The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Movie Review
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 makes the one classic mistake that befalls so many superhero franchises -- it tries to juggle multiple villains. It’s an idea that can work within a 2+ hour film, but the few that pull it off always settle on one bad guy as the true antagonist and major point of conflict, using the other villains to flavor the plot elsewhere. This film never commits, and the pacing suffers as a result.
Unless you’ve been avoiding the trailers you probably know that the latest film revolves around multiple villains, but for the sake of spoilers I’ll refrain from discussing anyone beyond Jamie Foxx’s turn as Electro. I never in a million years thought I’d like this character -- a blue man that evokes PTSD flashbacks of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze -- yet he turned out to be my favorite part of the film. And it’s sad, because thanks to the multi-villain narrative he gets the short-shrift.
Before he becomes Electro he is Max Dillon, a lonely-to-the-point-of-crazed engineer at Oscorp who has a poignant run-in with Spider-Man. One freak accident later and he suddenly has near-godlike electrical powers. Suddenly he’s a literal lightning rod for attention and it’s just too much for the poor guy. His entire motivation as a villain is based on misunderstanding and negligence on the part of everyone else in the film. It’s all a bit goofy, with him spouting some corny one-liners about Spider-Man while zapping between electrical sources to a dubstep beat, but it’s also something unique and refreshing in a film series that feels like an unnecessary retread.
Despite having such an interesting villain, one driven entirely by loneliness, suddenly thrust with powers far greater than any of the other Spider-Man baddies introduced so far, he is relegated to a side role. Whether it’s poetic justice or simply ironic negligence on the part of the writers, poor Max is still used and thrown away, even as Electro. A better script would have focused entirely on this misunderstood antagonist, combining his role with other villains in the film for what I think would have been a much more intriguing course of events. As it is, at least Max gave us an entertaining light show while he was there.
The battle between good and evil in Amazing Spider-Man 2 is ultimately an uneven dud, as is the mystery surrounding Peter Parker’s parents hinted at in the previous film. This one opens with a flashback of Peter’s mother and father aboard a plane, making their escape from the clutches of Oscorp. It says something when the opening shots of your film star long-dead characters who don’t amount to much in the overall plot. The scene reminded me of the opening of The Dark Knight Rises, which, say what you will about that film, knew how to introduce a major character with a plane hijacking.
What the film does have going for it is the relationship between Peter and Gwen. Put two actors together who already have some real-life chemistry and you're bound to get some sparks, and it's no different here. If there's anything that this new Spider-Man series has over the last trilogy, it's these two. Still reeling from the death of Gwen's father in the last film, Peter has to juggle his feelings with his need to protect her. On Gwen's side of the picture, that means dealing with an indecisive boyfriend and wondering if their paths aren't meant to cross. It's a real, modern relationship in a superhero wrapper that I bought far more than the Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst combo.
Despite the film's slow start, jumbled rush to an ending, and unsatisfying villains, Spider-Man 2 remains entertaining largely thanks to the cast. Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, and even Jamie Foxx all provide compelling performances. There’s some good writing in the relationships between characters, but the way it all comes together is haphazard. I wasn’t bored, I was entertained, but it left me wishing for a proper Marvel Film’s take on the webhead.
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