The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014): Stillanerd’s Take


So I’m sure by now you folks have read George Berryman’s review of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (and if not, you really should), but I figured I might as well toss in some of my own thoughts about this film as well. For the sake of those who haven’t seen it yet, I’ll try to avoid spoilers whenever I can, but there may be a few here and there that can’t be avoided. So the question is, are George and I on the same page when it comes to this film? Might as well read on, if only to see just what I kind of a would-be film critic I really am.

AmazingSpider-Man2ScreenShotWallCling

CAST

  • Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker / Spider Man
  • Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
  • Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon / Electro
  • Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn
  • Colm Feore as Donald Menken
  • Felicity Jones as Felicia
  • Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich / The Rhino
  • Sally Field as Aunt May
  • Marton Csokas as Dr. Kafka
  • Embeth Davidtz as Mary Parker
  • Denis Leary as Captain Stacy
  • Chris Zylka as Flash Thompson
  • B.J. Novak as Allistar Smythe

DIRECTOR: Marc Webb

SCREENPLAY: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Daniel Mindel

MUSIC: Johnny Marr, Pharrell Williams, and Hans Zimmer

Rated PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action/violence)

RUNNING TIME: 142 minutes

My fellow comic book fans may recall a story from the late 1990s, in which Spider-Man, having been framed for a crime he didn’t commit, attempts to clear his name by adopted four different costumed personas. The story was aptly called “Identity Crisis,” and director Marc Webb’s sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) suffers from the very same affliction.

One thing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and especially actor Andrew Garfield, do know however, is just who Spider-Man is supposed to be. They both get that Spider-Man isn’t just a wisecracking smart-ass but that he also tries to reason with his enemies first, only resorting to fisticuffs when all else fails. They know he’s someone driven to save as many people as he can, how ever he can, even when he has a cold, almost misses his own high school graduation, or has to leave in the middle of a date with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). They get that he’s a character whose aptitude for science can help him win the day as using his powers. They knows that, because of his own experiences of being an outcast, Spidey will take the time to protect a kid from bullies, fix his science project, and walk him home. They know that, in spite of the negative press he receives, Spider-Man still manages to inspire hope for the everyday people of New York City. They understands that, for all the guilt that drives him, Peter still enjoys and has fun being a superhero.

Unfortunately, what is arguably the most faithful depiction of Spider-Man as character put to film also winds up stuck in a bloated, haphazard mess that, while certainly better than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, winds up making nearly all same mistakes and then some. It can’t decide whether it wants to be a rousing, fun, action-packed superhero romp, a sweet and tender romance where Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) endure an on-again, off-again relationship, a conspiracy thriller full of corporate intrigue and secret laboratories hidden in abandoned subway tunnels or the sub-basement of an office high-rise, or a special-effects extravaganza that makes it look like the most expensive video game ever made, so it cobbles together pieces from all of them. It is a movie in a desperate search for a story–any story–but after failing to find one, opts instead to be a two-and-a-half hour-long trailer for a franchise Sony desperately hopes will rival Marvel Studios’ string of blockbusters.

This isn’t to say there aren’t any great scenes—there’s plenty of them, in fact. Every action set-piece from the chase sequence involving Spider-Man attempting to stop Paul Giamatti’s Alexei stealing a truckload of plutonium in downtown Manhattan, to Spider-Man’s confrontation with Electro (Jamie Foxx) in Times Square, and especially the entirety of the last minutes are fantastic. Along with the aid of a fantastic looking costume even better than the one from Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy, and some genuinely creative, jaw-dropping web-slinging and wall-crawling effects, it feels Spider-Man has leaped, crawled, swung, and quipped his way right out of the comic book pages.

I certainly cannot find much fault in Garfield’s performance. Sure, his portrayal of the now high-school graduate turned college freshman, Peter Parker, is still too cocksure than the more humble portrait of dweeby innocence Tobey Maguire brought to the role, but as Spider-Man, Garfield is sublime, taking inspiration not just from the comics, but also from classic film stars like Charlie Chaplin, James Dean, and Fred Astaire. As far as I’m concerned, Garfield’s version now joins the ranks of Christopher Reeve’s Superman, J.K. Simmon’s J. Jonah Jameson, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man, Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon, and Heath Ledger’s Joker in terms of an actor who becomes synonymous with that character.

