The original The Amazing Spider-Man had a lot to live up to. Seen by many as a cynical attempt to reboot the franchise that Sam Raimi had made his own with the former trilogy of Tobey Maguire movies, just so Sony could keep the rights from Marvel, The Amazing Spider-Man had its faults, but nonetheless set up for many promising things to come.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the first round of pay-off to the burden of establishment and tedious re-treading of the origin story almost verbatim from Raimi’s trilogy in the first movie. Again, if you’re an impatient Marvel enthusiast that just wants the short version, I’m happy to report that this sequel is a very considerable improvement over its predecessor. If that’s all you need to know, then there you go. Go see it, even if you weren’t a huge fan of the first movie.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 may lack the brilliant underlying commentary and post-The Avengers richness of the admittedly even better Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it’s still a strong offering of pure escapist fun. It’s occasionally bogged down by Sony’s overzealous urge to set up for future sequels and spin-offs, namely the recently-announced villain-spotlighting Sinister Six, but despite its large cast of characters and myriad plot elements, a zippy, light-hearted pace and loads of spectacular action nonetheless make the movie an easy and entertaining watch.

Everything the previous movie did well, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does even better. It may have problems of its own, namely the movie finally collapsing under its own weight in the final ten minutes with a messy, unsatisfying resolution that stinks of raw sequel bait, but it’s difficult to care about the occasional sloppy elements for long when the movie is just so much fun overall.

CHARACTERS

There are many personalities at work in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, several of which might be missed entirely by those who aren’t well-versed in Spidey lore. For example, B.J. Novak essentially has a bit cameo in the role of Spider-Man comic antagonist, Alistair Smythe, and Felicity Jones in the role of ‘Felicia’ (yes, that Felicia) is given nothing to do but tease future follow-ups by being a passing plot device and little else.

Likewise, Chris Cooper has only one major scene as a dying Norman Osborn, who is cleverly applied sickly make-up in such a way as to resemble his famous villainous counterpart, the Green Goblin. Beyond that, he’s only seen in flashbacks and archive footage to complement the character of his newly-introduced son, just as Richard Parker is meant to complement Peter’s own quest for truth and direction.

Front and center however is Andrew Garfield, settling more than ever into the title role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Garfield has officially surpassed Tobey Maguire in the part, delivering another outstanding portrayal of the web-slinger, once again a geeky and excitable teenager who effectively balances cartoonish self-aware wit with a sense of buried insecurity and dread. Beyond a minor costume change from the first movie, Garfield is essentially doing the same thing with the character that he did before, at least for most of the movie, before a big climactic twist changes everything for him and his portrayal. That’s fine however, as his Spidey remains one of the biggest highlights in this follow-up.

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Garfield’s off-screen relationship with Emma Stone also continues to translate well into on-screen charm here. Stone is consistently a cute and loveable actress on her own, returning to the role of Peter’s sweetheart, Gwen Stacy, but her scenes with Garfield are consistent highlights. The flirtatious banter between the two shows adorable chemistry and tons of heart, which also plays beautifully into Peter struggling with his promise to a dying Captain Stacy  (briefly reprised in visions by Denis Leary again) to stay away from Gwen from the first movie’s conclusion.

It’s Sally Field that feels like she doesn’t seem to have much to do in the returning role of Peter’s adoptive mother, Aunt May. Field basically exists to set up jokes related to Peter having to go to increasingly outrageous lengths to hide his secret identity, though she does have one evocative and memorable dramatic scene before simply being shoehorned into the climax to little effect. Beyond that however, it’s a shame that her tougher and more outwardly conflicted Aunt May portrayal is the one character arc taking a step backwards in the second movie.

Fortunately, the new faces wonderfully pick up the slack, even if there is a hefty chunk of them. Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan is added to the mix as Harry Osborn, Peter’s childhood friend who has just been thrust into the cutthroat world of his dying father’s amoral scientific empire. As with Chronicle, DeHaan does an excellent job of making a sympathetic antagonist, differing significantly from the portrayal of James Franco in the former trilogy, but again largely surpassing it in the end.

