Ten years ago saw the release of Spider-Man 2, Sam Raimi’s follow up to his record breaking film adaptation of the popular Marvel character. Back then, superhero movies were nowhere near as common as they are today. You would only see one or two a year, rather than one or two a month. Spider-Man is easily one of the most well-known and popular of the Marvel characters, and to finally see him in his own live-action movie was a pretty monumental event
So it was quite a relief, as well as a surprise that not only did Raimi deliver a solid sequel, he actually delivered something that greatly improved upon its original. It added depth to the characters and included some beautifully poignant scenes such as Peter’s confession to Aunt May about the role he played in Uncle Ben’s death, and some heartbreaking lovey-dovey stuff between Peter and Mary Jane. And let’s not forget the extraordinary train chase scene, and Alfred Molina’s menacing Doctor Octopus. I know Raimi’s trilogy has its detractors, but at the very least, I’d say Spider-Man 2 is as close to perfect as superhero movies get (perfect being The Dark Knight).
What we have here with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (if you have to call your product “amazing,” you’re probably doing it wrong) is as standard as one expects from the genre. Some eye-catching effects, a few wise-cracks, a villain about to destroy everything, etc., etc. So many similar things happen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Spider-Man 2, but it never slows down enough for us to take it in and feel affected by it. Andrew Garfield is a fine actor, but he plays the role with so much cockiness that there’s no way to really relate to him the way I could with Tobey Maguire’s take. That’s a choice, and a valid one I suppose, but it kinda sucks the tension out of the story since we pretty much always know he’ll be okay. The vulnerability that was present in Maguire’s portrayal is all but absent here. Still though, Garfield finds plenty of interesting things to do and he’s clearly having fun.
Jamie Foxx plays Jamie Foxx again in an entirely unconvincing take as a geeky technician. When he gets left alone at work, something goes terribly wrong and he is accidentally transformed into a supervillain. You know, the usual procedure. Where Doctor Octopus was a remarkably compelling character who showed real depth and conflict as played by Alfred Molina, Jamie Foxx’s portrayal is a mere caricature that just goes through the motions. We know where it’s going from the beginning, and nothing really surprises us.
And then there’s Harry Osborne, the character played by James Franco in the other trilogy, and here is another actor making a clear effort to be creepier than James Franco. One of the biggest concerns about Spider-Man 3 was that there were simply too many villains. Clearly they didn’t bother listening as there is still yet another villain featured in this film. Paul Giamatti’s The Rhino is onscreen for maybe a total of five minutes. It’s a bizarre scene that feels entirely tacked on, as if they needed just one more sell point for the marketing. This scene could have filled an entire half hour in a different movie. Why they would throw it away here is anybody’s guess.
The success of Spider-Man 2 came in its simplicity. We’re invested because there’s breathing room. There’s time and space for development in the characters. The action setpieces have clear start and end points. And they build on each other, rather than throwing as many destroyed buildings on the screen as they possibly can. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not a bad movie. Far from it. It’s just an example of too much effort towards spectacle and not enough on emotion. When they finally do take a moment to try to pull at our heartstrings, I had to shake my head, because I knew if it had been set up better, it could have been a really effective scene.
Considering how many superhero movies have been out in recent years it really is surprising that more of them haven’t been better. When you have something like The Dark Knight or Spider-Man 2 as models, why they would continuously choose to go in such a generic route is something I fail to understand. You’ll get your special effects. You’ll get your comic relief. You’ll get your good vs. evil/scientific superpower/”Will Spidey save the day?” stuff. But those looking for something more will be let down. It’s a standard-issue summer blockbuster and nothing more.
Grade – C+