Movie Reviews

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man / Peter Parker
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
Jamie Foxx as Electro / Max Dillon
Dane DeHaan as Green Goblin / Harry Osborn
Colm Feore as Donald Menken
Felicity Jones as Felicia
Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich
Sally Field as Aunt May
Embeth Davidtz as Mary Parker
Campbell Scott as Richard Parker
Marton Csokas as Dr. Ashley Kafka
Louis Cancelmi as Man in Black Suit
Max Charles as Young Peter Parker
B.J. Novak as Alistair Smythe
Sarah Gadon as Kari

Directed by Marc Webb

Summary:
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is an odd mixture of modern reality-based superhero movies and the more campy versions from the '90s, but a great performance by Andrew Garfield and some cool action scenes make the film worth checking out for both kids and adult fans.

Story:
Some time after the events of "The Amazing Spider-Man," Peter Parker is at the top of his game. He has mastered his powers, the city of New York loves him, he's graduating from high school, and he has a great relationship with Gwen Stacy. Yet he is haunted by the promise he made to Gwen's dying father. Because of this and a fear that one day Gwen may get hurt because of him, Peter decides to end their relationship.

While Peter subsequently throws himself fully into his role as Spider-Man, a figure from his past returns. His childhood friend Harry Osborn returns to face his dying father Norman and take over Oscorp. Yet Harry has his own challenges to face. He must deal with a hostile board of directors from his father's company as well as the revelation that he's dying from the same rare genetic disease that is claiming his father. But by combing through his father's files, he comes to a conclusion – Spider-Man may be the key to saving himself.

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.

What Worked:
I have to say that this Spider-Man is my favorite incarnation of the character on the big screen. The costume is fantastic and matches my favorite comic book version. He has the perfect mix of cockiness and seriousness that I like to see in the comics. Spidey's one liners are spot-on and they sound like they came straight from Brian Michael Bendis' comics. (I wouldn't be surprised if he had some input into the dialogue. I don't know if he did.) They also don't rely on the "shaky cam" when showing Spider-Man web-slinging through the city. The camera pulls back and allows you to appreciate him flying through the air. And occasionally we get a first person view and it feels like we're swinging along with Spider-Man through the streets of New York. It's a really great experience and everything I've wanted to see as a Spider-Man fan on the big screen.

While the effects and costume for Spider-Man are great, it's the man behind the mask that really makes it work. Andrew Garfield proved he was up to the challenge in the previous film and like Spidey in this sequel, he hits his stride here. Garfield gives both Spidey and Parker a lot of humor, heart, and intelligence. We believe him as he clowns around with Rhino. We believe him as he has a heart to heart talk with a bullied kid. We believe him as he does his own science experiments with web shooters in his rooftop lab. And as you would expect, he also has great chemistry with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. Their off-screen relationship definitely carries over onto the screen. While they are a bit TOO sweet some of the time, there's just enough sweetness and humor to make them likeable even when you're occasionally cringing.

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" features some really impressive action scenes that are above and beyond what we saw in the previous film. For me, the opening truck chase was the main highlight as it features tons of destruction, Spidey elegantly swinging overhead, and the perfect mix of action and humor. This was enhanced by the 3D effects which were put to great use here. Another notable action scene takes place in Times Square as our hero faces off with Electro for the first time. We are treated to super slow motion scenes where we, as the audience, get to experience what Spidey's heightened senses allow him to do. The end result is an intricately-choreographed action sequence that takes place over the blink of an eye.

But it's not all action and 3D wizardry. The back story on Peter's family is also expanded upon. We see more of what his parents were up to, how Oscorp was involved, and how they ultimately disappeared. It's an impressive opening sequence and sets the movie running right out of the gates. It also expands the films beyond what we saw in the Sam Raimi trilogy.

