The Amazing Spider-Man 2


Reviewed by: David Graham

"It just all feels like too much of what we expect and not enough we haven't seen before."

Marc Webb returns with the next chapter in Marvel's rebooted Spidey-saga, but he's still struggling to match Sam Raimi's success despite an inflated budget and the best efforts of today's hot young things. The Amazing Spider-man 2 is a marked improvement over its bland predecessor but it still lacks the kinetic energy of the previous trilogy and its bloated runtime smacks of the usual studio rewrite mentality. There's an adult streak to the storytelling that will take many by surprise and a couple of set-pieces succeed in getting the juices flowing but whether that's enough to justify this franchise's continuation - another two sequels have already been announced for 2016 and 2018 - is open to serious debate.

Peter Parker has finished school at last but his double-life as Spider-man is still interfering with his personal affairs, even making him late for his graduation ceremony. Haunted by his promise to Captain Stacy that he will keep Gwen out of the danger Spidey represents, Peter struggles to maintain a relationship with his childhood sweetheart, who is considering moving to England for university. A ray of light appears through a reunion with his old buddy Harry Osborn, but little does he know that the Oscorp heir's own issues could set him up as a deadly adversary, while a freak accident has led to one of his employees becoming a super-charged menace by the name of Electro, hell-bent on taking down the idol he feels has demonised him in the eyes of NYC's citizens.

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Falling into almost all the same pitfalls as Raimi's (perhaps unfairly) maligned Spiderman 3, this ruthlessly rushed sequel is over-stuffed with unnecessary villains, pace-sapping dialogue stretches and a frustrating sense of necessity (Raimi felt obligated to shoehorn fan-fave Venom in, here the Green Goblin's revival feels like a desperate stepping stone to further installments). It all still feels a little redundant so soon after the last trilogy (for all its flaws Man Of Steel was at least a markedly different beast to Superman Returns), and in this day of Avengers assembling and X-men past and present joining forces Spidey could end up feeling somewhat stale all on his lonesome to today's spoiled-for-choice audiences.

Having said that, Webb has at least broken Parker and his alter-ego out of the slightly meek mould Maguire set for him, although this can be a bit of a mixed blessing. Remember that much-ridiculed scene in Spidey 3, where a possessed Parker strutted his stuff down the street like he was in a dweebed-up Saturday Night Fever? Garfield is like that the majority of the time here and when he's not, he's gurning like an emo whose My Chemical Romance CD has started skipping.

Emma Stone again fares better than most comic-book females, making a good foil for Spidey's cockiness, and she at least has a constructive role to play in the set-pieces as opposed to MJ (even if Gwen does end up hanging by a thread on occasion). Their relationship is pleasingly adult in general and proves to be the most successful area of the script; it might even require a little parental explanation at points.

But once again too many crooks threaten to spoil the broth, none of them stand out enough to rival still-undefeated Spidey 2-nemesis Doc Ock. Jamie Foxx does, however, instill some pathos into his office underling Max Dillon, his bitterness at the public's perception of him as a mutated freak in comparison to their worship of Spidey setting up one of the most interesting dynamics between hero and villain recently seen in superhero adaps. It's a shame then that Webb pushes him into the background for most of the mid-stretch, especially since the film's greatest set-piece revolves around Electro and comes so early, involving a thorny scientific dilemma that tests Peter's spider-senses to the limit.

Dane DeHaan shines as usual but he's not given anything to do that he hasn't already done with more integrity in Chronicle; his insouciant charm makes him a good match for rich kid Harry but once the angst kicks in it just feels like he's being typecast. There's solid support from an emotive Sally Field and it's refreshing to see Campbell Scott back on the big screen, but by the time Paul Giamatti is rampaging around in his Rhino bucket-suit, it just feels like overkill (even if he seems to be the only baddie having any fun with his role).

The cinematography and CGI are top-notch, the score by Hans Zimmer is suitably sweeping, and the 3D, should you opt for it, is actually well implemented for once, especially during the many aerial acrobatics sequences. It just all feels like too much of what we expect and not enough we haven't seen before. There's not even that much action considering the 142-minute runtime, and as the most kiddie-friendly superhero around, that's pretty inexcusable. Webb ends on a bravely down-beat note - although if he tries to take the franchise into even darker terrain from here he'll further compromise its raison d'etre - but this is still only the 4th best Spiderman flick in the last 12 years, and at this stage that's just not good enough.

Reviewed on: 26 May 2014
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More adventures for Peter Parker's alter-ego.

Director: Marc Webb

Writer: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, James Vanderbilt, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Chris Zylka, Denis Leary, Frank Deal, Marton Csokas, Stan Lee, Max Charles

Year: 2014

Runtime: 142 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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