Somehow, the modest success of The Amazing Spider-Man was enough to convince Sony Pictures that it could be turned into franchise. Not just one with Amazing sequels, either – there were ambitious plans of an extended universe with films focusing on Spidey’s sidekicks and villains. Awkwardly, these ambitions never came to fruition, and this very movie is to thank for that.
Having just graduated high school, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) now has more time to devote to being the superhero known as Spider-Man. Although some New Yorkers still see him as a dangerous vigilante, he has some admirers in the Big Apple, among them Oscorp engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) and Peter’s on-again-off-again girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Unfortunately for the latter, Peter is worried that his heroic alter-ego might be placing Gwen in danger, and so breaks-up with her once more after graduating.
Meanwhile, mysterious things are happening at Oscorp, the organisation where Gwen continues to work. Peter’s childhood friend Harry (Dan DeHaan) has been promoted to CEO after the death of his father, Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper), and appears to take little interest in his any of Oscorp’s business dealings – he’s more concerned about the genetic disease which is slowly killing him. Additionally, the aforementioned Max has turned into the villainous Electro after an accident involving, what else, electric eels.
A collective groan sounded out when the Spider-Man franchise was rebooted with this film’s predecessor, The Amazing Spider-Man – audiences saw little reason for the hero’s origins to be retold. During its initial release, this reviewer was one of the few people who seemed to prefer it over the previous trilogy; but with time, audiences warmed to the reboot and became enthusiastic for the eventual sequel.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2, just like the previous film, is made enjoyable by the great acting of, and wonderful chemistry between, leads Garfield and Stone, as well as the sincere tone which, for the most part, doesn’t seem out-of-place. There are some improvements to be had over the prequel, too. Aunt May (Sally Field) is given more screentime, playing a more active role in the story; and there are some spectacular action sequences which include a car chase through Manhattan and plenty of slow-motion web-slinging.
These action sequences are more exciting than last time, but disappointingly, they don’t occur often enough, and are absent from much of the second act. Also missing from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is focus, with the already-overstuffed script occasionally deviating from the plot altogether – during the climax, there are cutaways to two airplanes on a collision course, a subplot which has nothing to do with the protagonists or their struggles.
More frustrating is the film’s inability to develop a menacing villain. A character by the name of Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti), aka the Rhino is introduced early on, but soon after forgotten about; German scientist Dr Kafka (Marton Csokas) is far too clichéd to be considered intimidating; and Electro generates sympathy rather than resentment. He becomes Spider-Man’s nemesis through unfortunate circumstances and other people’s ill-treatment of him rather than any ideological drive, meaning every time one sees him they cannot help but feel sorry for him.
In its over-eagerness to establish a cinematic universe, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 forgets to be an amazing movie. The film does have good action scenes and delightful performances – from the protagonists, anyway – but it lacks coherence and has no noteworthy villains to speak of. No wonder Sinister Six never went ahead.
This film was previously reviewed for YO Bendigo on April 23rd, 2014.