2014 | Marc Webb
The sequel to Sony’s inexplicable 2012 reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an overlong, melodramatic mess helmed by a director with a pop image which will ensure no film in his catalogue so far will ever be considered timeless. Everything, from what the characters wear, to its jarring soundtrack, and even the cast feel like they have simply been chosen because they are popular now – Emma Stone included. That’s not to say that any member of the cast isn’t good at what they do but they all feel – Stone especially – as though they were chosen to popularise the Spider-Man image, rather than immortalise it.
Still reeling from the death of Captain Stacy, Peter is, quite literally, being haunted by his image and his dying words, to leave his daughter Gwen out of whatever it is he feels he has to do. Peter and Gwen are still together – and while she never gets truly involved, Peter never hides the truth from her about what he’s up to. Deciding he can no longer go on breaking the promise he left a dying man, Peter calls it off with Gwen, but she begs him not to, and then breaks up with him herself. It’s a complicated dynamic – one which is familiar to most superheroes and their fans – but it’s an important one nonetheless.
After Spider-Man saves the life of bystander Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) during an armored car heist, Dillon becomes obsessed with him, going so far as to hang a poster up on his wall and talk to him as he would his best friend. It is but one of many disappointing elements of a disappointing film, and one feels as though Foxx squanders his ability trying desperately hard to be comically pathetic, which damages any kind of human emotion we would feel for his character. After a freak accident involving electricity and electric eels, Dillon becomes, you guessed it, iconic Spider-Man nemesis Electro, a supervillain able to control electricity. Foxx again is wasted as Electro, as his voice artificially modulated, and his face is replaced by a near-unrecognisable CGI mask, washing away any hope of a human connection we may or may not have felt with its original incarnation.
Peter’s longtime friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) arrives back in New York to visit his terminally ill father, Norman (Chris Cox), and is left with one final gift from his father: his father’s illness is hereditary, and Harry is soon to start feeling its symptoms. Norman gifts Harry a device: his life’s work, the only way he has managed to survive. He trusts Harry will find a way to perfect it so he can not only survive as long as possible, but also defeat the rare disease. We also explore the past of Peter’s parents, specifically his father Richard, and why Peter was left on his uncle and aunt’s doorstep so many years ago.
Webb struggles to find a groove, or any sort of discernible attachment, as he struggles to tell too many stories at once. It’s the kind of film which feels as though it was made by the executives who funded it, rather than the people who helmed it. The last time a Spider-Man film attempted two villains – 2007’s Spider-Man 3, it failed miserably, with neither character receiving the screentime it deserved, and the same happens with Electro and the Green Goblin, although Foxx is so indistinct, the film would have suffered had he been its sole villain regardless.
What the film lacks in interesting villains, it makes up for in melodrama, as Peter and Gwen struggle to decide if they should be together or not for the majority of the film. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are both great in their roles, but the fate of each character is so easily predictable that any drama is lost, and its contrivance is compounded by a series of forced encounters which offer no emotional payoff. What Webb lacks in panache, he makes up for in a mastery of visual effects, with Electro providing the most compelling viewing across either of the two films. Forgoing digital for 35mm film, Dan Mindel’s cinematography maximises its director’s vision, although neither Mindel or Webb lack any sort of individual style, which ultimately removes any sort of connection with the film’s visuals.
The film is a relative superhero success, given Sony probably don’t have much to work with character-wise, but the film is too long, and it struggles to maintain any sort of momentum as it switches from story to story to story, trying to explain and then close everything it conceivably can – not leaving enough quality time for any kind of true engagement. It all builds up to what should be an exciting crescendo, but ultimately, because everything feels brushed over, the film is just full of one anti-climax after another.