Sunday, May 4, 2014

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The issue with "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is not that it doesn't do its thing well, but that it's entirely too familiar. We've seen it all before.

To be fair, this sequel has a few decent action sequences and some decent interaction between its characters - that is, when they are not surrounded by explosions in the background or villains firing upon them.

The picture starts with a prelude that discloses the fates of Peter Parker's father (Campbell Scott) and mother as they attempt to keep the top secret project on which they were working out of the hands of Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper).

When we catch up with Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), he is battling baddies on the street - in this instance, a demented Russian gangster played by Paul Giamatti - and running late for his graduation, at which girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is given the valedictory speech. Peter will spend much of the film sulking over not knowing his parents' fate.

But since this is a comic book blockbuster, new villains are introduced and much mayhem is wreaked, rather than spending much time on the actual life of its protagonist and those close to him. So, this time around we have a nerdy scientist (Jaime Foxx), who turns into a electricity-wielding maniac after a freak accident as well as Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), an old friend of Peter's who returns to take over his father's company before being transformed into the Green Goblin.

There are high flying battles over the skyscrapers of Manhattan as Spider-Man fights Electro, who can hover through the air via electricity, and the Goblin, who zips around on a flying contraption. Meanwhile, back down on earth, Peter is feeling guilty for having promised Gwen's deceased father (Dennis Leary) not to put his daughter in harm's way, leading to a rift in the couple's relationship.

In one of the film's more satisfying sequences, the indispensable Sally Field (who plays Aunt May) tells Peter what she knows about his parents' fate in a scene that earns some genuine emotion. In several others, Peter and Gwen flirt via witty banter before taking a serious turn to discuss their relationship. It's in these scenes that "Spider-Man" comes alive.

And it's not that the rest of the film fails - it's competently shot, features some well executed action sequences, etc. - but we've seen most of this before. Comic book movies are beginning to look and feel too similar to be able to distinguish one from the other and their story lines are becoming increasingly simplistic as their special effects sequences become more elaborate. For example, in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" films, the friendship between Peter and Harry Osborn was better introduced than it is here, so it was a bit more significant when Harry (then played by James Franco) then turned to the dark side.

So, while this latest "Spider-Man" is a far cry from a bad movie, it falls pretty short of amazing. It's an average entry into an increasingly overstuffed genre.

1 comment:

  1. It's a shame that they had to pack on so many other villains here, because Electro was pretty awesome in his own right. Give him his own movie, and I think there would have been some real magic here. Good review Nathan.