The Amazing Spider Man 2 review
Fathers, sons, spiders, rhinos and eels
For the second time in almost two years, Spider-Man took to the streets of New York City in the form of Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Never Let Me Go). However, Spidey slings around the Big Apple on a scale never-before-seen on film. Director Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man, (500) Days of Summer) shot on location in Times Square for a dazzling, electric sequence featuring the rise of Jamie Foxx’s (Ray, Django Unchained) Electro. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits several emotional and exciting high notes, but suffers from a less-severe “convoluted villain syndrome” when compared to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. The cast list runs deep with talent, all the way down to veteran Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man, Cosmopolis) playing the Rhino as a bookend villain for the film and simultaneously setting up a spin-off/ sequel featuring the legendary lineup of Spider-Man’s foes: the Sinister Six. Although an improvement of its predecessor in terms of originality, Peter Parker’s latest outing doesn’t quite top Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 (2004) for the web-shooter’s on-screen appearances in terms of quality.
Giamatti plays a delightfully hammy Aleksei Sytsevich/ Rhino at the film’s beginning and end. His character doesn’t play into the overall plot except for a familiar foe for the protagonist to fight. It’s the true the film feels crammed with villains, but Giamatti’s contributions to the film are so light and subtle that it doesn’t subtract from enjoying it. “The Office’s” B.J. Novak pops in for a cameo as Alistair Smythe, a character that comic readers will recall becomes the Spider Slayer. A third major cameo appears in the form of Chris Cooper’s (Adaptation, The Patriot) chilling, dying Norman Osborn—who does not take the Green Goblin mantle before his son. Felicia Hardy (Felicity Jones- Like Crazy) even hangs around a few scenes.Finally, Martin Csokas (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Alice in Wonderland) plays a male Dr. Ashley Kafka at the Ravencroft Institute for a few key scenes.
Jamie Foxx with a combover! What more could a filmgoer ask for this weekend as the actor/ musician portrays a Spider-Man nerd that becomes his hero’s greatest reckoning? Foxx is the biggest name of the cast and seems to have to most fun playing his character with a camp similar to Jim Carrey’s The Riddler from Batman Forever. It isn’t a terrible notion for a comic book movie to throw a little camp in for good measure and Foxx delivers without taking himself too seriously (after all, he is made of electricity). He steals the scene from each star in every one-on-one he gets. Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, and Colm Feore each take a turn getting a scene stolen from the Oscar and Grammy-winning performer.
Foxx’s character, Max Dillon, works at Oscorp’s electricity department for all intents and purposes. Through a series of work-related injuries, he becomes a being that looks similar to a clothed Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. Although Electro is indeed clothed, his black leather costume is all-too-familiar as black leather seems to be the super hero movie default for creativity. The first and second acts put Electro front-and-center as the traditional, tragic villain. Although his story doesn’t involve surviving Auschwitz like Magneto, we sympathize for the lonely, ignored Max. Perhaps the only complaint with Electro is the awful spoken-word theme that plays every time he’s up to no good. Ugh.
The villain situation gets dicey in the third act when Foxx’s Electro takes a back seat to Dane DeHaan’s (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines) Harry Osborn/ Green Goblin. DeHaan perfectly plays Harry as equal parts heir and hipster. DeHaan’s performance also proves strong, and his character is given the plot reigns for the third act. Harry desperately searches for a life-saving cure to a hereditary disease. Harry’s path to self-preservation becomes the crux of the matter as Electro spends the third act serving the Green Goblin. Electro’s need to be needed seems too silly for him to submit to Harry, but submit he does and the villains team up on a friendship basis to “make Spider-Man bleed” as Harry says. DeHaan’s performance as Harry Osborn feels deeper and more fleshed out than James Franco’s interpretation in Raimi’s trilogy as a one-note typical villain with daddy issues and delusions of revenge. It’s unfortunate to see Foxx take the role of thug after two solid acts, but DeHaan’s performance makes the plot divergence worthwhile.
Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy maintain solid performances, continuing in character from the 2012 original. Both performances feel like we never left the Spidey-protected New York. Sally Field (Lincoln, Mrs. Doubtfire) also doesn’t miss a beat as Aunt May. In the Spider-Man universe, the villains take the real cake, and they do in the movie as well. While all the protagonists seem comfortable and well-adjusted in their roles, the famous rogues gallery of Spider-Man almost always become the most popular aspect of the character whether on screen or in the panels.
The score shoots for the fences, calling in a super group of sorts with Hans Zimmer and the Magnificent Six, Pharrell Williams, and Johnny Marr. However, a montage of Peter Parker getting to the bottom of the mystery surrounding his parents death in connection to Oscorp as a distraction from Gwen set to Phillip Phillips “Gone, Gone, Gone” just about ruins the movie half-way through. As mentioned earlier, Electro’s theme became such a distraction that it nearly sounds as if Foxx is trying to speak over the score. In the age of dubstep and electronic dance music, why get experimental with a character called ELECTRO? Get with the musical zeitgeist already.
Webb turns in another excellent directing gig. Choosing to shoot on film and post-convert to 3D format turned out to be the right gamble for Webb, who passed on shooting digitally again. Webb was also ambitious enough to shoot major sequences on location. The rise of Electro in Times Square is a sweeping sequence and the blue-white electricity looks elegant and fluid running across the screen in 3D. The only issue with his directing is the film’s pacing. There’s a lot to cram in the 143 minute film—including an X-Men: Days of Future Past teaser mid-credits. In fact, Shailene Woodley shot a cameo as Mary Jane that got left on the cutting-room floor. Webb spends his film setting up others in a larger universe while also driving home the duality of Harry and Peter as two sides of the same coin. Harry is rich and powerful, Peter is poor and burdened, but both are without parents and in need of a friend. Webb hits all of his points, but he takes a long time to get there. He could’ve started by taking out the Phillip Phillips montage, then on to making Electro more of an individual than a needy toady for Green Goblin.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 takes a welcome new direction for the current Spider-Man franchise. The first part certainly felt like a remake of Raimi’s 2002 original without the Harry Osborn arc. Director Webb struggles through pacing, but delivers with an ambitious, original Spider-Man tale packed with killer performances from an all-star cast of character actors and Oscar-winners. The inclusion and hinting at several villains and the allusions to many more peppered throughout the film confirm intentions for a Sinister Six spinoff in an ever-expanding Marvel Universe at Sony. Spider-Man has a lot of cool villains and it’s time Hollywood cash in on their popularity. It’s a win-win if done well. Raimi focused solely on Peter Parker’s story, Webb has grander plans beyond Web Head.