Also, the much-lAmazingSpiderMan2Peter&Gwenauded on-screen chemistry between Garfield and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy does indeed live up to the hype and then some. I’ve never been much of a fan of Gwen from the original comics, but I certainly am of this Gwen, as Stone’s portrayal of Peter’s first true love gives as a young woman who is equal parts sweet and sassy, one who, as much as she’s loves Peter, is unafraid to speak her mind and, in some respects, is smarter than Peter himself (she did, as this film reminds us, graduated top of her class ahead of Peter). Perhaps it’s due to Garfield and Stone being a couple in real-life, or Webb’s ability to handle the joys and pains of young love as he did with 500 Days of Summer (2009) and the previous film, but the romance between Peter and Gwen in this movie feels more genuine, charming, and ultimately heartbreaking than any other romance in any comic book movie adaptation to date.

And even though Sally Field’s Aunt May gets just as little screen time as she did in the last movie, she genuinely comes across as a loving, surrogate mom doing the best she can wake of losing her husband and supporting her teenage nephew. One the film’s better moments occurs when Aunt May, after discovering Peter has tried to look into what really happened to his parents, all but breaks down over her fear of losing the closest person she’s ever had as a son, as she says, “As far as I’m concerned, you’re my boy.”

Yet for every flash of brilliance that’s on-screen, Webb, for some inexplicable reason, always throws in something ridiculous and necessary. In spite of decent performances from the principle cast, we still get Marton Csokas’ Dr. Kaffa (that’s right, Dr. Kafka, unlike the comics, is a man in this film for who knows why) as a torture-happy mad scientist stereotype, complete with thick and hammy German accident and Johann Strauss II’s “Blue Danube” playing in the background. For every snappy remark from Spidey like “Good thing you’re not one of those cops that rides a horse,” there’s still some cliched, cheesy one-liner that also double as pun like, “Looks like the tables have turned.” For every scene such as when Peter, despite being in a love-struck daze, uses his spider-sense to effortlessly walk across a busy street to meet Gwen, we’d also get a scene like Max Dillon at his apartment pretending Spider-Man has shown up for his birthday. And for as awe-inspiring as composer Hans Zimmer’s score is, we still have out-of-place pop songs in pivotal moments, and “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider” played in dubstub on electrical pylons.

Much of the fault in the film also lies squarely Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner’s disjointed so-called script, and the failure of Webb as a director to give it a proper rewrite. Turns out the wisest decision Webb did was edit out Shailene Woodley as Mary Jane Watson, as her scenes, no matter how well done they might have been, would’ve only added more superfluousness to the already overcrowded proceedings. Yet what should have sent to the cutting room floor is the unnecessary subplot hinted at in the previous film about the mystery behind Peter’s scientist parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) and how his father was responsible for creating the very spider that gave Peter his powers. Granted, the implication for how Peter was able to obtain those powers while others did not makes sense and isn’t nearly as bad as one might believe, but it’s also convoluted, and turns Peter into another “chosen one” while also trying to claim he’s still a “victim of circumstance” just like in the original comic book origin story. Not to mention makes Uncle Ben, who should be the real motivation for Peter, all but a complete afterthought, save for an occasional mention and views from behind a not-Martin Sheen.

AmazingSpider-Man2ElectroDespite of Foxx’s indisputable caliber as an actor, his version of Electro could have also been removed as well; because aside from the loss of some computer effects work and Zimmer and The Magnificent Six‘s techno-infused, rage metal lyricism that comprises their “Electro Suite,” the nerdy electrical engineer turned electrical super-villain could have been removed from the film completely, and nothing of value would’ve been lost. As much as the film tries to sell the notion that Max Dillon’s deep-seated anger borne out of feeling like a nobody, that Oscorp never gave him credit for his electrical grid designs, and feeling betrayed by his idol, Spider-Man, his transition to evil doesn’t feel the least bit convincing. It’s Jim Carrey’s pre-Riddler Edward Nygma from Batman Forever (1995) without the underlying menace transformed into a poor-man’s Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen (2009).

