Synopsis: Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), now a high-school graduate, continues his journey as New York City’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man while struggling with the burden of his promise to stay away from Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) to keep her out of harm’s way. When Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), a cast-aside electrical engineer at Oscorp, suffers a near-fatal electrocution that turns him into the supervillain Electro, Peter is put to the test to see if he can save the city he loves and have a normal life apart from being a superhero.
Breakdown: There are two movies mashed together in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. There is the surprisingly deep character drama following the will-they-wont-they relationship between Peter and Gwen while Peter navigates the truth of his parents’ death and its implications into the creation of Spider-Man. This part of the story is beautifully acted, wonderfully written and heartbreakingly emotional to watch. Then there is the other movie jammed in the middle of the first one that is a relic of a bygone age of corny superhero films with terrible acting, absolutely horrible writing, but, admittedly exhilarating action.
The first movie I described above is not a superhero movie. At least, not in the classic sense. It is an indie drama that follows a man trying to understand why he was abandoned as a child; all while trying to live up to the impossible promise he made at the end of the previous film. As I said above, it is beautifully acted with undeniable chemistry between leads Garfield and Stone. Their love feels so deep and genuine; thus their heartbreak and the impossibility of them being together feels so much more real. This is in no small part, of course, due to the fact that Garfield and Stone were dating during the making of this film. The chemistry is real–you feel these two are meant to be together.
Additionally, there are the scenes between Aunt May (Sally Field) and Peter Parker. Field is a phenomenal actor, and her small scenes pack an emotional punch and were some of the standouts of the film. Watching her anger over Peter’s parents abandoning him, coupled with the resentment that Peter would even want to know more about his parents because, as she so beautifully and tragically put it, “you’re MY boy,” is just so compelling and emotionally taxing in the best possible way. What an absolutely fantastic scene.
Then there are the scenes with Max Dillon in the lead up to his turning into Electro and then once he embraces his role as super villain. In my review for the first Spider-Man film starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, I noted how much that film borrowed from 1989’s Batman. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, on the other hand, seems to borrow a great deal from another Batman film: Batman Forever. The nerdy, socially awkward, often ignored, brilliant employee of a major corporation who suffers a tragic work-related accident? The obsession with the hero of the piece that turns into hurt after being rejected and a need to exact revenge? The over reliance on camp and drama in place of menace? Electro in this film follows an extremely similar journey as Jim Carrey’s Riddler did in Batman Forever. However, Batman Forever came out in the 90s. Following two extremely dark and gothic Batman films. The time was ripe for a more over-the-top, campy approach to the film. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out in 2014, way after superheroes started to become taken more seriously once again. It just didn’t work this time around, and was absolutely cringe-inducing to watch.
I will say, however, that the action scenes with Electro and Spider-Man were visually thrilling. It is clear that Electro was chosen as the villain of the piece simply because the filmmakers wanted to show very well choreographed fight scenes featuring his unique manipulation of electricity. Also, special shout out to the absolutely exhilarating first scene with Spider-Man as he is swinging through New York City. That scene made my stomach drop as if I were swinging around the city as Spider-Man. Absolutely fantastic re-introduction to the character.
The one storyline that straddles both the good and bad parts of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is Harry Osborne’s (Dane Dehaan). The beginning of his story matches up so well with the journey that Peter is going through. They are both lost, trying to find a sense of purpose and the reasons they have such baggage from their departed fathers. Dehaan is a terrific actor, and he brings so much gravitas to the role of Harry. But then, as if the writer’s room for this film underwent a talent change halfway through production, Harry starts his descent into madness, joining Electro in their campy quest to bring down Spider-Man. A hero, by the way, who they each met for a sum total of less than five minutes. Don’t even get me started on Harry’s look as the Green Goblin.
Verdict: Look, this movie is a mess. There is a lot that works, but there is a lot more that just doesn’t. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a movie that was clearly started by people passionate about the character and wanting to make a certain type of film, but also had to acquiesce to the whims of studio brass that insisted on having flashier more exciting elements of the story. It is a shame that Andrew Garfield only played Peter Parker/Spider-Man twice. He is absolutely fantastic in the role, capturing both sides of the character with charm and grace. With the Spider-Man film history, there is no greater example that the character was just in the wrong hands: studio execs who make decisions based out of fear and money; not ones who genuinely care about the character. It is such a relief that Peter Parker is where he needs to be now–with Kevin Feige and the Marvel creative team. Here’s hoping he stays there for years to come.
**This movie review is part of a series of reviews, where we are watching one Spider-Man movie a week leading up to the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home. You can read more about this review series here.
To see the other reviews, click the links below (we’ll update this list each week as we release new reviews):
- Spider-Man 2
- Spider-Man 3
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- Venom: Let There Be Carnage
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Spider-Man: Far From Home
- Spider-Man: No Way Home
- Movie Marathon Review: Spider-Man Recap
Mark Pereira is a senior writer for Boss Rush Network. He loves all video games, but his top three favorites are Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3D World and Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can find him on Twitter where he’s usually talking about Nintendo, video games, movies, and TV shows.
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