IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 142 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Peter Parker is continuing to fight crime as Spider-Man. Haunted by a promise he made to her father, he can’t commit to Stacey, who breaks up with him. He pursues and apprehends Aleksei Sytsevich, who attempted to steal a truck containing plutonium vials. During the chase, Spider-Man rescues Oscorp Industries employee Max Dillon. Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn returns to New York to see his terminally ill father Norman, the CEO of Oscorp Industries. Norman explains his illness is hereditary, and Harry is at the age where it first develops. Before he dies, he gives Harry a small device which he claims contains his life’s work. Harry is appointed the new Oscorp CEO, only to become corrupt among the Oscorp board, causing them to plan on firing him. Meanwhile, assuming they are now friends, Max develops an obsession with Spider-Man, then has a terrible accident at work which causes him to transform….
Considering how mediocre The Amazing Spider-Man, little more than a rehash of Spider-Man but with most of the things that were done so well in that film replayed fairly lamely, turned out, one could be forgiven for thinking that it wasn’t going to do much at the box office, but no, it was a huge hit and The Amazing Spiderman 2 was announced almost immediately. Now I didn’t actively dislike The Amazing Spider-Man, but it did strike me as an artistically redundant exercise. Some of that may have been down to my love of Spider-Man which, along with its first sequel, did nearly everything right [okay, they deviated from the comics but only occasionally to poor effect] and remains one of the best superhero films, but The Amazing Spider-Man’s popularity was somewhat baffling to me. I guess Spidey is still one of the most popular superheroes and, while I keep going on about how I’m tiring of all these superheroes [though I think we need one right now to stop Marvel taking over the world], I’ve loved the character ever since I used to watch the TV series in the late 70’s.
The general feeling coming up to the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was that director Marc Webb and co. would come up with a far better film than the first, with even Webb admitting the previous movie wasn’t all it could have been. They’ve done the origin story, which they didn’t seem too interested in [certainly not interested in it enough to make it fresh] out of the way, so let’s see what they can really do with the sequel, unburdened by constant comparisons to Spider-Man. Of course anyone intelligent should have guessed that the result may be somewhat less than great with those lame writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orc [in collaboration with Jeff Pinker], who wrote the Transformers film as well as the dumbest Star Trek film ever, doing the script, and guess what, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is only marginally better than The Amazing Spider-Man! The superhero-obsessed general public are flocking to it – it seems that, more than ever, people need this kind of entertainment to let them escape from the troubled world in which they live in – but it really isn’t that good. Watching it, I kept thinking of how Spider-Man 3 is widely maligned, yet is still far more entertaining than this film [which has some of the same problems] and at least doesn’t suffer from dullness, which The Amazing Spider-Man 2 sadly does do. The film is a fairly enjoyable 142 min at the cinema, but only about an hour of it really works and for much of the time it just doesn’t seem like they really tried to do anything special with the material.
As with the last one, we don’t a great title sequence with rousing music to get you in the mood, we’re just hurled into the first scene, which is actually a flashback involving Peter’s parents. There’s a bit of crappy shakycam fighting in a plane which really made me concerned for the main action of the film, and the usual shoddy looking CGI to show part of an out-of-control plane on fire. We do though move on to a fantastic present day action scene set in city streets with mass gunfire, loads of crashing vehicles [some of which actually look real] and Spider-Man having to save people all over the place. This sequence is so good that none of the action afterwards comes anywhere near it, though the scenes of Spider-Man swinging are even more convincing than before and are quite exhilarating, while, despite the film being released in 3D [I, as I usually try to do, saw the 2D version], they didn’t seem to me to be too vertiginous and sick making to not enjoy in the format.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 soon starts to drag far too often, which may not matter too much if the action, when it comes, is really good, but sadly with the exception of the scene described above, it’s really quite run-of-the-mill, stuff we’ve seen done before and better. Yes, the special effects are generally very good, but there is a sense that they held back, perhaps because they didn’t want the film to seem too cheesy [a common complaint about the Sam Raimi films, but this is Spider-Man for God’s sake]. For much of the time the film just plods through a load of contrived, lazy scripting [though you’d probably expect nothing else] which brings in and tries to link several subplots with only occasional success. The most common complaint about Spider-Man 3, which even at its 139 min running time was obviously cut down to keep the running time not too unreasonable, was that it had too many plot elements, especially villains, which were often rushed and not unified into a satisfying whole . They obviously didn’t learn for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s taken at a much more relaxed pace than Spider-Man 3, but little really resonates, and it doesn’t help that the villains, especially Electro, whose motivation is never very clear, make little impression and certainly don’t inspire much in the way of fear or awe. Nor does it help that elements of all three of the Raimi films are brought it, so much so that it sometimes feels like a compendium but with different performers and admittedly better effects. Webb’s style isn’t really much different from Raimi’s either. He sometimes uses slow-motion to excellent effect, and cuts a bit faster in some of the action scenes, but the use of angles, framing and occasional ‘showy’ shots is very similar.
The aspect which works best in this film is, surprisingly, the romantic element. There’s actually some chemistry this time round [screen couples dating in real life doesn’t always lead to good results], and a few really cute scenes like when they decide to become just ‘friends’ and each say things they like about the other person which they should refrain from doing, and the sweetest ‘I love you’ message in ages. This thread also ends on an unexpected note [unless you’ve read the comics] which the filmmakers should be praised for using. Unfortunately Andrew Garfield is still not very good in the part, though the writing obviously doesn’t help. He’s far too confident and even cocky as Peter, while as Spider-Man he sometimes comes across as an arrogant jerk. Yes, Spider-Man is supposed to be a bit like that, but it’s over done here. Garfield is usually a good actor, but he needs to step down as Spider-Man because he’s terrible! Add dodgy performances by some others such as Jamie Foxx and the usually excellent Paul Giamatti, and you have a film which can only sometimes be enjoyed for the acting. At least Dane DeHaan is a vast improvement on James Franco though that isn’t hard really.
Something I was dreading was the score by Hans Zimmer [well, the album is credited to “Hans Zimmer and the Magnificent Six”, the latter being Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr, Tom Holkenborg, Mike Einzinger, Andrew Kawczynski and Steve Mazzaro], the composer who had already musically ruined two superheroes, and I was right! The score is more diverse than usual for Zimmer, but jumps about with little coherency, is horribly mixed [you wouldn’t know that a full orchestra was used], and has a main [though not used very much] theme which is a virtual rip-off of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare For The Common Man [well , it makes a change from ripping off Ennio Morricone I guess]. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is perfectly watchable, has some scenes which work very well, and I’ll admit there were times I sometimes still got a buzz from seeing Spidey on the screen, but overall it’s another major disappointment. Maybe they’ll get it right for the third film, though I reckon they should let some different folk have a go. I guess they can afford to be lazy though, because it’ll probably be a big hit no matter what.