DeHann, meanwhile, is given the thankless task of playing a Harry Osborn who the film tries to set up as being Peter’s best friend despite the fact this was never established in the last movie. Not only that, DeHann’s Harry also saddled with a character arc (if you could call it that) which should have gone to Norman Osborn (an uncredited Chris Cooper) right from the start. That’s because the character who is arguably Spider-Man’s number one archenemy dies on his death-bed after just one scene and never even meets Peter at all. Thus Harry not only becomes the CEO of his father’s company at the age of twenty, he also has the same “retroviral hypoplageia” that took his father’s life, and believes the only cure lies in Spider-Man’s blood—something which is seems tailor-made for Norman more so than it does his son. DeHann still manages to pull off a decent enough job, even though his Harry is just as a more wealthy, more slicker, over-the-top version of the same character he played in Chronicle.

Nevertheless, this is still a very enjoyable and entertaining film in spite of its many flaws, and worth going to see in theaters at least once. That way, when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray in a few months, you’ll know in advance which scenes you can skip and select to your heart’s content. Then you’ll be able to do what the filmmakers couldn’t and find the remnants of a great Spider-Man film buried somewhere within the mire of a mediocre one. Or you can always watch that other Spider-Man 2 (2004) as a a comparison.

C+

NERDY NITPICKS (With Some Minor Spoilers):

  • Okay, so Dr. Richard Parker, despite being a brilliant geneticist, was not only foolish enough to think he could escape, he was foolish enough not to check first for a loaded gun inside an unlocked drawer in the very plane he and his wife were escaping in.  But he is smart enough to use a Sony Vaio (hooray for product placement) to upload Gigabytes worth of classified data, including his prerecorded confession, into a PC that still runs on dial-up on a broadband signal while in flight. Not to mention is able to kick-ass at the same time. Although, what did happen to that would-be assassin’s parachute?
  • You know what easy-money is? It’s Dennis Leary reprising his role as Captain Stacy. All he has to do is show-up at random times to act as the specter of Peter’s guilty conscience and, with the exception of a flashback to the previous movie, not say a single word and looked bored out of his mind.
  • Max, I know you’re lonely and a bit introverted, but you do realize Gwen is an 18-year old intern and you’re a guy in his mid to late 40s, right? Even though you didn’t actually invite her to your birthday, you slicking back your bad come over was enough to make her a little creeped-out, even though she was still being nice to you.
  • And speaking of Max, he knows he’s dealing with a live cable and thus risks electrocution, hence why he radios his colleague to shut down the power in that section of the building. But after his buddy tells him “Sorry, gotta bail,” does Max think, “Hmm, maybe I should go put on some protective gear to insulate myself just in case I should, I don’t know, get shocked by thousands of volts and fall into that vat of electric moray eels swimming below me?” Of course not! That sure was money well spent on your electrical engineering degree there, Max.
  • So OsCorp destroyed all the cross-species genetic experiments, including those human-spider hybrids that gave Peter his powers. Which, as we saw in the last movie, were also being used to weave industrial cable made from spider silk. Which we also saw in the last movie is what Peter was buying in bulk directly from OsCorp to use for his web-shooters. Gee, I hope Peter knows how to make more of that stuff because he’s bound to run our of his supply stock right quick.
  • Gwen, when you ask Peter “How often have you been following me?” and he answers with “Just once a day…sometimes more,” that is not being endearing; that is what we call “stalking.”
  • Can someone explain to me how is it that Harry’s disease is progressing faster than that of his dad’s even though they both have the same condition? Also, if Norman’s condition also got worse as a result of trying out that spider-venom just like Harry did, then why Norman never utilize that same experimental battle armor, too, since it’s actually does stabilize the progression of their disease?
  • Pete, remember how you said that J. Jonah Jameson was paying you 1961 wages for your photos? Well how much money did you think it would cost to live in London with Gwen? She’s going to Oxford on a full scholarship whereas you are barely scrapping by as it is. I know you two are madly in love, but this is what Elvis meant by “Wise men say only fools rush in.” And the irony is you’re being played by a British actor who should know what the standard of living is like in his home country.
  • Okay, when it comes to the scene (and you moviegoers know exactly what I’m talking about) was indeed emotionally powerful and something fans of the comics have wanted to see done justice for decades, but…really Marc Webb? A outstretched hand forming out of Spidey’s webbing? Really?
  • By the way, I so want to find out if that YouTube video of that wacky scientist guy explaining how batteries work actually exists. If only so I can find out if “And explode!” put through an endless loop has become an internet meme yet.
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(26) Comments