Harry’s arc is arguably the best of the movie’s villains, as he’s not a purely evil character, and is played somewhat ambiguously in terms of his intentions and motivations. A new story element that was absent in the former trilogy gives him a new element of desperation and tragedy, which in turn allows his eventual transformation into this universe’s Green Goblin make for a deeper and more harrowing foe. It’s unfortunate then that he only gets one major (and somewhat brief) action sequence in full Goblin mode, even if it leads into a promising tease for both The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and Sinister Six.

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Ultimately, despite being billed as a secondary villain, it’s Harry who feels like he has the largest stake in the story as a bitter foe to Spider-Man. The main villain, Max Dillon, an Oscorp electrical engineer who suffers a near-fatal accident that twists him into extraordinarily powerful super-villain, Electro, doesn’t leave quite the same impact unfortunately.

To be fair however, Electro still has many advantages as a character and a spectacle. Jamie Foxx is wonderfully cast against type as the almost goofily dweeby Max Dillon early on, who becomes obsessed with Spider-Man after a brief encounter. After gaining his electric powers and seeing that he’s nearly unstoppable however, Max’s obsession turns him into the destructive and furious Electro, with Foxx effectively able to switch between the tormented victim and the vengeful villain without missing a beat.

It goes without saying that the make-up and special effects behind Electro are absolutely phenomenal, easily out-classing The Lizard from the previous movie. The character is used very well in some truly dazzling action scenes that lay absolute waste to their surroundings, making the visual element the best thing about Electro in this sequel.

Unfortunately however, Electro’s actual character arc is not so lucky. While the concept and early execution of Max Dillon as a lonely, obsessive Spider-Man fan with an inferiority complex who just wants to be noticed and appreciated is sound, ultimately, its final resolution has him feel like little more than a pawn of Oscorp in the end. He ultimately feels secondary to both Harry’s arc and the numerous set-ups for Spider-Man villains to come, namely the telltale appearances of Doctor Octopus’s mechanized tentacles and Vulture’s winged harness that were even splashed all over this movie’s trailers, even if their owners don’t yet show up here.

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Saying the character of Electro is wasted is probably too harsh, but some elements of his writing do make Electro feel like he could have made more of an impression on Spider-Man’s story, beyond just being a bad man to stop because he’s a bad man.

If anyone feels wasted, it’s Paul Giamatti in the role of Aleksei Sytsevich, a.k.a. The Rhino, who stands with Felicity Jones as little more than a blatant tease for sequels and spin-offs to come. Giamatti is immensely enjoyable as an over-the-top crazy Russian criminal too, hamming it up and clearly having a great time in the part. Unfortunately, he merely book-ends the movie with barely five minutes of screentime, and only shows up in the actual Rhino armour for the movie’s conclusion, with a falsely promised battle that just leads into the credit crawl upon its beginning.

If I’m being honest, Rhino’s armour being all over the trailers really smacks of false advertising, something that the Amazing Spider-Man movies shouldn’t need to resort to! The character is undeniably over-hyped, as enjoyable as he is while he lasts, so don’t expect a proper Rhino appearance here, Marvel fans. Sorry.

With that said however, it’s amazing how well director, Marc Webb can juggle all of these character arcs and yet not make The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feel messy or over-crowded. It’s proof that it was ultimately studio intervention that dragged down Spider-Man 3 moreso than Sam Raimi not directing it well, as Webb goes for broke in exploding Spider-Man’s new universe, and blows it up surprisingly well in just one two-and-a-half-hour movie.

The villains could have had significantly more narrative weight, as their awesome visual spectacle outclasses the actual stories behind them for now, but maybe Sinister Six will fix this issue, for what that’s worth.

