Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is one of the best superhero films ever made. It’s also one of the best summer blockbusters I’ve ever seen. It’s smart, funny, sweet, and has some really great action sequences. The special effects hold up really well despite being ten years old (man that makes me feel old) and Dr. Octopus is one of my favorite cinematic villains.
Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is pretty enjoyable, but definitely not as good as Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
Admittedly, it would be pretty difficult for anyone to ever make a better Spider-Man movie than Raimi’s penultimate Spidey flick. Raimi himself proved this with his own Spider-Man 3, and we all know how that turned out.
Much has been made of how really unnecessary it was to make more Spider-Man movies so soon after Raimi’s. It was only five years between the release of Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 and Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man (by contrast, it was 19 years between the release of Superman 4 in 1987 and Superman Returns in 2006).
But Spider-Man is the only superhero Sony has the rights to, and with other superhero flicks making big bucks at the box office, there was pretty much no way they were going to just sit on an extremely valuable license that already made them tons of money in the past (Spider-Man 3 did set box-office records, after all).
I thought The Amazing Spider-Man was a surprisingly good movie. It gets a lot of hate from certain corners of the internet, but I honestly think that much of that is due to the fact that it didn’t really need to be made in the first place. Maybe there wouldn’t be as many haters if Raimi’s films had never been made, since they’re (mostly) so good that any other Spidey movies would inevitably be compared to them and be found lacking in some respect.
Oh, well. This new Spidey series isn’t going anywhere, since it already made about $100 million in its opening weekend, so we might as well get used to it.
ANYWAY, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not as good as Sam Raimi’s first Spidey sequel, but it’s still pretty enjoyable. It does suffer from a bit of Spider-Man 3 syndrome, since there is an overabundance of villains and subplots, some of which inevitably don’t really go anywhere and end up feeling extraneous.
Take, for example, the mystery of what happened to Peter Parker’s parents. We find out what happened to them in the first scene of this movie, and Peter himself later discovers the truth behind his parents’ mysterious disappearance. That’s fine and all, I’m okay with Peter having some closure, but to me the whole subplot felt like the writers’ way of tying up a loose plot thread from the previous film. The whole thing doesn’t really have much bearing on the rest of the plot, and to me just felt kind of pointless. I also couldn’t really buy that (spoiler alert I guess, although this was in the trailer) Peter’s dad had this Secret Subway Car of Science that nobody had found for like 15 years or however long.
Now that I think about it, the real backbone of the movie is the relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy. I am okay with this, because it’s a strong central relationship for the movie to focus on. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are charismatic actors who have really great chemistry together, and I found it easy to root for them, just as I did in the first film.
The fact that I’m in love with Emma Stone may or may not have had something to do with that, I’ll admit.
As with the first film, I found the Peter/Gwen relationship to be more compelling than the various villains and their stories.
One of the main antagonists is Jamie Foxx’s Electro, who certainly looks cool but his character arc is pretty lame and the way he gets electric powers is extremely contrived (he’s an electrician who falls into a vat of electric eels at Oscorp, because for some inexplicable reason Oscorp has vats of electric eels generating power, because I guess that makes sense? They seem to have a knack at Oscorp for making stuff that gives people superpowers).
Foxx is a really great actor and it’s a shame his character arc is so dull. The special effects that turn him into Electro are pretty great, (if very reminiscent of Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen) and the crackling bolts of electricity he shoots at Spider-Man look mean and powerful.
They also updated his look, which is a good thing because in the 60’s comics he looked like this…
And in the movie he looks more like this…
Which I think counts as an improvement. In some ways, at least.
Also in the movie is Harry Osborn, played by an actor named Dane DeHaan, best known for a low-budget superhero flick called Chronicle, which I never saw but heard good things about. He plays a pretty good Harry Osborn, although he’s maybe just a bit too slimy. He and Peter were childhood friends who haven’t seen each other in years, though their story doesn’t resonate as much here as it did in Raimi’s films. This isn’t too surprising, since the Peter/Harry relationship was one of the central elements of all 3 of Raimi’s Spidey flicks, and in the new movie it’s reduced to just a couple of scenes.
It’s also not too much of a spoiler to say that Harry eventually becomes the Green Goblin, though he only appears in full-on Goblin mode for one scene late in the movie, and is dispatched fairly quickly so that more important plot events can occur.
There’s also Paul Giamatti as the Rhino, who in the movie is basically a thug with a Russian accent and a suit of pointy armor that shoots missiles. He’s barely in the movie at all, so he hardly even counts as a character. On the one hand this is a shame, since Paul Giamatti is a great actor, but on the other hand it’s a blessing in disguise because the last thing the movie needs is another subplot.
So yeah, the movie has plenty of issues. Nothing resonates on an emotional level as much as it did in previous Spidey flicks (except for one major emotional gut-punch late in the movie, which I was suppose was inevitable if you’re familiar with the comics as I am [I’ve read a LOT of Spider-Man comics] but still hit me pretty hard).
It’s overstuffed, although overall I think it works better than Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 did. The movie has four credited screenwriters, and I wish they could have made the plot a bit more coherent.
But the special effects and action sequences are top-notch, and few things are better for sheer popcorn-fueled summer thrills than watching your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man soar effortlessly through crowded city streets. It’s a perfectly enjoyable movie, despite its flaws. It’s well-acted and full of eye candy. It’s just a shame that the plot feels so patched-together.
For future installments (and there WILL be future installments, regardless of whether or not there really needs to be) I hope the filmmakers will remember that you don’t need an overabundance of villains and subplots to make a good superhero movie. The plot of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 was pretty simple when you get right down to it, and didn’t need any more than one really strong villain in order to be compelling.
Ah, well. The new movie is still enjoyable enough, kind of like cotton candy – nice while it lasts, but ultimately doesn’t really leave much of a lasting impression.
COMING SOON: The Return of the King.