The Amazing Spider-Man 2
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 27th April 2014
When they brought out another Spider-Man movie two years ago, most people were skeptical. We’d had three Tobey Maguire updates to the Spidey story, so the purported “reimagining” seemed unnecessary at best and doomed by audience fatigue at worst.
But director Marc Webb (yes, his real name) proved the cynics wrong and produced a worthy update to the well-known story, casting Brit Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) and his real-life girlfriend and everybody’s favourite screen redhead, Emma Stone, as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. The pair oozed chemistry, the story was as light on its feet as its eponymous hero, and we actually got to learn a little more about Spider-Man’s sad upbringing before they launched into a variation on the gets-bitten-by-a-spider, fights-crime theme.
Two years later, Webb gets the band back together (Garfield having gone all hipster in the interim, and he and Stone even easier in each other’s company this time round) and the story continues apace. In some ways it would pay to rewatch the previous film first, in case you are prone to confusion as to Who’s Who in the character list (for example, James Franco’s Harry Osborn from the Maguire/Sam Raimi films is now played by the excellent Dane DeHaan from Chronicle). But otherwise, this sequel’s story of a Nobody mutating into Spidey’s new foe is sufficiently fresh and standalone that you can come to it with no prior knowledge.
Said everyman is played by Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, bespectacled and stereotypically odd in early scenes which establish him as man of little standing who wishes to be attached to people of greater standing. Given society’s preoccupation with celebrity, it’s a point both apposite and sad, but then sadly wasted as the plot uses it purely as a route to his developing a bone to pick with our hero. Actually, the whole story is disappointingly routine – far from the cleverness of the X-Men First Class prequel or Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight tales. Luckily, therefore, the effects and set-pieces more than make up for the perfunctory plot.
Long gone are the days when you had to wait until the third act of a movie to be wowed by a major fight scene or exciting crash – in a very smart move, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 shows greater promise than its ability to come up with a snappy title by throwing us straight into a hugely exciting flashback which explains Parker’s orphaning and sets the tone for two and a half hours peppered with extraordinary cinematography, terrific special effects and a brilliant soundtrack care of Hans Zimmer and a bunch of dub-step hits that sound right at home on the biggest screen you can find. It’s a fantastic opening scene which jumps from aerobatics to Spidey’s acrobatics, before we get into the emotional to-and-fro which is less satisfying. Accordingly, some of Parker’s dialogue seems a bit silly and flippant, with none of the wit of Thor or Captain America, and none of the grit of X-Men. But when he’s fighting baddies, he comes into his own.
There’s not enough about this follow-up to make it particularly affecting or memorable, but without a doubt its main recommendation is that audiences watch it on the biggest screen they can find (not that illegal downloaders will heed this – but they should). The lights, camera and action really are something to behold.