PLOT

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 picks up almost immediately where its predecessor left off. As Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy are graduating high school, Peter struggles with the simultaneous desire to be with Gwen, yet in doing so is tormented by visions of her late father that made him promise to keep away from his daughter so she wouldn’t be in danger.

All the while, Peter’s quest for the truth continues to shed light on his father’s research, which has sinister implications that continue to suggest that Peter is part of something much bigger than he realizes. This is all happening as Oscorp is handed to its heir and Peter’s childhood friend, Harry Osborn. Thrust into a frightening new world with his own desperate quest for answers and solace, Harry finds himself on a very different and much darker path than his former friend, as Oscorp’s secrets continue to be revealed.

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Like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a lot is constantly going on both in the foreground and background in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and it’s somewhat difficult to go over without considerable spoilers. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a tad less successful at balancing a legion of plot arcs than Marvel Studios’ recent Cap offering, as the movie’s hasty, sloppy resolution is a real blemish on what’s otherwise a very fun and engaging superhero blockbuster. With that said, the story is still much more satisfying than it was in the similarly-crowded, but studio-butchered Spider-Man 3.

While this is ultimately a more entertaining story than the already-solid previous movie, you’ll still get the impression that Sony is keeping a lot of their cards hidden in terms of the progressing plotline. In a way, this is great, as it will effectively leave audiences simultaneously enjoying the new exposition and levels of action in this second movie, while enthusiastically wanting to see more after the credits roll. It also means that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is still frustratingly far from self-contained however, and shares the first movie’s issue with never truly feeling wrapped up. The sequel still very much feels like it provides no actual resolution of its own, simply stopping at a certain point and demanding you come back in 2016 for The Amazing Spider-Man 3.

This is perhaps a necessary evil with a movie that is clearly an early chapter in what’s a very detailed and pre-set multi-movie story plan by Sony, one of many obvious attempts to copy what Marvel Studios has done with The Avengers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even so however, it’s part of what makes Electro and Rhino so far come off as filler villains while we wait for greater implications to come in Spider-Man’s life with villains and threats he hasn’t yet encountered.

Still, when the story is nonetheless such a great time, it’s difficult to complain about if you just take it for its sheer entertainment value. If you try and read into it, you’ll just find that more questions are raised than answered in this sequel, and that makes for slightly frustrating storytelling at this point.

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Even then, it’s nonetheless admirable that a movie with such a bloated runtime can fly by so quickly and pleasantly. The best stories in this new Spider-Man movie universe may still have yet to come it seems, but it’s nonetheless worth noting that the plot spun by The Amazing Spider-Man 2 remains an entertaining and memorable follow-up to its predecessor.

Spoiler
For Marvel fans absolutely desperate to know, yes, they do kill off Gwen Stacy at the conclusion of the climax in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. As with the comics, her death comes at the hands of the Green Goblin, who in this case, drops her down a clock tower instead of a bridge, with Peter ultimately failing to stop her fall in time before she hits the ground.

While non-Marvel fans will find this appropriately shocking and impactful, established Marvel and Spider-Man enthusiasts who know of Gwen Stacy’s tragic fate from the comics already won’t be nearly as affected. The movie (and advertising) makes it way too heavy-handed and obvious that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is going in this direction right from Gwen’s valedictorian speech in the opening minutes, and the hurried rate that Peter has to get over the death of his first love and return to his usual duties as Spider-Man after grieving for months (months being minutes in the movie’s runtime), makes Gwen’s murder feel a bit underwhelming here.

We also don’t really see how the death of Gwen Stacy at Harry’s hands affects him or his connection to Peter either, even when Harry deduces Peter’s secret identity as Spider-Man, which he openly announces upon first revealing himself to Peter in the Green Goblin gear and features. The make-up job and weapons arsenal of Dane DeHaan as Green Goblin is incredible, but he only gets about three minutes to show it off before Spidey quickly ends the battle and subsequently fails to save Gwen.

