Sunday, May 4, 2014

Amazing Spider-Man 2, The (2014)

Director: Marc Webb
Notable Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti

If you go back and look at my review for The Amazing Spider-Man, then you will see that I wasn’t necessarily sold on the entire concept. The film had a bit of trouble dealing with the tone changes and director Marc Webb struggled with the action set pieces. With all of the mediocre reviews that came streaming in for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I was hesitant to say the least and my expectations certainly began to drop. Which is why, perhaps, I found this one to be a more enjoyable film than the first.

Peter Parker (Garfield) has been doing his best to balance his life as a student with a wonderful girlfriend in Gwen (Stone) and his life as a crime fighting superhero for New York. It’s tough though and relationship issues, doubts about his familial life, and the reappearance of a childhood friend in Harry Osborn (DeHaan) have thrown a hinge into the balance. To make matters worse, an accident at Oscorp has left a weary technician (Foxx) with substantial electric powers and a hunger to feed his ego…an ego that has no room for Spider-Man.

Just doing some dead lifts.
Now one thing I’ll make clear right now is that I don’t believe The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a better film than the first. In fact, it suffers from many of the same flaws and/or a few more in its ambitious attempt at really pushing the franchise forward. The tone between the romantic subplot and the comic book action can be jarring at times, some of the subplots seem forced including the rekindled friendship between Harry and Peter and the entire conspiracy surrounding the death of his parents, and the film is very long so by the time that Gwen and Peter have their third “fight” the audience seemed to be shifting a bit more than usual. These were all issues that the first film had and this sequel didn’t seem intent on fixing, which is something of a let down.

In that manner, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not a whole lot better than the first time around. Even more so, due to having two villains in the film, the baddies get less time for their own character arcs which can concerning when Electro’s character (as silly as it is) seems relatable for the first third of the film, but loses it in the latter portions. Where were the struggles for the villains that Raimi seemed so intent on keeping for his first two Spider-Man films? They aren’t found here, folks.
This is Sparkles.
That being said, I did state in my opening paragraph that I enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man 2 more than the first. If there was anything that Marc Webb and company did improve on was the action and the general ‘fun’ moments of the film. Outside of a shaky-cam disaster for the opening action sequence on a plane, Webb and company really worked on getting the action to move in better ways. Spider-Man’s traffic jam with Russian mobsters was a delight to watch that partnered fast paced action with great comedic timing to create a sequence that was worthy of comics (and very much reminded me of the 90s animated series of my youth). From there the film does tend to be a little too much CGI like the first cascading some of the sequences – like the final showdown with Electro – into video game cut scene territory, but Webb seemed much more comfortable crafting those scenes.

As is Webb’s strength, the true highlights of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lie in the relationship between Gwen and Peter though. The chemistry between the two is effective and poignant for the film. Garfield and Stone eat up scenery throughout the film and with an increased focus on the humor and banter in the script, it works better even if the whole on-again-off-again relationship drags on through the film a bit too much.

"Hold on, I got this shit!"
Truthfully, the increased sense of fun and better action sequences does make The Amazing Spider-Man 2 more enjoyable overall. There are more issues with the script as they jam in a ridiculous amount of threads and characters into the film (in an attempt to set up future installments), but the film covers up a lot of them with its strengths this time around. Sure it’s not a perfect film and already falls short of the brilliance of Captain America: The Winter Solider for the year, but it works as popcorn theater.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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