Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

PLOT: Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) aka Spider-Man is torn between his duty to the city of New York and his love for his high school sweetheart, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). When an old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) re-emerges with a possibly sinister request, Parker finds his loyalties divided more than ever.

REVIEW: After watching THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN a few years ago, I inadvertently stirred up some controversy by giving it a rave review. Having always been mixed on the Sam Raimi films, the reinvention felt like a promising (if uneven) start to a new series. A bunch of readers called me out on my review, saying that I was too generous. Fair enough. I'll admit I overlooked some pretty big problems. Still, I liked the film then and I like it now, and I was pretty excited for the follow-up. Alas, the promise of a lucrative new franchise has led Sony into a familiar trap faced by many sequels in that more than a full-fledged follow-up, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 feels like little more than a prelude to a bigger third film and/or THE SINISTER SIX.

You could call this IRON MAN 2 syndrome. In fact, this is notably similar to that film in many ways with a good chunk of the second act involving Peter's unresolved father issues, and constant hints being dropped throughout that seem to be saying “gee, the NEXT film sure is going to be great!” While that's all well and good, more effort should have been spent on making this a satisfying follow-up in its own right. As it is, it's a frustratingly inconsistent one, constantly veering from being great, to dull, to downright awful (with select moments as bad as anything from SPIDER-MAN 3). Luckily, the good outweighs the bad, if narrowly.

Like the first one, the real asset here is the white-hot chemistry between Andrew Garfield and the insanely lovable Emma Stone. This is probably the only time you'll watch a superhero film and be eager for the action to end so they can get back to the love scenes. That's how good these two are together. In fact, one of the biggest problems is that Stone has less to do here than in the first movie, but this is made up for in a big way by the surprisingly strong climax, which features a twist that gives the franchise more of an emotional punch than anything in the Raimi movies.

One thing that everyone agreed on about the first film is that Garfield makes for an excellent Spider-Man. He's in fine form here, although he's slightly less earnest this time around. Having become a big star by this point, Garfield has a bit of a tendency to overact in certain scenes, with him mumbling dialogue and acting method, like he's channelling a young Marlon Brando or something. This is especially true of his first scene opposite Dane DeHaan, with both of them looking like they're trying to outdo each other in the “cool method guy” approach. Guys, lighten up. This is Spider-Man. Overall though, Garfield still makes for a good webslinger, and he does the smart-ass part of the character better than Maguire ever did.

Too bad the baddies fare a whole lot worse than the good guys (and gals). Paul Giamatti has little more than a cameo as the future Rhino, and barely makes an impression. Jamie Foxx is ostensibly the main baddie here, but after a giant set-piece, he's off-screen for a long time, and he feels like too minor a character to make for a truly satisfying bad guy. His motivations also don't make a lot of sense, and Foxx has the bad luck to be part of the absolute worst parts of the film, which come any time they cut to Ravencroft Institute, which is run by a ludicrously over-the-top, accented interrogator/torturer Dr. Kafka (really?) played by the usually excellent Marton Csokas. It feels like something left over from a Joel Schumacher Batman movie. This whole subplot could have been cut and it would have shaved a good fifteen minutes off the over-long 140 minute run time.

As for Dane DeHaan, this feels like little more than a CHRONICLE redux for him. He's a terrific actor, but Osborne is a two-dimensional character here, and his inevitable transformation into The Green Goblin is rushed and little more than a tease for the next film. One hopes the writers will somehow get a better handle on the character next time as he's a fairly dull antagonist at this point.

Getting back to the good stuff, like the first film, director Marc Webb seems to have a good feel for 3D, and the fx are impressive. Boasting a giant budget, the numerous action scenes are really well shot and entertaining, and helped along by a really terrific score by Hans Zimmer & The Magnificent Six (which includes Pharrell, Johnny Marr, and Junkie XL), although the greek chorus chanting for Electro is a little much. More so than other superhero properties, this feels like it's aimed at kids, right down to Spidey's young pal, who pops up here and there. There's no doubt that youngsters will eat this up, and it's kind of nice to see a franchise play to it's younger viewers without losing its appeal for a somewhat older audience.

Overall, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is really a mixed bag. It's not a disaster (although it comes perilously close at times) , and the good outweighs the bad. The worst thing about the movie is that by the time the credits roll you can't help but be left unsatisfied as there's not really a third act. It's all build-up and very little resolution. Still, there are parts of the movie that work beautifully (any time Stone and Garfield are together) and it's still worth seeing just as long as your expectations are kept in check. That said, this is no WINTER SOLDIER, nor is it nearly as good as the “other” SPIDER-MAN 2, although it has its moments.

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2




About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.