Main cast: Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Jamie Foxx (Max Dillon/Electro), Dane DeHaan (Harry Osborn), Colm Feore (Donald Menken), Paul Giamatti (Rhino), Felicity Jones (Felicia), Campbell Scott (Richard Parker), and Sally Field (Aunt May)
Director: Marc Webb
For the younger kids, it won’t matter, but for someone like me who remembers the previous movie adaptations of the Spider-Man comics, the plot of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is going to feel like a tired retread. It’s once again covering the friendship between Peter Parker and Harry Osborn. True, there are some creative liberties taken to make things a bit different this time around, but not enough, at least not to the extent of making things feel fresh and new. It also shares much of the flaws of the previous reboot: it tries to cover too many things, only to end up being neither here nor there.
After the last movie, Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy are still in love, but Peter is haunted by his vow to Gwen’s father – he would stay away from her to keep her safe. While she would insist that being with him and loving him is her choice, one that she makes willingly, he is still conflicted. Meanwhile, poor Max Dillon is a bullied employee of Oscorp, the source of all evil, and when an accident turns him into a creature that can absorb and control electricity, he decides to show the world what it feels to live in his former world: powerless and dark. When Spider-Man, his idol, attempts to stop him, he moves that guy right to the top of his hit list.
If things aren’t complicated enough for poor Peter, his old friend Harry comes back to settle loose ends after his father’s death, and the efforts of Harry and Peter to rekindle their friendship hit a snag when Harry stumbles upon his father’s research and realizes that the spider DNA thing – that infected Peter, if you may recall – may cure him of a hereditary disease that would soon kill him. While the spiders were all said to be destroyed, he deduces correctly that he can get that DNA from Spider-Man. Upon seeing Peter’s credit in a published photo of Spider-Man, he concludes that Peter knows that costumed dude, and he begs Peter to get him a sample of Spider-Man’s blood. Peter knows what his blood could do when injected into another person – see the previous movie – and hesitates.
You can probably tell by now the reason why Spider-Man is blue in this movie: just like a certain caped crusader, he gives his all and risks his life to help others, but he loses much in the process. While he may not describe himself as such, Spider-Man is a martyr, and, here, underneath his wise-cracking exterior, he is a wounded soul looking for love in a cruel world.
This is admittedly a tired message, done to death in a plethora of angst-ridden superhero movies that have flooded the market in the last few years. Just like the plot, there is little here that is never been seen before.
And my goodness, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is actually a pretty dumb movie. Sure, bad science is a given – if you can’t check your brain at the door, you would have seizures when you see how radioactive materials are transported and stored in this movie – and women apparently still wear thigh-length skirts in laboratories, but the movie also takes a leaf from Bollywood. When Spider-Man is confronting a crazy killer dressed in a giant robotic rhino outfit, it’s only normal for passers-by to stand by the streets and watch instead of, you know, fleeing for dear life. It also makes sense to taunt an angry guy with electricity charging from his finger tips, especially after he’s taken out half the city. When “innocent civilians” here turn out to be so stupid that they become a liability that need rescuing often, it’s hard to root for Peter to save them.
The movie, as I’ve said, tried covering too many things. I don’t know why they can’t focus solely on Electro here and Harry in the next movie. As it is, both Harry and Max are built up to be villains with a considerable amount of sympathetic back story, especially Harry, who just wants to live. (Max is sympathetic, but his back story is too over the top to be believable compared to Harry’s story.) When the movie chugs into its last third or so, however, any nuances in their character are swept aside for one-dimensional cackling villainy.
It is especially painful to think of how the relationship between Harry and Peter are broken down like this, as both Andrew Garfield and Dane DeHaan have a chemistry that feel natural here. In a better paced movie, Harry would be to Spider-Man what Loki was to Thor. Make no mistake, the role of Harry is going to give Mr DeHaan – who resembles a young Leonardo Dicaprio to a disturbing degree – a place in the hearts and imagination of sweet little darlings that would make many, many, many cute animated screenshots of him on Tumblr, but his Harry Osborn is never given the chance to fully develop into the attractive anti-hero that he could have been.
Given the flaws that riddled this movie, it is almost embarrassing to admit that, at the end of the day, I enjoy this movie far more than I would have liked. It’s all about the romance, and I know, so don’t look at me like that. If I still harbor any doubts about Andrew Garfield being Peter Parker – which I don’t actually – they are gone by the time the credits roll. I’ve already mentioned in my review of the previous movie that he certainly looks the part – cute but not too handsome, therefore perfect believable as the awkward geek – but here, he has everything nailed down almost perfectly. He is impressively expressive, so much so that everything about Peter Parker is so much fun to follow. When Peter smiles, I can’t help feeling my lips curve up in response. When his heart is broken, I sigh. Of course, his beautiful sad puppy eyes don’t hurt. I think I can just stare in them in those close-up scenes of his face… ahem.
Normally, I would be exasperated by the on-and-off nature of the relationship between Peter and Gwen, but Mr Garfield and Emma Stone retain that enjoyable chemistry they had in the previous movie. I am reeled along, despite my cynicism, and I can’t help it – I love every second of their sad love story. Peter’s love for her is the tormented kind of the most beautiful nature – he loves her, and she keeps him focused and sane, and without her, his love pours out from the metaphorical wounds on his wrists. He can’t be with her, but he can make sure that she is safe, by stalking her and watching her from afar when he’s not saving the world. In real life, this is creepy and sad. In this movie, it’s intense, insane, and glorious.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has all the hallmarks of a crappy movie with more fireworks and flash than substance, but I can’t dog it too much. It has a bleeding heart, it evokes emotions, and it makes me feel for the characters. Oh, and the soundtrack is great. Whoever thought of putting Phosphorescent’s Song for Zula in the background for that scene with Peter and Gwen deserves a raise.