REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

5 08 2014

When Marc Webb was announced as the next director to helm the “Spider-Man” series, more than a few eyebrows were raised (including my own).  With only “(500) Days of Summer” under his belt, Webb seemed like an odd figure to entrust with a multi-million dollar franchise.  While that film showed a true creative mind at work, its exuberant eclecticism was not an obvious fit for a series that had been rather somber under the guidance of Sam Raimi.

None of these qualifications showed at all in his first outing with the arachnid hero, 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which slavishly recreated the hero’s mythology for the generation that didn’t see the 2002 version in theaters or in its million syndicated cable showings.  The reboot felt timidly directed by Webb, whose trepidation at approaching a new genre of filmmaking was clear.

In his second go-round, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” glimpses of his distinctive stamp on the series become a little more clear.  One scene in particular where Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker angrily puts in his earbuds and makes a map to decipher the mysterious past of his parents seems to directly parallel the sequence in “(500) Days of Summer” where Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom draws a cityscape of Los Angeles.  And in one of the film’s final scenes, Webb leaves us with a hauntingly emotional denouement using no words, just powerful images and montage.

Sadly, these small pockets of artistry in the film were few and far between.  Though the film as a whole feels more confident than its predecessor, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” still suffers from the general lack of inspiration plaguing big-budget filmmaking, and especially comic book adaptations.

The screenplay is crafted this time by the Kurtzman-Orci duo that has given us some of the more ingenious popcorn flicks of the past few years (“Star Trek“) as well as some of its biggest duds (“Transformers“).  This film falls somewhere in between; it’s good enough to keep interest throughout, but we can see every plot development coming from a mile away.

Spider Man 2

Most films seemed to have heeded the message sent by the negative reaction to “Spider-Man 3” that a film should limit its villains.  You’d think that another “Spider-Man” movie would get the memo, but Kurztman and Orci repeat the same mistakes that caused the franchise to sputter the first time.  It’s likely that this was a decision made by executives who needed to spawn characters for lucrative spin-offs, but that doesn’t excuse how bland and undeveloped of a menace Jamie Foxx’s Electro turned out to be.

Dane DeHaan, filling the shoes of James Franco in the role of Harry Osborne and the Green Goblin, does a fine job with what little he has to work with in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”  This tremendous rising talent, capitalizing on superb turns in smaller films like “The Place Beyond the Pines” and “Kill Your Darlings,” brings the same caged fury to his character here.  In spite of his best efforts, they’re still not enough to overpower how clumsily he’s reintroduced into the series.  (Not to mention, the new CGI for his alter ego makes him look rather elfish.)

While I’ll admit I’m not entirely opposed to seeing the rage of Paul Giamatti channeled into a comic-book villain in the future, clearly the intention of his appearance after the climax of the film, he’s yet another distraction keeping the focus away from the best thing this series has to offer: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.  She isn’t given too many moments alone, but Garfield is, and he generally owns these moments where he really gets to explore the psyche of his character.

When they’re together, though, the pair absolutely shines.  Their casting in these roles could not have been more on-point, and the chemistry they share is so electric that it illuminates just how banally boring the rest of the movie is when they aren’t sharing the screen.  Garfield will return for “The Amazing Spider-Man 3,” while Stone will move on to other projects.  I can only hope that the next film will be his last outing in the Spidey suit because cinema needs Garfield and Stone together in other films that will be a better showcase for their tremendous collaborative talents.  C+2stars

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One response

5 08 2014
The Pumpkin's Head (Betty J. Ogburn)

…Great review!!…I haven’t seen this, yet (I’m sorta afraid to)…

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