THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2 (2014)
**CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**
I’m a bit behind with my film reviews presently because I was busy preparing and performing in my comedy show ROCK N DROLL at the Brighton Fringe Festival. Thus, because I was wowing an army of fans over three nights (77 people total approx.) on the South Coast I am now playing a bit of catch-up on the reviews. Overall, Brighton Fringe Festival was fantastic and I am grateful to Laughing Horse Comedy, The Hobgoblin and the 77 people (and the dog at Sunday’s show) for the helping make it a success. From small victories BIG battles are won.
Talking of big battles there aren’t quite enough of them for my liking in THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2. There is a tremendous opening sequence with Peter Parker/Spiderman fighting what I thought would be one of the main villains — Paul Giamatti’s criminally underused Aleksei Sytsevich — while desperately attempting to get to his graduation ceremony. If it all feels a little familiar the ghost of Sam Raimi’s Millenium Spiderman series hangs heavy like the Reaper’s scythe over this and Marc Webb’s previous Spiderman film. The imaginary blade waits there in my mind comparing and contrasting ready to swing the final blow where I just say, “Nah! Sam Raimi’s films were much better! Thumb down! Off with its’ head.”
I must say though that this is high quality filmmaking of the blockbuster kind and it’s very hard not to like it. Perhaps, I’m asking too much but despite all the stellar work from the whole cast and technical crew I just didn’t connect with this one totally. I mean, I like Andrew Garfield as an actor but feel he’s better as a dramatic actor than cheeky superhero. My choice would’ve been Joseph Gordon Levitt but perhaps he’s too old now. Anyway, Emma Stone is stunning and so good in this while Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti and Jamie Foxx are all excellent but spread far too thin across the narrative. DeHaan and Foxx especially deserved much better for their respective energies and ability. Foxx is an Oscar winner goddamit!! And if you want to see what DeHaan can do then please watch Chronicle (2012) an amazingly good anti-superhero film and the best found-footage film I’ve ever seen.
There’s a lot of story in this sequel dubbed The Rise of Electro. In fact it has more lines than Tony Montana’s big mahogany desk at the end of Scarface. We have Peter Parker’s on-off romance (yawn!) with gorgeous Gwen Stacy; the mysterious disappearance of his parents (again); his reconnection with school friend Harry Osborn; attempting to keep his Spiderman identity secret from Aunt May (again); and the main foe — lowly Max Dillon — Electro causing New York an energy bill that would make Bill Gates weep. Alas, the romantic stuff takes a huge chunk out of the other more interesting stories and the action I craved.
I cannot fault the screenwriting team for their effort by trying to entertain the audience but at times I felt overwhelmed as each storyline was elbowed out of the way by the next one; with the narrative jigsaw not quite joining together satisfactorily as a whole. I really wanted to get involved in Max Dillon’s story as a lowly downtrodden OsCorp operative but his origins story isn’t given much time. As a villain there isn’t much focus other than he idolises Spiderman. I mean what happened to the vengeful employee as motivation? I really wanted this humble man to cause even more havoc than he does but he’s imprisoned for some time after his capture.
Another storyline which is dealt with too briskly is Harry Osborn’s relationship with his father Norman (Chris Cooper) which feels like it has fallen straight out of Paul Thomas Anderson’s superlative Magnolia (1998). Nonetheless, I thought oh, this is interesting, how will this pan out? He’s dead. Okay? Did Harry kill him in anger? No. Norman Osborn just died. Oh. We’re now back to Parker and Stacy’s on-off relationship. I DON’T CARE! It’s been half-an-hour since some stuff was blown up. Get back to that please?!?!?!?!
Marc Webb is a fine and dandy director as he proved with the brilliant bittersweet anti-rom-com 500 Day’s of Summer but personally I don’t feel he was the right choice for the Spiderman reboots. His Spiderman films feel too mature and not fun enough. They feel like have TOO much humanity and feelings. His camera is not kinetic enough and the beautiful wide vistas painted on screen don’t get us into the action quickly enough for me. I mean to get this kind of gig after a successful debut film is pretty amazing but he’s certainly a filmmaker to watch and perhaps his risk-taking and stylistic hands are somewhat tied by a big studio picture such as this. Arguably, perhaps he’s TOO GOOD an artist for this kind of movie. Just a thought.
I feel like I am being very critical of what is a very decent piece of entertainment but it’s only because I was disappointed that I pretty much had to sit through what was another Spiderman “origins” film. Because let’s face it the The Amazing Spiderman (2012) wasn’t great. But The Amazing Spiderman 2 has some incredible action notably the Times Square battle between Electro and Spiderman and an absolute spell-binding ending which pulled the dramatic rug from out under my feet. Moreover, in establishing Dane DeHaan’s devilish Green Goblin the third film promises to be pretty sweet. I just hope they put the family and romance stuff a bit more to the fringes and concentrate on all-out action. He is the AMAZING Spiderman after all!! I’m greedy I want to be more AMAZED for my money! If I want more young-adult romance from ridiculously attractive people I’ll watch Gossip Girl or god forbid Hollyoaks! Then again the dramatic unexpected ending does redeem much of this and for the wonderful cast, cracking musical score (Hans Zimmer et al take a bow) and a couple of (not enough though) superb set-pieces the entry fee was worth my hard-earned cash.