They nailed Spidey, now all they need is ONE decent villain.
Despite the questionable merits of such a swiftly embarked-upon reboot series, and the inescapable feeling of treading familiar territory, The Amazing Spider-Man largely overcame the odds to become the definitive interpretation of the witty teen web-slinger.The sequel follows suit, further embellishing Peter Parker’s backstory, his heritage, the mysterious death of his parents, and the up and down path of true love with his girlfriend, Gwen, which is especially fraught following the promise he made to her father to stay away from her in order to keep her out of danger.
In many ways it plays as a seamless extension of the first outing, developing the characters in natural directions, following the path laid out by the first story, and continuing, expanding and occasionally concluding some of the many sub-story-arcs that had already been established.
Certainly this sequel’s high points lie in these areas, and, in particular, at the hands of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, who have some of the best on-screen chemistry seen in years. They hold together the core of the movie; the witty dialogue between them is superb, and their interactions are charming, intoxicating, cute and frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious.The trouble comes when they attempt to inject multiple villains into the mix, a decision which has been proven ill-advised time and again, but which almost seems inevitable for superhero sequels these days.
Here, in particular, it seemed unavoidable, as to focus merely on the superior of the two main villains would have surely just drawn parallels with Raimi’s original 2002 Spiderman effort. Unfortunately, this leaves us with a solid villain being established in the background, whilst an inferior one takes centre-stage to keep Spidey occupied.
So, whilst the heart and soul is definitely present in this reboot saga, and whilst I can’t wait for things to come to a head in the next chapter, indecisiveness and compromise behind-the-scenes leave The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as a frequently enjoyable but not quite spectacular sequel.
The story continues on almost immediately after the events of the first movie, with Peter and Gwen back together, in spite of the deathbed promise he made to Gwen’s father. But when Peter starts to see the spectre of Gwen’s late father everywhere he goes, reminding him of the promise he broke, and the consequences of doing so, he starts to have second thoughts about continuing their relationship.
Meanwhile Peter’s childhood friend, Harry is back, dealing with a dying father and having to take control of the massive Oscorp, as well as some personal revelations of his own which put a whole different spin on his view of life. And Oscorp itself? Well it just so happens that a goofy, put-upon technician working there is about to have an accident and turn into a walking car battery, capable of shooting bolts of electricity at anything or anybody he comes up against.
Garfield and Stone have such great chemistry together you could watch a whole movie dedicated to just their relationship.
It’s going to be an uphill struggle in even the most outlandish superhero movie to throw audiences a villain made purely out of electricity, and, whilst Jamie Foxx’s Electro does have a few nice moments (his excellent Nine Inch Nails-style signature theme song, which ingeniously uses his paranoid/psychotic thoughts as lyrics almost makes up for the unnecessarily goofy theme he gets lumbered with pre-transformation), he does not disprove the rule. Borne from a series of comic-book clichés, he neither has much of a character himself, nor much of a reason to exist beyond just sucking and discharging electricity in increasing amounts. It’s little more than a reason to stage some grand effects sequences and, whilst the visuals are impressive – and especially so in 3D – they do borderline on videogame territory, feeling, at times, apart from the rest of the piece, which hosts a welcome dramatic core.
Conversely Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn is a far better conceived character, given the time to develop across the course of the movie, and well-integrated into Peter’s own backstory, with both of their fathers having once worked together at Oscorp. The trouble is, as aforementioned, the filmmakers appear scared of treading too closely to the same narrative as Raimi’s original Spiderman movie, and instead inject the Green Goblin into the proceedings as a fairly late inclusion, focussing instead on the effects-centric Electro, despite the more promising storyline that is simmering beneath.
Even the emotional core of the piece – the on-off relationship between Peter and Gwen – is unnecessarily complicated by a potential foreign placement that would see Gwen going abroad to study. Thankfully, unlike with the villains, the emphasis with the respect to the problems faced in the relationship between these two love smitten teens is definitely placed upon the more poignant guilt thread – Peter’s promise to Gwen’s dad.
It was one of the few aspects of The Amazing Spider-Man which did not sit well with me; the fact that, in the closing few moments, Peter mumbles to Gwen that he’s ‘not very good at keeping promises’, insinuating that this would apply to a deathbed promise made to your girlfriend’s father in the interests of keeping her alive. That was just plain out-of-character, even for Parker. Thankfully, this sequel rectifies that somewhat, by returning the spectre of Gwen’s dad to the present, haunting Peter with the potential ramifications of ignoring the promise that he made.
Whilst it succeeds far more than Spiderman 3, they should have learned from their mistakes when it comes to having too many villains.
I can’t stress how great these ideas are in this sequel, how superior the romantic threads are, and how well it all ties-in with the first movie, but, unfortunately, due to the mistakes over choosing villains – and the sheer overpopulation of villains – the series is still desperately crying out for the right opponent to finally match up to the now-definitive Peter Parker / Spider-Man that has been so lovingly crafted over the last two movies.
In the meantime, however, there’s no denying that you’ll likely have a blast watching the return of everybody’s favourite webslinger, and, like me, be left on tenterhooks as to where things are going to go from here.
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