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Obviously, the death of Gwen Stacy will play into Harry being Peter’s supposed arch-enemy in this movie series, but it’s never built upon in this movie proper, as Harry is just locked in a cell at Ravencroft at the end, still tormented by the experimental concoction by his father that gives him his Green Goblin powers, and insanity.

Despite this, Harry is revealed to be manipulating Oscorp and the villains that will found The Sinister Six from his prison, whom Rhino is confirmed to be the first member of for his paltry appearance in the actual Rhino armour for the movie’s closing moments. This all but cements that Harry will continue to be a threat in The Amazing Spider-Man 3, and likely Sinister Six.

Hopefully then, Gwen’s death leaves a little more narrative impact beyond a montage of moping that’s quickly swept under the rug for a fake Rhino fight!

Oh, and lastly, on an unrelated note, there is a mid-credits scene, but it’s just a brief teaser for X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s cool, but nothing that sheds any more light on the universe of The Amazing Spider-Man itself.

DIRECTION

As with the previous movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is directed by Marc Webb. It’s presented very similarly in style and pace, though since it’s no longer burdened by what it has to re-establish from the former trilogy in terms of Spidey’s origin, Webb is given more free reign to revel in his new Spider-Man universe with increased relish.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 contains more of everything from its predecessor; More action, more humour, more drama, more villains, etc.. It all turns out very well too, as Webb surprisingly manages to keep everything afloat for 95% of the movie before its rather sloppy closing minutes. The sequel is undeniably busy, but it never feels confusing or unfocused either. Webb clearly has a vision for this movie and this universe, and this helps everything flow as it should for the most part, with Sony now wisely not intervening in the director’s vision like they did with Spider-Man 3.

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Most commendable however is that, even with some really heavy moments as part of his vision for this part of Spider-Man’s rebooted saga, Webb never forgets what the movie is supposed to be; A popcorn blockbuster meant primarily to entertain. His enthusiastic and energetic directing helps the movie feel fast-paced and fun for viewers of all ages, balancing just the right mix of grounded conflict and cartoonish silliness.

Even with its passing flaws and gripes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels just as polished and sharply-presented as its predecessor. Even with villains that aren’t afraid to be over-the-top, it also thankfully avoids any Spider-Man 3-style shark jumping moments that would go down in infamy with angry fans and discerning moviegoers.

MUSIC & SOUNDTRACK

The Dark Knight’s Hans Zimmer has replaced James Horner as the sequel’s composer, and like so many other elements of the movie, this leads to a soundtrack that is undeniably improved from the original offering. Whereas the original The Amazing Spider-Man had a serviceable, but largely generic superhero-style score, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 features a more varied and impressive selection of music, including a surprisingly decent collaborative single, “It’s On Again” between Zimmer, Pharrell Williams and Alicia Keys.

Spider-Man’s new theme remains appropriately majestic and uplifting, but the rest of the soundtrack definitely feels more hip, modern and action-packed here. Electro’s theme, “Paranoia” is an eerily effective mix of dubstep with the racing thoughts of a psychological breakdown in the villain’s own mind, and it’s a surprising and forward-thinking music selection that feels both novel and bold. Likewise, the new theme for Harry Osborn’s all-too-brief Green Goblin appearance provides an excellent backdrop to that quick scrap, being both vigorous and haunting.

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It’s great to see the sequel’s much livelier soundtrack improve on the somewhat sleepy music from the original, but better still is the theatre-shaking amount of damage that Electro’s massive abilities can pull off! If anything, this alone is worth the price of admission for an IMAX 3D ticket, where Electro’s mighty power feel huge and menacing like they couldn’t possibly on any other screen.

Everything about the sound design in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has much more strength and conviction behind it, continuing the idea that the franchise is only going to get more fun and exciting from here.

