The Not Quite “Amazing” (But Good) Spiderman 2
This is written by Tawfik Zone Contributor Heather Nichols
THERE ARE SOME MINOR SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THE FIRST AMAZING SPIDERMAN
The Amazing Spiderman 2 is the most recent installment of 2014’s blockbuster season of super hero action flicks, which hit the ground on a high note with Captain America Winter Solider. Directed by the ironically named Marc Webb, Spiderman must fight the terrifying Electro while uncovering the mystery behind his parents’ death. While not as potent as Captain America, Spiderman 2 is an enjoyable superhero film that blends action with campy dialogue and elements of soap opera. I still recommend people see the film if they enjoy the comics and especially if they saw the first film, as Spiderman 2 resolves a few of those unanswered questions.
When we last left Spidey he had just defeated the Lizard, though the audience was left with the burning question, what was Richard Parker’s involvement with Oscorp, the multibillion corporation run by Norman Osborn? New to the cast are Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon, who turns into the villain Electro and Dane DeHaan, most notable for his role in Chronicle, as Harry Osborn, son of the billionaire Norman.
While parts of the narrative drag, these two actors are immensely entertaining and have a great presence in the film. Foxx’s brilliantly nuanced performance here makes it a worthy follow up to his leading role in Tarantino’s masterful 2012 film, Django Unchained. Initially as Max Dillon, he is a wimpy Oscorp employee who is saved by Spiderman early on in the film and becomes a massive fanboy of the hero, plastering the web-slinger’s pictures and newspaper clippings all over his wall. An issue in the last film was Doctor Conner’s (Rhys Ifans) unexplainable reason why transforming into a mutated lizard caused him to want to be a villain. This film clears up that issue as Dillon does not start out attacking people until he feels betrayed by Spiderman and chooses to use his powers for bad.
At first I was not sure what to make of DeHaan as Harry. Although he looks the part and has the chops to play an angry teenager with daddy issues, there was some awkwardness in his performance. He really knocks it out of the park in the second act. Harry not only inherits Oscorp from his late father, but also a family disease that will cause him to die at a rapid and painful rate. The execs at Oscorp plan on using Harry as a scapegoat should there be any legal complications that get in the way of their vision of human biological weapons. Needless to say Harry becomes quite bitter about this. Well, you can guess what side he ends up on. (On a side note, DeHaan and Tom Felton should be in a film together, as they both play this part exceptionally.)
Andrew Garfield as Spiderman, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy and Sally Field as Aunt May reprise their roles in the sequel. One of the issues of the first film was its indecisiveness about who Peter Parker was supposed to be, in part because in the comics he is seen as a science geek and that doesn’t translate well to for the modern, mainstream audience. The character suffered an identity crisis, making him an awkward mishmash of being a skater kid, a sharp mouthed punk, a winey teenager, a genius and art kid all at the same time. This time the filmmakers have settled on making Peter a super emotional teenager which isn’t my personal favorite way to go, but at least they kept consistency all the way through. However, as Spiderman, he is a lot sassier which is more of the spirit of the comics so not much to complain about there.
Emma Stone is wonderful in her part and makes the sappy romance scenes tolerable. I feel that both male and female viewers who have been in a relationship with someone who is constantly going through an array of emotions will be on board with her.
There were major issues with the way Aunt May’s character was written. May’s presence in this film is disappointingly underwhelming to the strong character we know from the comics and from her depiction in the Sam Raimi films. It’s as if they just didn’t have enough room for another strong female character, and sadly, Sally Field was given nothing to work with.
Acting aside, there are both positive and negatives to note about the film as a whole. While trying not to compare it to the Raimi films, you can’t help but notice certain things that they just completely missed the mark on other than previously mentioned issues with Aunt May. One note of criticism is the number of times the word “Amazing” is mentioned. Marc Webb won’t let you forget that this is his movie and within the first act alone I swear every couple of minutes someone used this damn word. We get it, he’s amazing now please continue with the story!
The script as a whole is too dialogue heavy and has large moments where the plot doesn’t go anywhere. Even the actors don’t seem to like those particularly extraneous scenes. For instance, at Harry Osmond’s board meeting, the delivery of the lines is consistently flat. (On the plus side, kudos for throwing in Felicia, who fans will recognize as Spiderman’s eventual ally, Black Cat.) This is followed by an equally painful scene where Peter visits Harry. Oh yes, they keep with the whole “everyone coincidentally knows each other” vibe from the first film. The chemistry between Garfield and DeHaan is awkward which makes sense later in the story but early on it feels like two stage actors not remembering their lines or queues and the awkward man-hug didn’t help.
However just before the third act everything falls into place for a satisfying conclusion. The scenes with little dialogue were well done with thrilling action sequences and visual effects. I did not see this in 3D but I imagine the fight with Electro might be overwhelming for those with sensitivity issues, so just a word of caution there.
THIS SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS
The final battle between Spiderman, Electro, Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin is brilliantly choreographed and suspenseful from start to finish. Yes, the Goblin is in this film; I’m glad they kept him out of the trailers, even though if you’re paying attention you’ll know he’s coming. The conclusion is a bit of a tear jerker for those who don’t know what’s coming. A lot of fans were able to speculate that this would be the film where Gwen Stacy dies based on an early photo released of her wearing the same outfit as in the issue of the comic where she dies.
While I don’t fully remember the issue where she dies, I believe she was captured in the comic version like a damsel in distress, but in the film, her death feels more empowering as she dies while fighting in battle. Although we’ll have to deal with Mary Jane Watson, who was the weakest link in the comics, in the next film, we’ll at least have Black Cat as a strong female character to look forward to.
All in all I’d say this sequel took some notes from their first film and made some significant improvements. They still have a ways to go but I look forward seeing these filmmakers grow and contribute some decent sequels to the Spiderman franchise. It is hinted that we may see Doc Oc or Vulture in the next film, as both their suits are seen on display in the Oscorp basement. The director said in an interview that Mr. Fear, who had small, but memorable appearances in both of the Amazing Spiderman films, could be the next main villain. Mid-credit we are also treated to a teaser featuring Mystique and other X-men mutants. Whether this is to promote their next film or hinting at a crossover film, we will have to wait and see. I give this film 3/5 stars.