Spider-Man returns in the second film of this rebooted franchise. Not so long ago, Tobey Maguire was playing Spider-Man under Sam Raimi’s direction in the first of what was supposed to be a definitive series of films, taking the arachnid-like superhero to new heights of onscreen action.
But, only 12 years later we are already into the second film of Andrew Garfield’s tenure as web-hurling vigilante, with Marc Webb again directing. Webb’s Spider-Man is darker, exploring more deeply the self-doubt and romance found in the comics. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ups the ante, trying to deliver more action, more villains, more romance, more humour and even more backstory.
The extent to which this film succeeds may, in part, depend on the expectations of the audience. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is one of the three films likely to go big at the box office this summer, along with Transformers: Age of Extinction and X-Men: Days of Future Past. All three films are attempts to breath new film into well established and one may say, tired franchises.
Achieving the kind of huge, global box-office these films aspire to demands reaching a broad audience, many of whom will be unfamiliar with the origins of the stories in question. This of course presets a challenge for films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, since so many die hard fans of the comics will be amongst the first to see the see the film and will flood online with opinions often based on their expectations of how the film should treat the original source materials.
This, together with the short time elasped since the last Spider-Man franchise makes treating The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with any kind of objectively a real challenge. The film just begs comparison and with so many alternative versions of the story alive in people’s imaginations, one wonders how audiences will react. So much so, that one scene, which hints at other possible villains will for many film-goers, evoke immediate memories of villains from the Raimi-era Spider-Man films.
My feeling is those who go into The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with some kind of open-mind may well enjoy this film. It does groan under the weight of too many villains (at least three), too much on again, off again romance and a rather silly performance from Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon before he transforms into the much more satisfying persona of Electro, but this Spider-Man/Peter Parker is full of the self-doubt, adventure, humour and inability to get the whole romantic thing right which make the character of Spider-Man interesting.
Andrew Garlfield does at times seem ill at ease in the role and overwhelmed by sharing the screen with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, but that’s part of the point. Peter Parker is in over his head, he is out of his league and here, haunted by the shadow of Stacy’s father (Denis Leary) and the promise he made to not put Gwen in harm’s way, he is constantly second-guessing himself.
And, while Garfield does well, Dane DeHaan almost steals the show as Parker’s childhood friend, Harry Osborn. DeHaan was brilliant in last year’s Metallica: Through the Never and every scene as Osborn confirms his talent and promise as an actor.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does spend too long giving us even more backstory (about Parker’s parents) and not invest enough in developing some of the characters. But, despite all the focus on action and fight sequences, we also get some compelling, well paced moments between Garfield and Stone and also, Garfield and DeHaan, which give The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a real sense of humanity and purpose.
In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, director Marc Webb has created an ambitious, exiting, tragic and largely satisfying Spider-Man experience. This might not be a film for the Comic-Book fundamentalists, but for the rest of us, it is a thrilling, enjoyable romp, that even this comic/blockbuster jaded review must admit, was very fulfilling.