The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (PG-13)

9 Stars

Certifiably rotten, huh?

I politely disagree.

Like the phrase dictates: ‘It takes a big man to admit he’s wrong.’

Well, I’m not large in stature. So imagine the superhuman integrity it takes for me to say:

I was incorrect, ladies and gentlemen.

But only partially.

(Check out my review of The Amazing Spider-Man to see why. It’s factually accurate, but my skepticisms surrounding a series reboot come across too boldly.)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a fantastic movie, particularly as it pertains to the superhero genre.

Frankly I’m surprised the movie’s been received unfavorably by critics. After rifling through several reviews, I find few criticisms worthy of contention. I suppose, ultimately, the appreciation is very subjective.

In my review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire I put forward a thesis about what makes a sequel ‘great.’ I reworked it for the purposes of this review.

A great sequel furthers and expands the central narrative. It introduces relevant new elements offering alternative perspectives resonating within thematic ideas established by the previous film; all while maintaining suspenseful thrills and compelling character interactions. Finally, it evolves the conflict, and (in the case of a multi-part series) offers an emotional bridge tethering us from one film to the next.

Therefore, in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield) is overwhelmed.

Garfield is an excellent web-slinger, he ratchets up the witty banter in the second installment and is quite lovable as the protagonist. Peter’s relationship with Gwen (played by Emma Stone) is cute, relatable and touching.

The more (for lack of a better word) ‘romantic’ parts are fast paced and riveting. So the movie doesn’t get mired in lovey-dovey gobbledy gook.

Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro is a highly sympathetic character. Which works great for a supervillain! We feel for his desire for verification, his dreams of celebrity and notions of grandiosity.

Speaking of well-written supervillains, one of the best parts of the movie is when the bad guys conspire. It’s a believable scene, justifying an evil alliance, and it’s an aspect of cinematic superhero stories that’s never executed properly.

Dane DeHaan is solid as Harry Osborn, especially in the form of the Green Goblin.

The primary complaints are an unfocused narrative, an overabundance of characters and an overly action-packed final battle scene. These are all generalized, subjective criticisms and I couldn’t disagree more.

One review compares the final fight scene to the destructive culmination of Man of Steel. I found the criticism absurd when people were ‘shocked’ by the chaotic final battle sequence in last year’s reboot of Superman. And I still think it’s ridiculous to criticize a superhero film for being ‘overly destructive.’

We’re dealing with superhuman beings here, folks; if we’re to accept this reality then buildings must tumble.

There are two points of contention worth discussing: Paul Giamatti’s character (Aleksei Sytsevich) and the needless scene where the airplanes avoid collision.

Beginning with the former, this is Giamatti’s worst role ever. For whatever reason, his character feels very artificial, primarily because we can’t understand his dialogue. The film also doesn’t explore his background; probably a contributing factor to the ‘overabundance of characters.’

As for the latter point, there’s a scene in which the city’s power becomes compromised. A slew of minor characters are introduced for a brief sequence. Basically, these scenes illustrate the potential problems resulting from losing electricity. The air traffic control team waits for the power to turn on so they can warn two planes of imminent collision.

The sequence isn’t pointless; they’re trying to show us something. But why wasn’t it removed from the final cut? It’s ultimately a major derailment that doesn’t justifiably build on the story.

I have one final thing to mention, but can’t do it without spoiling something major. If you haven’t seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2 yet, stop reading here.

Lastly, the confusion surrounding Aunt May’s role is worthy of note.

Post-viewing, my buddy mentioned being bored by the interactions between Peter Parker and his aunt (played by Sally Field.)

Whether you appreciate it or not; the filmmakers are establishing a contrast between Aunt May and Gwen Stacy. This dichotomy illustrates a correlation to Peter. The knowledge of his alter ego seems to place his loved ones in danger.

When Peter and Aunt May are interacting, he’s attempting to keep one variable in his experiment constant. Towards the end of the movie, his hypothesis is proven, and the way to move forward is clear. By refusing verification, he can protect Aunt May from the dangers of his other life.

I’m trying to be careful about spoiling a plot point I consider crucial, but will conclude with the following remark.

Your appreciation of this movie will depend much, it seems, on your willingness to engage with the narrative. If you’re a superhero/Spidey fan, you’re bound to enjoy this movie, even if you don’t love it as much as me.

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an innovative and original flick, with a polished narrative that takes chances and attempts to illustrate aspects of superhero stories we’re unfamiliar with.

Good on you, director Marc Webb, for throwing together a sequel worthy of a trip to the theater.

Thoughts, perchance?

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