  1. QuilSniv

    I didn't see this in your review, but I noticed that you didn't gripe about the Rhino's lack of screen time. I think that's a problem for most major fans of the comics, but I honestly have no problem with it. For me, it's a catalyst, combined with Gwen's speech on video, to inspire Peter to get back up and be Spider-Man again. I mean, it was shocking to see him on for only a few minutes, but the fight scene was spectacular, and after I had been crying for the last few minutes, I was actually cheering, along with a lot of people in the audience. It's not like it was Venom or the Green Goblin, he's not meant to be Spidey's arch-nemesis. If they had gone the other route and done it with either of those two, or Doc Ock (still recovering from the Superior Spider-Run), then it definitely would've been a bad sign. For what I got, I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if the villains were too over-hyped.

  2. Stillanerd - Post author

    @#23 Jesse -- That's certainly a possibility, Jesse. I just think the film should've been clearer on this point as to why Harry's was progressing faster.

  3. robster

    Oh ok,I'll keep that in mind. Thanks for the info. 24,0000?! WOW! Yeah,Godzilla and GotG,along with ASM 2,were my top three movies I wanted to see this year. Lots of others,but those are the ones I REALLY wanna see,lol! J-R!

  4. BD

    We get an ungodly amount of spam each day. I just deleted 24,000 spams today and I had previously emptied it on Sunday. So it catches a majority of it but unfortunately some regular posts get lumped in there.

  5. Stillanerd - Post author

    @#18 & 19 robster -- No worries, robster. The reason that sometimes the comments don't go through is because of an issue with WordPress. It's even happened to me a few times. And yeah, Godzilla, based on the trailers, looks as though it might be awesome.

  6. robster

    And I still say it was a good movie for those with ADHD/ADD,and for those like me,who are easily entertained and just as easily bored. Now roll on Godzilla and Guardians of the Galaxy! Which I also said yesterday,lol! J-R!

  7. robster

    Hmmm.....wonder what happened to my post..... Tried to post here yesterday. Was it 'cos I gave it an A-? lol! Well I still do. J-R!

