I Confess: I loved the first Amazing Spider-Man film. But after watching several previews and reading all about the sequel’s premise, I decided to walk into the theater Thursday night with my geek side in check… Mainly because I knew The Amazing Spiderman 2 was going to be a very different movie from the first. Very.
I suggest you strap in– ’cause I’ve got a lot to say.
I Confess Part Two: I love Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man… I truly do. He pulls off the infectious wit, energy and cocky immaturity of a young superhero while still serving up an awkward, jaded, broken Peter Parker with ease. Being inside the Spidey suit requires someone who’s incredibly animated, and Garfield knows how to work it. Luckily, in a film filled with a lot of characters, Spider-Man still manages to standout in this movie.
After setting the film’s tone and overall premise with a heart-pumping scene featuring Peter’s parents (the mysterious Richard and Mary Parker), the real show begins… And ten minutes after Spider-Man’s grand entrance, I was still completely in love. The visual choreography and cinematography took the cinematic experience to a whole new level. So much so, I even allowed myself to think, “This movie’s going to knock it out of the park.”
I felt overcome with emotion. This was an important moment: Always a kid at heart, I finally got to feel what it would be like to “fly” with Spider-Man. The visuals are that magical. The use of height and depth was anxiety inducing but brilliantly used. As a longtime critic of 3D films, this is one movie that proves me very, very wrong. If you want to see this film, you should see it in theatres… And *choke* in 3D (if you can).
Keep in mind, that’s just the brilliant beginning of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Unfortunately, it’s not long before an overwhelming darkness comes to the fore– forming the film’s core. Peter Parker is in pain– reeling from the loss of his Uncle Ben and Captain Stacy– and Spider-Man’s in the middle of an identity crisis. The world just can’t seem to take his side, and he doesn’t even know if he wants them to. Peter seems completely destroyed by his promise to leave his love, Gwen Stacy, out of his new life.
Though all of these elements are necessary plot points in the decades-long Spider-Man story, Parker’s depression is overwhelming, Garfield leaves the audience feeling much the same way. One scene in particular (one I knew was coming), was quite shocking in its darkness. It’s all just so unrelenting… And tiring. There are very few moments where the mood shifts back to the brighter side.
But “being depressing” is hardly my biggest and most aggravating “beef” with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I reserve that ire for the ridiculous number of underwhelming villains. As much as I don’t want to be “that guy” who compares this Spider-Man adaptation to one of its predecessors– the Sam Raimi series developed and portrayed most of its villains much more successfully. That said, much like the original third Spidey movie-that-will-not-be-named, this new sequel suffers from villain overload.
First, there’s Max Dillon, aka Electro. His origin story is weak sauce, especially when it comes to establishing motive. Simply put, he’s a blatant sociopath who’s obsessed and infatuated with Spider-Man to the point of sheer lunacy. I’m expected to sympathize with the awkward Dillon after watching various small-minded characters (with very inflated and corny personalities) put him down over and over– for no real reason at all. Add in a freak accident and an imagined slight from his hero, and Electro is suddenly a soulless killing machine bent on Spidey’s destruction. I can’t really blame Jamie Foxx for this portrayal. He’s given dialogue that’s equal parts cheesy and unnatural.
Dane DeHaan is a spitting image of what I think Harry Osborn should look like, but that’s about all I can put in the “pro” category concerning his acting. Though Harry’s bratty attitude comes through, DeHaan’s performance feels very wooden and wrong, with most of his line readings suffering from an extremely bad case of overacting. It doesn’t help that this cinematic version of the Goblin story all but shuns the Green Goblin character either.
With no Dad (and so many other characters flitting in and out) Harry Osborn’s story is rushed and barely thought out. To make matters worse, Harry the Bad Guy gets a complete makeover that I do not love. It’s as if director Marc Webb was intent on making Harry more of a goblin– as opposed to just wearing a goblin suit. (I’m beginning to wonder if the creators of this rebooted series are simply assuming everyone in the audience has seen all the old films, and now they’re just redesigning everything specifically to avoid redundancies.)
There are so many characters to juggle in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, it’s extremely important they all be well-developed, coordinated and presented. Sadly, I don’t think any of them were… Even if the chemistry between Garfield and Stone (along with their individual screen charm), almost saves the weakness infecting the rest of the cast. (Hell, Aunt May was more interesting than some of the villains!) Rhino fans? Don’t get your hopes up. And the moment I was particularly waiting for– the set-up for a Sinister Six movie? Well, it’s clearly an afterthought and a major letdown.
I realize I can be a fairly demanding moviegoer, but I’m also willing to forgive certain mistakes and deficiencies… And why not? Nothing’s perfect. The one thing I demand from every superhero movie is simple: A feeling of satisfaction… Knowing the movie I just watched was money and time well-spent. But even now, two days later, I still feel unsettled. I keep thinking about the visual impact of the movie in an attempt to redeem the overall film, but there are so many faults in the story and supporting performances– I’m finding the movie hard to defend.
The writers and creators are clearly attempting to create a Spider-Man universe that’s very reflective of its comic book roots… And as a dedicated nerd, I respect them dearly for that. However, there are times when change is allowed– and sometimes necessary– to successfully pull off a comic to film presentation. Here’s something Hollywood should already know: You don’t need to stuff three villains into one movie to keep it interesting… And you can’t expect to portray them all respectfully in doing so. It’s a mistake we’ve all seen before, so it’s unfortunate to see it again.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 could have been so much more than it was. but it’s so obviously rushed, and suffers for it. - Danielle Young