The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
This entry in the Spider-Man film series is about Peter and Gwen struggling to find the right balance in their relationship as well as Spider-Man having to deal with a new villain on the scene called Electro. Also, Harry Osborn comes back to town to visit his dying father and reconnects with Peter. Also, Peter makes some new discoveries about his parents (well, his father).
Alright, I will start off this review by saying that I really enjoyed this movie. I want to make that clear before I start tearing it apart and making you think that I hate it. But don’t worry, I will also talk about what I liked.
The most glaring problem with this movie is how frenetic the narrative is. They weave about four or five plotlines together and never spend enough time on any of them to develop them to their full potential. One thing I wish about the new series is that they would just cut out everything with Peter’s parents. If they cut out all the stuff involving or talking about his parents, the movie(s) would be twenty minutes shorter. Or they could just use that time for more development of other characters. If we could’ve just spent twenty more minutes with Electro, it would have made the villain richer and more natural. As it is, Electro gets his powers and within ten or twenty minutes has complete control over them. He never has time to grow and learn to use his powers before he’s mastered them. With how they built up his pre-Electro self, they could have made him request to team up with Spider-Man and then Spidey just shoots him down saying that he works alone. But in general, if the film had focused more on Electro and just made a movie around him, it would have been much better.
This brings me to another point: This movie didn’t necessarily feel like it was about anything. It felt more like a long episode of a TV show than a movie. That’s mostly because this movie isn’t trying to tell a story. It’s trying to set up a story. It’s dangling carrots in front of you saying, “This movie is great and all, but the NEXT movie is going to be really great.” It’s not, “Hey, here’s a great story.”
It’s not necessarily specifically this movie’s fault, though. I have a feeling it’s a symptom of a bigger problem. Every studio with a superhero character wants to replicate the success that Marvel has achieved. All they see is that Marvel has a big overall story and that all their movies are connected and they think that’s what they need to do. They completely overlook the fact that every single Marvel movie is in and of itself a complete story with beginning, middle, and end. Sure, they lay ground work and they set up future movies, but the setup isn’t what their movies are about. Each of their movies tells a story.
But enough about Marvel. That’s a topic for another time. Let’s get back to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Some other problems I had were minor. Such as: in the comics, Dr. Kafka is a woman who starts Ravencroft Institute and devotes herself to helping her patients. She helps several major villains (if only temporarily). In the movie, Dr. Kafka is a German accented man who works at Ravencroft Institute and tortures his patients to find out more about their powers. I realize it’s not necessarily fair to always compare things to their source material, but that is a major leap they took. The two characters are so far apart from each other that it’s a wonder why they even bothered to keep the name other than as fan service for people who recognize the name. But at that point, the fans are like, “Hey! I recognize that na- Wait, what?”
But enough about the things I didn’t like. Let’s talk about what I liked about The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The major thing that stands out about the new series is that Andrew Garfield is a perfect Spider-Man. And I can forgive the differences between his Peter and the source material because he’s just so darn enjoyable in the part. He incredibly charming and it’s so fun to watch him. And he has amazing chemistry with Emma Stone. Their scenes together feel so real and natural. Any scene with the two of them is a highlight of the film. That’s what a Spider-Man movie needs. It needs a good balance of a compelling villain, Spider-Man action, and Peter Parker life. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had all of those things, but not a good balance of them. It seems like what they do with these movies is similar to making a smoothie. You put in various things that are awesome that you love, then you just hit blend and see what comes out. It doesn’t taste quite right, but you keep drinking it because there’s hints of the great things you put into it.
Another thing I love is Jamie Foxx as Electro. Electro is a very difficult villain to translate to the screen. It barely works on the comic book page because he’s so ridiculous most of the time. But they managed to adapt him in a way that he was actually not cheesy. Pre-Electro, Jamie Foxx really brings it hard as the creepy, bizarre nobody who just wants people to know his name. Which reminds me of another point: This movie hits the comedy beats every time. When it’s going for comedy, it’s funny. Something that you can’t say about every comic book movie. A lot of times it’s hit or miss. Half the jokes fall flat, while others are great. Here that’s not the case. When they try to be funny, it’s really funny.
One of the strangest things about this movie to me is that for every thing that I love about it, there’s something else that I really didn’t like. Some changes they make from the source material that they make I’m very okay with and completely on board, others just make me scratch my head. One of the things I don’t like about this series is how absolutely everything comes out of Oscorp. Every villain is made at Oscorp. Every villain works at Oscorp. Every character works at Oscorp (Felicia Hardy works at Oscorp? Really?). All technology comes out of Oscorp. Peter gets his powers at Oscorp. Peter’s dad worked as Oscorp. Oscorp Oscorp Oscorp. I understand they may be limited with what they hold the rights to, but just look at what they did in the Raimi films. Sure, Green Goblin worked at Oscorp and all of his equipment was made there, and sure Doctor Octopus got funding for his project from Oscorp, but the Sandman gets his powers from elsewhere. And the symbiote was alien. Peter got his powers at some genetics lab. It doesn’t all have to come out of Oscorp.
I get the feeling that whenever they do the Venom story, the symbiote is going to be developed at Oscorp. But alas, part of “building a cinematic universe” requires one looming villain to permeate all the movies and be behind the scenes of everything. No matter how you feel about the Raimi films, at least each of them told its own cohesive story and the villains had rich character arcs.
My rating: 7/10
That may seem high based on all these glaring problems I just talked about, but I honestly did enjoy the movie. From a filmmaking standpoint, it’s erratic. But it was fun and at times it was hilarious and the acting all around was outstanding. Those things alone are enough to rescue this film from being a disaster. I just wish there was more focus with this series and that they would tell more self-contained stories and not just tell an ongoing story. The best film franchises work when they tell a story, lay some foundation for future movies to build on, then in the sequels add on to what they’ve done before. But these movies are more of just a tease for what’s to come next.