Another week, another comic book movie. Marc Webb’s second take on the webcrawler is a fairly entertaining, if uneven piece of work. However one excellent element makes it worth seeing: the relationship between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey.
Even though fans of the comics will know where The Amazing Spider-man 2 is headed, the banter between the afore-mentioned characters has wit, chemistry and is easily the strongest part of an overcooked plot. Emma Stone in particular really shines as Gwen, a character whose independence, intelligence and kindness is properly explored here, making her far from a mere damsel in distress.
The stuff about Electro is reasonably well handled too, with Jamie Foxx’s take on the supervillain an admirable cocktail of loneliness, social awkwardness and repressed anger (as well as a deeply scary comb-over that rivals that of Christian Bale’s in American Hustle). However, it all gets a bit bogged down elsewhere in frankly obvious backstory developments concerning Peter’s scientist father. Also the Harry Osborn subplot really should have been explored in a separate film as it feels rather tagged on.
It’s worth adding that the fault with the Osborn character is in the script, not in Dane DeHaan’s excellent performance. Elsewhere it’s great to see Felicity Jones pop up in a minor role, along with Sally Field’s Aunt May as well as Paul Giamatti in what amounts to little more than a cameo.
The usual morality of the Spider-man universe is present and correct, with plenty of stuff about responsibility, personal sacrifice, good vs evil, the dangers of playing God, the triumph of evil when good people do nothing, etc, etc… Frankly these themes are explored more interestingly in the Sam Raimi Spider-man movies, but it is good that Marc Webb remains true to the comic book ideals of Stan Lee (whose cameo here, incidentally, isn’t quite up to the usual hilarious standard).
Obviously the special effects are amazing, but so what? Great visual effects are commonplace. What I loved about the first two Raimi films was the way they built everything (including some great action set pieces) around the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s comedy of errors. Here Webb could have pulled a similar trick if only he’d simplified things a little instead of trying to cram so much into the bloated 142 minute running time. This is an error of judgement that the series has suffered before, in Raimi’s third offering in the series.
I feel I should add that the film contains an Avengers style mid-credits scene from the upcoming X-Men movie. Frankly this had me scratching my head. Unless the plot of that film somehow intersects with this one (which I doubt, as the rights are owned by rival studios) this is little more than advertising within a film’s end credits, almost akin to those infuriating “coming next” things you see on TV all the time where they shrink the screen down. Boo!
Like its immediate predecessor, The Amazing Spider-man 2 almost feels superfluous in an overcrowded market. However, what saves it is the romantic sparkle between the leads. For that alone, the film as a whole just about passes muster.