) and Jamie Foxx (Ray, Django Unchained). Even with a better roster, the filmmakers just could not make either villains feel threatening in any way. Electro hates Spider-Man because he didn’t remember him from one chance encounter months earlier. Green Goblin hates Spider-Man because he won’t let him have some of his blood (seriously?).
It also doesn’t help that Foxx and DeHaan both go so over the top in their roles that it makes it hard to feel any sympathy towards them. Foxx especially comes off as bad when playing Max, the nerdy scientist that becomes Electro. Foxx plays the character as a nerd for pure laughs, so when he does suffer tragedy there’s absolutely no weight behind it.
Parent Plot Twist Pointless
Even worse is a plot point involving Parker’s parents and their mysterious death.
In previous films and the comics, Parker is famously known as an orphan raised by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. There was never much mention about his parents or their deaths simply because having Parker lose his parents at such a young age was more than enough from a story stand point.
But for some reason, the makers of The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2 feel the need to drag out this bit of story, only offering a bare minimum of actual information over two films. The result is more infuriating than mysterious, and both films have suffered enormously for it.
For Hardcore Fans Only, Everyone Else Can Skip It
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 directly addresses a few of the major problems I had with the previous installment. First there’s the improved tone and a few genuinely great Spider-Man moments that highlight exactly what it is we love about this character. Second, the great chemistry between Garfield and Stone, which is so good and believable that any moment they share on-screen together is almost worth it.
Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good, with disappointing characterizations of its villains and a plot that seems to go on forever without ever advancing anything. I fear only the most hardcore fans will find a theatrical viewing necessary. For everyone else though, skip it and put in Spider-Man 2 (2004) instead.
Jordan Hunt covers the movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews.