The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review

Do too many crooks spoil the broth?

rating:3.5

Given that Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man sequel is a reprint of a reprint, it was somewhat inevitable that its genetics would be marked with similarities: there is something of Watchmen in there (a near-identical visual proximity at one point), something of Batman, and lots of the Spider-Man source, but there's also a caveat. There's also a similarity with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3 - an unwanted one, and perhaps an unfair one, since it was expected long before the film was ever screen - in that there are just too many villains. But then, that is far from the fatal mistake that it has long been heralded as. At times Webb's sequel is uproariously fun, with a squirming youthful spirit that sometimes overspills into pulling down a villain's pants or throw-away lines of dialogue that feel like Joel Schumacher might have rejected them. And there are enough fan-baiting reference points and flourishes to keep even the most hardy of Spider-Man fans enthralled. Picking up from the first redo, this superhero caper is about a lot more than dastardly villains and high-swinging action; the journey is as much about teenage self-realisation (the most enduring buzzwords in the genre right now) and about finding the right work/life balance. All of those elements are embodied in Peter Parker's relationship with Gwen Stacy, who is authentically irresistible enough to explain Peter's defiance of the very real, very disapproving ghost of her father. As Stacy Emma Stone is typically spell-binding, offering a well-rounded, not-damsel-in-distress heroine whose own decisions are as important to her fate as Parker's. Opposite her, Andrew Garfield continues to prove why he was chosen to follow in Toby Maguire's gawky shoes, carrying off both the not-quite-fully-cooked-yet teenager and the quip-spitting, disarmingly charming rogue behind the mask with the same aplomb. There are problems in the make-up that cannot be ignored however. The decision to rebalance the origin story might have added some new intrigue for a new Spider-Man, but was it really worth the cost to Uncle Ben, who figuratively and literally ends up being boxed away almost entirely? And despite some of the hokey elements (the reappearance of Captain Stacy, the dramatic near-miss) actually working, there are some, like the eel that pauses to look down the camera lens mid-frenzied attack, or the excited stumbling writing that don't work quite so well. The problem seems to be Marc Webb's enthusiasm: he wanted to make a spectacle, but he has cut so many corners that there are big things in there that have absolutely no precedent at all, like Electro suddenly learning new powers as it suits him, or Harry Osborn's incredible transformation from model-wooing awkward playboy to ass-kicking action hero. There's also too much reactionary writing - a problem also with Man Of Steel - where it feels like the director is skipping steps to get to the exciting bits. And there's also a slight whiff of over-egging: had the film not gone the couple of extra steps in looking for cheap thrills it would have been very good, but the lack of restraint is telling, and the over-riding feeling is that Webb wanted to be all things to all audience members. So we're left with a film that starts with a pantomime pants down that the kids will love, and ends with a harrowing, morbid sequence that is almost lovingly crafted that will haunt their dreams for a long time. At times the film is a lot better than the over-riding score might suggest; the sequence that establishes Electro's hatred of Spider-Man is a great set piece, and the climactic battle between the two is also a high-point (aside from a silly musical joke). But there are two many problematic moments to gloss over, which might have been significantly easier if Webb hadn't book-ended the film's action with one of the genre's worst performances in Paul Giamatti's Aleksei Sytsevich. Giamatti should probably be ashamed of his over-blown, messy performance, and it is a shame that it is his involvement that will attract the inevitable accusations that too many crooks spoiled the spider-broth when both Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan's performances were comparatively so successful. In the end, the film sets up more Spidey films well, with a raft of characters who will become something more substantial - even those like Felicia Hardy, or Alistair Smythe who are incidental here, but who will prick up the ears of Spider-Man fans, which is not to mention the seemingly limitless Sinister Six hints. Let's just hope that the next time we meet Garfield's Spider-Man, Marc Webb has learned a little more restraint so his obvious passion for the project manifests itself without the sloppy mistakes that at times threaten to derail The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is still the third best of the five Spider-Man films released to date. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits UK cinemas on 16th April, and on May 3rd in the US.
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