  8. Stillanerd - Post author

    @#14 Juan -- Re: the web-hand: yes, it's obvious that's what's been symbolized, and that's the exactly the problem I had with it. It's overkill. It's already clear from looking at what's happening on screen that that's Gwen just out of Spidey's reach. Plus, for what is supposed to be a very dramatic/emotional suspenseful moment, it looks silly. Remember, this rebooted Spider-Man franchise was sold as being a more serious take on Spider-Man compared to the Raimi films, and yet when you put things like that in the movie, it undercuts that whole idea. Then again, this we also got Dr. Kakfa, aka the Son of Dr. Strangelove, too. "Also, Norman is totally alive." Perhaps, but as was being discussed on the podcast, what would be the point of bringing Norman back in now? Harry has now been set-up as the big criminal mastermind/puppet master going forward, the one who was responsible for killing Gwen and about formulate the Sinister Six. In other words, what should've gone to Norman has gone to Harry instead. @#16 BTaylor -- "I feel you gripes at the end are to way too nit picky." Well, that's why they're under the heading of "Nitpicks" ;) *I get that's what Peter seeing Captain Stacy was all about. My point was that all Dennis Leary does in this film is stand there and give Peter looks of disapproval, something which requires zero effort on his part. Aside from being obvious foreshadowing, it really comes off as if Leary's only there for a quick paycheck. *Sure, but the idea is that we're supposed to feel sorry for Max because he doesn't have any friends and is lonely. But the way that elevator scene played out between him and Gwen, as Zach on the podcast said, it makes him look like a "creepy stalker loser." *But that's no excuse to make a character, who is established as being knowledgeable of how electricity works, enough so that he literally designed the entire power grid for the city, and knows he's dealing with a hot wire, to suddenly do something stupid for the sake of the plot. *But remember: this is a sequel to the first Amazing Spider-Man, which this movie is supposed to build off from. And the last movie clearly established that the web fluid was being created by the very same spiders that gave Peter his powers. The spiders in this movie were destroyed, save for their cure-all spider venom. So if the spiders are destroyed and are no longer producing any more webbing, where then does Peter get the web-fluid to replenish his mechanical web-shooters? *Doesn't matter. In real life, if a guy told what Peter said to Gwen, she'd be a little freaked out and think "Wow, this is guy is desperate." *Well, given how Norman in that video file says "And if the [spider venom] can cure me, think of the other diseases that can be cured" and how, on his death bed, he's looking more scaly and has clawed hands similar to what happens to Harry after he takes the spider-venom, it kind of implies that the spider venom, because it had Richard Parker's DNA and therefore was incompatable, actually made their disease worse. At least, that's what the impression I got was. *Sure, but based on what the film has already established, what with Peter having to sell photos to the Bugle and his Aunt having to work two jobs just to get him through college, it's not like Peter can just pack up and leave everything behind. *Okay, but even if it was the idea of the FX department, Webb still signed off on it. And as I explained to Juan above, IMO, it looked silly given the tone that scene was trying to convey and was overkill.

  9. BTaylor

    I feel you gripes at the end are to way too nit picky. - your complaint ing that Peter kept seeing Stacy's face and he didn't talk. What did you expect a conversation? His image was a reminder of what he promised and a omen to Gwen's fate. - are you telling me that there aren't older men who have thinks for young of age girls? - the guy does what he is told no matter the risk. Those types of people exist. - Peter built his own web shooters so do we really need the move to explain that maybe he figure out how to make webbing. Sure, you can ask the question, but does it really take away from the movie. Also, I remember him taking some of the webbing from Oscorp but did it ever show him ordering it? - sure everyone was thinking that's a bit stalkerish, but the difference here is that Gwen loves him back. It's when she doesn't want him around that he is creepy stalker. Don't tell me as a teenager you never took the long way to class in the hopes crossin paths on a crush. - I don't think Osborn ever used the venom. I felt when Harry used it the combination of the venom and battle armor cured him, but at a cost. - Kids will leave home a move across an entire continent when they are in love. They will also make promises in the heat of the moment. Why? Because they are kids! - the out stretched hand was not his intent. It was the way the special effects guys interpreted what he want, but liked the outcome when he saw it. I thought it fit well. As if the webbing was an extension of himself reaching out in desperation.

  10. Juan

    I liked the web-symbolising-a-hand thing, though. Peter is desperate to catch Gwen. Just like when you try to grab something and you reach out with your hand but you just can't get to it. It's out of your reach. Same with Gwen. It was just too late. Also, Norman is totally alive.

  11. Geoff

    @8 - I think they will, but it's nothing new really. I can remember kids crying at that brutal beatdown the Goblin gave Spidey at the end of the first Rami film, and at uncle Ben's death in both SM1 and ASM1. In the case of Gwen's death. It seemed like the older people in the audience were more upset by her death, went completely silent for the whole scene until the Rhino sequence (during this scene some people cheered).