VISUAL EFFECTS

It should come as no surprise that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has become an early front-runner for this year’s best special effects on the big screen. Predictably, Electro is the biggest highlight, with his shiny, pulsating blue skin and eerie, glowing eyes making him a tormented, but terrifying manifestation of living, deadly electricity. It’s certainly a massive improvement over his ridiculous get-up in the main Marvel comics universe!

The clash between Spidey’s high-flying web action and Electro’s mighty bolts of lightning is a superb sight to behold, especially when you see the movie in 3D, as it’s no doubt meant to be viewed. I went all-out and sprung for an IMAX 3D ticket, and was very glad I did, since the shiny and destructive Electro battles were worth that hefty price as much as the great sound design. Watching structures blast apart in the audience’s faces and seeing rows of entire buildings and vehicles roll and fall in heaps as Electro is unleashed is also complemented well by the increased scale of an IMAX 3D viewing.

Granted, the 3D doesn’t do very much during the quieter and more dialogue-driven scenes, as you can imagine, but when the action kicks up, the 3D is consistently front-and-center, and quite well-rendered. There’s still a few instances of that so-called gimmicky ‘theme park 3D’, namely during the first-person POV segments and slow-motion sequences that still feel a tad overdone here sometimes, but in motion and during most of the movie’s many exciting action moments, the 3D in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is very sharp, and noticeably improved over the previous movie. This sequel is well worth the price of a 3D ticket!

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While it’s disappointing that you barely see any of the Rhino or Green Goblin designs for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, they both look fantastic as well. The fact that many people will wish they could see more of them is a testament to how well-realized these villains are in the new movie universe, with Dane DeHaan’s make-up artists somehow managing to translate the exaggerated elements of Green Goblin’s comic book appearance into a surprisingly believable and chilling live-action rendition, even if it’s far from the exact same look from the printed pages.

If anything’s going to give you your money’s worth even as a non-fan, it’s the incredible special effects and action, which is best experienced in IMAX 3D if you have the means and really want to get the most out of this visually electrifying sequel.

THE VERDICT

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is occasionally flawed and messy in its storytelling, but is even more exciting and fun than its predecessor, ultimately making it an especially satisfying sequel for fans of Spider-Man and superhero blockbusters in general. There’s still lots of buildup that is being saved for inevitable follow-up movies, sometimes to a frustrating extent, and you still won’t feel like you have a complete narrative experience here, mind you. As an attempt to build on what was established with the original reboot however, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 succeeds more often than it stumbles.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is definitely a superior movie overall, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is still a remarkably enjoyable experience if you just want an undemanding popcorn blockbuster with a very loveable lead hero. It’s a movie that’s content to be purely self-aware escapist entertainment and little else, but it’s nonetheless good at achieving that vision for the most part.

If you liked the original The Amazing Spider-Man, you’ll really like the sequel. If you didn’t, but you still normally like entertaining superhero flicks, give The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a chance if you’re so inclined. It’s a better movie, despite some of its own faults, and ultimately, it’s a good crowd-pleaser that’s easy and uplifting to watch, especially if you have an eye for some truly dazzling special effects.

If anything, the worst part is simply having to wait for those damn sequels afterward!

 

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a very flashy, fun and action-packed superhero blockbuster that improves on the original, only tripping up at the finish line with all of the sequel bait it's trying to juggle.
CHARACTERS75%
PLOT70%
DIRECTION85%
MUSIC & SOUNDTRACK90%
VISUAL EFFECTS95%
The GOOD STUFF
  • Excellent special effects
  • Andrew Garfield's Spidey
  • Awesome action sequences
The NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Messy final minutes
  • Frustrating sequel bait
  • Electro lacks narrative impact
83%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)
93%

About The Author

Senior Editor

Brent Botsford has reviewed video games, movies and television for over a decade. He is also a Twitch Affiliate at twitch.tv/venuszen , presenting new, retro and independent games as the, "Sixth-Handsomest Gamer on the Internet', VenusZen, flexing his personality with comedy, heart and just that right dose of sex appeal.

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