REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 / DIRECTOR: MARC WEBB / SCREENPLAY: ALEX KURTZMAN, ROBERTO ORCI, JEFF PINKNER, JAMES VANDERBILT / STARRING: ANDREW GARFIELD, EMMA STONE, JAMIE FOXX, DANE DEHAAN, PAUL GIAMATTI, SALLY FIELD, CHRIS COOPER, MARTIN SHEEN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
One thing is abundantly clear from watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and its predecessor: Andrew Garfield owns the role. Whether cheekily renaming Jamie Foxx’s aggrieved villain Electro as ‘Sparkles’ or saving a young kid from bullies in an alleyway, Garfield’s charming performance as Peter Parker and his alter-ego has given the audience what could be the definitive Spider-Man.
But all is not well with the sequel. There are times when it verges on Spider-Man 3 messiness. Director Marc Webb has handled Spidey’s personal torment and the rocky romance between Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in winning fashion, without a doubt, but for all the drama, adorable quirky beats and gigantic action set-pieces, the structure of the plotting and accompanying strands is less impressive. And even for a comic book movie, the film is not without its absurdities. Gwen’s eloquent and wise-beyond-her-years Valedictorian speech signposts the third act in unsubtle fashion and her expensive-looking wardrobe clashes with her identity as a working class, daughter of a cop New Yorker. (How can she afford to be decked out in such quality garb?!)
Electro, too, turns out to be a somewhat mediocre Big Bad. Max Dillon is a cross between Travis Bickle and Family Matters’ Steve Urkel. He wants to show the world that he’s important and special, but he’s such a dork. Transformed into Electro, the character is allowed to shed his timid nerd persona and treat the NYC power grid like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Less a major villain in his own right, despite some gnarly powers, he’s more the manipulated instrument of Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), a young man trying to stop a genetic mutation from consuming him. The rising star’s portrayal of the rich kid and old pal of Parker’s is another of the film’s few strong points. DeHaan has got the pretty boy looks of a Brad Pitt twinned with the wild energy of a Jack Nicholson. He’s riveting to watch and graced with an edge of unpredictability.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is bookended by scenes with Paul Giamatti’s Rhino. These teasing sequences – along with the introduction of several characters that will go on to form The Sinister Six – highlight exactly what is wrong with the overall picture. The sequel is a bridge to a more expansive adventure but it’s got to slog through – and tie up – loose ends left hanging from the rebooted origin story. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 finds itself both looking forward and looking back. Padded out to an unnecessary 141 minutes maybe – just maybe – the next film will provide the payoff anticipated, but not quite delivered, here.