  12. Iron Patriot

    @8 Jack Brooks - It's a bit like the original Star Wars trilogy. The first one ended with it being upbeat for everyone, then the sequel takes a very dark turn. I think that's why they had the Rhino at the end, they didn't want everyone leaving the theater too upset. Though at least the Empire Strikes Back gave us new info on the hero's parents.

  13. Jack Brooks

    (meaning, it bothers me to imagine eager, innocent little kids excitedly going to this movie with their little Spider-Man costumes on, and leaving the movie crying.)

  14. Jack Brooks

    Do you think kids today will feel as upset about you-know-what happens, as readers my age felt back when #121 came out?

  15. SMVENOM

    Great review Stillanerd! While I probably would have given the movie a solid B or B-, I am totally able to appreciate that everyone has an opinion. Trust me, this movie had its faults. However, something you said in your review really struck me, and I've noticed a lot of people have had the same sentiments: "[Regarding Norman Osborn] That’s because the character who is arguably Spider-Man’s number one archenemy dies on his death-bed after just one scene and never even meets Peter at all." The thing about taking the Spider-Man mythos and trying to start a new story with it is that we all know some points are going to get changed around. Maybe even some very key points. But that's what I find so fun about this reboot series: they're finding new ways to tell the old stories I love, granted, they're also trying to do things a lot differently from the Raimi films. Skipping the Norman Green Goblin and just heading straight to the Harry Green Goblin isn't something I think I've ever seen before (though it was used as a red herring in the Spectacular Spider-Man show.) That's just one of the many examples I could pull out. Unfortunately, not every change works for everyone (I'm thinking the new suit in ASM 1), but I appreciate that they want to do things a little different. Like I said, I am totally able to accept everyone has their own opinion, especially the split opinions regarding this film. I always enjoy reading your reviews.

  16. Shaun Martineau

    I'm really enjoying these reviews, I love how the grades are falling in the same range, but there is so many different opinions on what worked and didn't. It was a really polarizing film. I thought the JJ 1961 wage thing was a reference to Spider-Man's origin, didn't he debut in 61? I think the moving to England thing was a joke about Garfield being British.

  17. Geoff

    @3 - Yeah that's true. It just seems kinda out of place in a Spider-Man movie. Though I just remembered that the Webb series version of Peter has never had the same "great power, great responsibility" (I don't think Ben ever even said it in ASM1) morals as the comic version. So it's probably not that out of character for this version of Peter.

  18. Stillanerd - Post author

    @#1 George Berryman -- Thanks, George. And yeah, I agree. To be fair, Peter is making sure Gwen is okay, but when with that one line, and then his whole "It's the only way I could get near you," I was like, "Whoa, simmer down there, boy. You don't have to sound so needy." @#2 Geoff -- Thanks, Geoff. To be fair, though, Peter isn't planning on giving up on being Spider-Man when he decides to go with Gwen to Oxford. As he says, "They still have crime in England, don't they?" But yeah, it's basically another one of those scenes superhero movies tend to fall prey to where the hero decides to follow his heart even though it could mean putting the whole city in danger.

  19. Geoff

    Good review, pretty spot on (though I enjoyed Harry's character a lot more). I've been thinking about Peter saying he'll move to Oxford with Gwen. I can't imagine Peter Parker leaving New York and presumably give up being Spider-Man. By this point he's already fought Electro once in the movie and knows how powerful he is. Yes Dylan was in Ravencroft at that time, but he could (and does) break out. So basically Spider-Man would be leaving the city at Electro's (and Oscorp's) mercy, so he could run away with his high school sweetheart. That really doesn't seem like something any version of Spider-Man would do. I feel like I may be ruining my enjoyment of this movie for myself.

  20. George Berryman

    I agree with this grade and I will note that great minds think alike. ;) <i>"Gwen, when you ask Peter “How often have you been following me?” and he answers with “Just once a day…sometimes more,” than is not being endearing; that is what we call stalking."</i> I've always laughed about stuff like that and how things change over the decades. In the 50's if you followed a gal home from school it was sweet and flattering. Today it results in a court order. Heh.

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