What a letdown.
Try as I may to justify so many of the mistakes I personally see in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I just can’t do it. It’s been two days now since the Queen and I saw it, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more disappointed I am in the finished film. While there are certainly moments that I thought were genuinely amazing (seeing Spidey swing through New York City is always a thrill; the final 35 minutes or so I felt were excellent), poor decisions abound throughout the film, ones that I still can’t understand how the filmmakers let through.
YOU ARE NOW ENTERING SPOILER TERRITORY
Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Max Dillion, a hapless Oscorp employee, is so cartoonish, it’s not even funny. He even has his own theme music that sounds almost exactly like Otis’ in Superman: The Movie. That’s not a good thing. The gap-teeth, the combover. It’s so exaggerated , and a far-cry from the relatively nuanced performance of Rhys Ifans’ Doctor Curt Connors in the first film. Things get a little better when Foxx becomes Electro, but the character is still underwritten, and his motivation is forced. He looks cool, that’s for sure, and the special effects that bring the character to life are going to really impress kids. So there’s that plus, at least.
For me, the film’s second biggest flaw, and the one I have the hardest time looking past, is the genuinely poor writing that rears its head time and time again. Dane Dehaan’s Harry Osborn returns from private school and apparently he and Peter Parker are best buddies. That’s what we’re told. We’re given far too little to buy into the relationship. Both Dehaan and Andrew Garfield do their best to make it work with what they have, but they needed more. Plus, Harry Osborn’s descent into the disease that kills his father Norman happens far too quickly. We’re talking Alfred’s MacGregor Syndrome quick.
Then there are the obvious, quickly written moments that aren’t nit picky – nursing student Aunt May would not be telling everyone to get back to work after a blackout. Gwen Stacey would not have an interview for Oxford, find out she got in and then be heading to the airport because they offer a summer class, all in the span of a few hours! Come on! Look, I can suspend my disbelief that a guy can crawl on walls, but I just can’t forgive sloppy writing. Or maybe it’s lazy writing. Whatever it is, as a Spider-Man fan and a fan of cinema generally, it offends me.
There are the main negatives, in my book anyways. Do they all amount to an absolutely terrible film? No, not quite. Andrew Garfield is still a superior Spider-Man, and an excellent Peter Parker. He wears the role like a perfect spandex suit. Emma Stone is a wonderful Gwen Stacey, strong and determined. The duo still shine together, even when their characters drift into Dawson’s Creek territory. I thought Dane Dehaan did well as Harry Osborn and as the Green Goblin, and that Sally Field was very good as Aunt May. The “you’re my boy” scene between Peter and May is some powerful stuff, and deserved to be surround by better stuff.
And then there’s THAT scene.
MASSIVE SPOILER COMING
It seemed inevitable that Gwen Stacy should die at some point in the franchise. Her loss in the Spider-Man comics still haunts Peter to this day. But when it occurs, towards the very end of the film, it still shocked me. Perhaps I thought that Gwen would make it out alive, so when she falls to her death during Spider-Man’s battle with the Green Goblin, I gasped. The moments leading up to it were tense; I thought I knew what was coming. I was waiting for it. Then I became optimistic. And then it happened. Garfield nails the reaction. Once again, it’s a powerful moment that should have been surround by a better film.
Is the Amazing Spider-Man 2 a total failure? No, not for me. And not for the kid sitting next to me, who when the film finished said to his dad, “that was really good.” There are some fine performances and thrilling scenes. However, coming off the promise the first film delivered for me, it should have been far, far better than it was. We already know that The Amazing Spider-Man 3 is set for 2016. Hopefully the brain trust will hear the loud comments and critiques and fix things.
Spider-Man and his fans deserve better.