As I sat down to write this review, I quickly remembered that I also reviewed the first Amazing Spider-Man on this site two years ago, and it’s fascinating to me how little I had to say about it.
Seriously, I basically came to the conclusion that it’s barely worth watching on the basis that it has some decent effects and a mediocre story that may pay off in the long-run.
Of course, I (along with most of the Spider-Man fandom) was sorely disappointed with several directions Sony took with the origin story, especially when it came to Ben Parker’s death. I understood then and now that this would be underwhelming for moviegoers like me who are still fondly remembering the original Spider-Man in 2002.
Two years and one two-hour movie later, we have The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is undoubtedly a bigger, better version of the movie that came before it. Everything about this sequel tries incredibly hard to outdo the original, from the acting and character development to the carefully crafted action scenes.
Even the soundtrack seems to have more thought put into it this time (with dubstep tracks being carefully placed only in sequences that feature the film’s central villain: Jamie Foxx’s Electro)
In the months leading up to this film’s release, I was obsessed with staying up-to-date with all of the featurettes, promos, interviews and trailers that did their darndest to convince us that they’d fix what went wrong with the original (which still made them plenty of money).
The first thing to note, and the film’s biggest improvement, is that Sony at least has a powerful agenda behind this film aside from their obligation to make a Spider-Man movie before their contract to the character’s rights fall back to Marvel (which most of us want to happen, ironically).
The first film felt forced, basically, because we knew Sony was only doing it to hang on to their film rights. But this time around, there’s more to Sony’s madness. Thanks to Marvels grand Avengers experiment, Sony is in the business of franchise-building, and they’re now setting up a richer universe that can branch off into numerous spin-offs, which include a film devoted to both Venom and the Sinister Six.
So that’s one point for the movie so far. There’s something to it this time.
But is the movie any good?
Yes. In fact, I’m going to say it’s great.
I know, I know. The consensus so far among Spider-Man fanatics like myself has been that this sequel is essentially an abomination. Bob Chipman, one of my favorite movie critics, nearly quit reviewing movies out of frustration over this film.
But I politely disagree with Chipman and many other naysayers, and here’s why.
First, they finally got the costume right. I was pretty indifferent to the Sam Raimi costume version, despite its toned down color and melancholic feel. But The Amazing Spider-Man proved that you can definitely mess up his costume, with laughable blinking lights and a look that doesn’t look at all like the Spider-Man we’ve gotten to love over the better half of the last century.
This time around, however, the costume is pretty much perfect, capturing the look of Spider-Man in a way that pays homage to the original without looking dated.
Next, the action scenes and special effects were fantastic, and I applaud Dave Schaub for his hard work and dedication to crafting a movie that lets Spider-Man be the web slinging daredevil he is, stealing every scene he’s in when donning the costume.
(I even wrote a piece on how Schaub and his team set out to nail the physics of web slinging in this awesome interview you can read here.)
Adding to the action was a devotion to revealing what I call little moments throughout the story. Yes, you had big themes and character plots controlling the drive of the story, but that didn’t prevent director Marc Webb from giving Spider-Man some time to just be a hero. For the first time since Spider-Man 2, audiences were allowed to see Spider-Man foil petty crimes in creative ways, without the plot keeping him too busy.
These moments consisted of Spidey’s varied conversations with the citizens he would save, along with entire scenes devoted to heroic crime fighting that didn’t even contribute heavily to the plot. I think that some critics were possibly annoyed at these little moments because they might seem pointless to some, but appreciated the care put into differentiating Spider-Man from his real identity, Peter Parker.
Spider-Man is a superhero who is always cracking jokes and keeping things light because he has a mask on. Peter Parker is less confident and a little more nerdy, and that’s a theme that is far more faithful here to the comics.
And it made the film fun. I found myself laughing out loud during the film many times, and kudos to Garfield for letting himself over-act for this role, because it definitely worked.
There were two main villains in this film: Max Dillon (AKA Electro) and Harry Osborn (AKA Green Goblin). My biggest complaint for this film lies in how they handled these two, both as characters and how they fit into the plot.
To be fair, I liked both of these villains early on, especially Max Dillon’s incredibly awkward transition from bumbling electrician to full-on psychopath. But as the film trudged along, we lost what made Dillon interesting as he became a ruthless villain. In other words, his character arc was a bit clumsy.
Dane DeHaan’s take on Green Goblin committed the same sins, and I hate how they handled the origin of this villain. I spent the entire film hoping that we’d find out that Harry’s father, Norman Osborn, would end up being the “real” Goblin, using his son as a pawn, but no such twist came to fruition.
The film had a lot of great moments, but it was a bit lopsided, as it would spend huge chunks focusing on one of its many story threads. They handled the progression of Gwen and Peter’s story quite well, at the very least, and I was satisfied with how the film answered the question of what happened to Peter’s parents.
Still, the pacing just felt a bit off and the film could have used some strategic trimming. It was a bit long, but I certainly didn’t look at my watch.
I’d like to talk more on how I felt about the film toward the third act, which was its strongest (at least in regards to the last 15-20 minutes). But I’ll leave you with this:
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is worth watching. It’s a well-made film that presents a decent take on the webhead, unless you’re firmly against Sony’s new version already. My advice is to just go with the flow and let yourself be amazed by the plenty of good things this sequel has to offer.
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