Well, here we are—just one month after the release of the fantastic Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel is at it again with everybody’s favorite Webhead, Spider-Man. Forgive me for the abundance of superhero film reviews lately—there’ll be one more coming (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and then there ought to be a break from them. Until Guardians of the Galaxy in August, anyway. And the dozens of superhero films that follow. But whatever.
I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while but reservedly so. With three villains, I assumed that the film would have a lot going on—maybe even too much. But I was fond of the first Amazing Spider-Man. I liked Andrew Garfield in the title role, I liked Emma Stone as love interest Gwen Stacey, and I was ready to like just about anything else in it after the unforgivably bad Spider-Man 3. But I steeled myself before walking into the theater for ASM 2 because I’d seen a lot of lackluster reviews. Not negative, per se, but they didn’t praise the film as much as I’d hoped. Now that I’ve seen it, I can say that I seem to have liked it more than most, but I can see why people aren’t super excited about it.
Synopsis: “Peter Parker runs the gauntlet as the mysterious company Oscorp sends up a slew of supervillains against him, impacting on his life.” –Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb.
The Good: Andrew freaking Garfield. I can almost hear Eric and Brian booing me right now (we had a bit of a debate on Twitter about the better Spidey, and they picked Tobey Maguire…read the details here), but I love the guy. He has chemistry with everyone he comes into contact with (esp. Stone as Gwen, Sally Field as Aunt May, and Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn), he does a great job with all of the wisecracks, he’s easy on the eyes, and his crying will BREAK YOUR HEART. I mean, I don’t want to ruin anything, but poor Peter goes through some stuff in this film, and there’s a particular scene where he’s so heartbroken that I wanted to cry. I don’t cry in movies, people, but I ached for Spidey, and I think that’s a credit to Garfield’s performance. Stone is great again as clever, funny Gwen, who isn’t afraid to tell Peter what’s what or put herself in the line of fire. I continue to adore Field as sweet, spunky Aunt May, and it’s nice to see her relationship with Peter developed some more. But DeHaan is the best surprise of the film. ASM 2 is the first I’ve seen of him, and now I’m very curious to see him in other roles. A likeable smartass with a hint of vulnerability and a little too much intensity behind those seriously beautiful, piercing eyes, DeHaan’s Harry is vastly different from James Franco’s version, who always seemed a little bland and underdeveloped (sorry, Franco). I’m interested to see how they’re going to use the character in the next film(s). Aside from the performances, I will say that the film’s effects are generally very cool, it has a nice blend of comedy and drama, and the story is more balanced than I was expecting. Personally, I think it’s all a fair bit of fun.
Favorite scene: Gwen has to slip out of Oscorp unnoticed, and Peter distracts her pursuers in a very hilarious way. Ah, the perks of dating Spider-Man.
The Bad: Though it’s not near the distasteful level of Spider-Man 3, there’s some serious cheesiness going on in this film. Unfortunately, a lot of that can be directly tied to the amped up humor. I don’t read comic books, but I think the problem is that the writers are trying to use comic-y quotes in a live-action film, which often comes off as straight-up corny. I thought this particularly toward the beginning of the film when Spidey tackles the severely miscast Rhino (I mean, Paul Giamatti??) while cracking jokes. The film is trying so hard to create that comic book atmosphere, but it doesn’t always work. Rhino aside, my biggest character qualm is actually the most important villain in the film: Electro (Jamie Foxx). Not only does Foxx seem like the wrong choice for the role, but the character as a whole feels forced and flat. His extreme nerdiness, his obsession with Spider-Man, his abrupt shift to power-hungry maniac—none of it is believable. I believe good villains either have to have some degree of vulnerability to make them relatable (i.e. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki) or they have to be so stone-cold crazy and/or badass that they are fascinating (i.e. Heath Ledger’s Joker). Electro is not any of this. The villains are somewhat elevated by Harry, who has the vulnerability thing going for him, but, unfortunately, I find him less interesting when he transforms into Green Goblin. I kind of wish he hadn’t become Green Goblin at all in this film. Can’t we spend more time getting to know Harry? For that matter, can’t we have more Harry/Peter bro time? They get one great scene, and then pretty much zilch. What a waste. The film as a whole feels jam-packed and rushed. Plus, the dialogue is sometimes stiff, which is one of my biggest pet peeves.
Least favorite scene: At one point, a small, idiotic child breaks free from his mother’s grasp to stand between a powerful villain and terrified onlookers. I get it—the kid is supposed to be brave or whatever, but COME ON. Waaaaay too corny and supremely stupid. Spidey complimented him. Personally, I would’ve told the kid’s mother to institutionalize him.
To Sum It Up: In the hands of less capable actors, ASM 2 could’ve been bland, but Garfield, Stone, DeHaan, and Field save the day with solid performances. Yes, the humor is sometimes a bit forced, but there are still plenty of genuinely funny moments plus lots of action and nice touches of drama. In regards to the plot, “less is more” comes to mind, but the story is better than you might think. I’d say this film is level with its predecessor—maybe slightly better. If you liked the first one, it’s worth a matinee showing.
My Grade: B+