As for the music, it's an odd mix. Some of it is utterly forgettable, some of it seems strangely out of place, but then some of it is quite cool. The theme for Electro by Hans Zimmer and "The Magnificent Six" is the best of the lot as it has a frantic beat that mimics Max's boiling frustrations. There is also chanting going on in the background that seem to voice Max's fears. The inner demons whisper to him and prompt him to finally crack. Overall, it seems to be the most thought I've seen put into a superhero soundtrack in quite some time. I'd like to see more of that.

I took my 12-year-old son and 9-year-old son to this and they loved it. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" pushed all of the right buttons for them. And while I felt the movie had plenty of flaws that were hard to overlook, seeing them enjoying it so much made it a great moviegoing experience for all of us.

What Didn't Work:
The most surprising thing about "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is that it feels like a throwback to '90s superhero films, and not in a good way. While the previous film felt a little too melancholy and serious, this sequel opted to swing the complete other direction bordering on camp. For example, the villain is created by falling into a vat. The Joker would be proud. Jamie Foxx is an over the top nerd with bad teeth, bad hair, and he's picked on. In fact, his origin feels a lot like that of Michelle Pfeifer's Catwoman in "Batman Returns." Then you have the overload of villains straight from "Batman Forever." It's like they were taking notes straight from the '90s superhero movie playbook. They almost completely eschewed the reality based approach that has served Marvel so well and went back to something more akin to Sam Raimi's films. Matters aren't helped when it is put up alongside "Captain America: The Winter Solider." The flaws of this sequel become all the more apparent and it starts feeling like Sony is a little bit lost on the right tone for a Spider-Man movie.

The relationship between Gwen and Peter is also mis-handled. At the end of the previous film, there was a hint that they'd get back together. Then at the beginning of this sequel, they are very much together. Then, a couple of minutes later, he dramatically breaks up with her. Then they get back together. Then they split. Then… you're pretty tired by then. The story would have been served better by a slow build up back to a romantic reunion rather than the constant back and forth. I found myself saying, "Peter, you're a moron." It's not good to have your audience thinking that way about your hero.

The relationship between Harry and Peter also seems quite rushed. What took Sam Raimi three films to build up takes this film about an hour and a half. The setup of a major conflict between the friends is a lot more satisfying the Raimi way. Here, Osborn seems like a spoiled rich kid that doesn't get his way. And Peter Parker seems like a jerk for not even attempting to help his friend. The end result is that when they do finally face off against each other, it feels really forced.

On the topic of villains, I generally liked the visual effects for Electro. His translucent skin and electrified veins are quite a sight. But by the end of the film, he looks so incredibly CG that all of the realism from the previous scenes is completely forgotten. While the beginning of the movie features Spidey convincingly swinging around in broad daylight, the Electro from the climax doesn't look that great. I've seen animation in video games that looked better. I don't know what happened there, but it rips you out of the moment.

I'll also add that I felt like the trailers showed too much of the film. In them, you saw every highlight of this movie. Even the very last scene of the film is in the trailer, so it was anti-climactic. And if you are the least bit familiar with the Spider-Man comics, there are even fewer surprises.

As far as the cinematography goes, I don't know if it was the theater I was in or what, but the picture seemed really hazy. There was a bit of a white glow about everything and it was apparently not because it was out of focus or anything. If it actually was on purpose, it was really odd. And it also detracted from the otherwise great 3D effect.

Finally, this movie makes absolutely no secret that it plans to lead into a Sinister Six movie. The credits even feature the gadgets of the villains in the graphics. My 12-year-old son, who is a major Spider-Men geek, declared that the idea of a Sinister Six movie is "stupid." I tend to agree with him. There are a lot of other parts of the Spider-Man world to explore. The Sinister Six are better left as villains for "The Amazing Spider-Man 3," not the central focus of a villain movie.

The Bottom Line:
Despite a bunch of flaws, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is still worth checking out in theaters. It's fun for kids and there is enough here to keep adults entertained as well.



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