By Chris Campo
Here we are, my final Spider-man review. Re-visiting these films and sharing my opinions has been such a fun ride. I found new faults in the films I loved and found new bright spots in films I may have held a grudge against. It's a little surreal that this is my last Spidey review, as that means we are SO DAMN CLOSE to his highly anticipated introduction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War. But like I said, here we are, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is one of the most decisive superhero films of all time. After a close re-watch with a more critical eye, I am sad to say this film isn't how I remember it, so without further ado, lets talk about the latest stand alone Spider-Man film.
Continuing where The Amazing Spider-Man left off, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is not only struggling with his past and the secrets it holds, but his future, as he is unsure where to go with current sweetheart Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), as the broken promise to her late father haunts him everywhere he goes. On the contrary, Peter Parker is as confident as ever when under the mask and swinging around as Spider-Man, a hero to the city and a proud protector of the things he holds closest. The darkness of his personal life and his web slinging alter ego collide when Oscorp, and it's new owner Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan), uses his parent's research against him for personal gain. Another road block introduces itself as Electro (Jamie Foxx), an Oscorp employee, turned electric-based super villian, vows to defeat Spider-Man simply to make sure he will never be forgotten.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a mixed bag. It seems as if the filmmakers took a handful of elements of a good film, a handful of elements of a bad film, threw it in a bag and filmed said bag. There must have also been a hole at the bottom of it too because you can clearly see the passion and good ideas slowly slip away as the film goes on, resulting in a mess of a movie just spilled all over the floor. Every time something amazing happened, the film slaps you in the face with a series of shit moments or story beats. The plot, or plots, are all over the place and barley cohesive at best, the character development and motivation isn't ever clear or properly laid out, and the emphasis on setting up some kind of shared universe baffles me with how shoehorned and un-rewarding it is. I have defended this movie for a while, but after re-watching it, I have come to the conclusion that this may tie with Spider-Man 3 as my least favorite of the series.
Structurally, this film is an absolute mess. The film starts strong with an entertaining opening action scene that's both fun and exciting. It's also the best example of setting up a sequel in the entire film, as we briefly get introduced to Paul Giamatti as the Rhino. In fact, I don't really mind the whole first act of this film. It puts you right in the action, it sets up an intriguing human story between Gwen and Peter, and the Oscorp stuff is not too overwhelming. The second act is really where that bag I mentioned starts to tear. Harry Osborne has no real place in this film, The Norman Osborne stuff is more than shoehorned in, story lines start to blur and some story lines are completely abandoned. The third act, however, has some standout scenes, including the darkest and most unforgivably heartbreaking scenes in all five films, but the final fight(s) are a waste of concept, and Spidey straight up kills a guy... I understand Spider-Man has killed in the comics, but I wasn't a fan of it here.
The main villain, Electro, is part awesome and part awful. Part awesome in his design, he is so bad-ass looking. His musical theme is also a stand out in the overall boring score by Hans Zimmer. Incorporating the voices in his head into the score is, admittedly, brilliant. The awful comes, mostly, from the execution and performance by Jamie Foxx. Foxx seems so lazy, like he's mumbling all the awful dialogue. And there are awful lines of dialogue given to Electro, especially "It's my birthday, time to light the candles." Credit where it is due, Electro is part of the best action scene in this film. The action set piece in Times Square is breathtaking. It's epic, it's exciting and it has some great effects and it's the only scene where the motives of Electro are clearly portrayed. Also, Electro is probably the best villain in this film, as this version of the Green Goblin is the extremely laughable and I don't even consider the Rhino a main villain..
This film has its share of good humor and decent emotional character moments, but the tone overall is so inconsistent and distracting. This film goes from emotional confrontations with Peter and Gwen to humor that feels more like Deadpool humor, if Deadpool wasn't rated R. When the film decides to go dark it usually comes out of nowhere and slows the film down. The only tonal shift that works is the closing 15 or so minutes, after that heartbreaking scene I mentioned. I hate Peter Parker in this film, he's too damn cool and he's witty and charming for all the wrong reasons. This Peter seems like he would be the coolest kid in New York City. The Peter we got in the first Amazing Spider-man was still a little too cool for my taste, but worked for the tone of that film. This Peter doesn't even feel like Peter. Andrew Garfield can't quite nail the various tones he has to portray through Peter. It just doesn't work.
When it comes down to it, in the end, I think I would rather watch this over Spider-Man 3. When the suit is on (and damn that's one sexy suit), there is some fun to be had. It has its moments, and the first act is actually rather good, but in the end, it's not what the character, and more importantly, what the fans of the character deserved. Oh, and no matter how sloppy, unfocused and tonally conflicted this movie is, it doesn't have one scene that is as bad as Emo Peter Parker, and it didn't completely ruin a beloved franchise like Spider-man 3 did, as the first Amazing Spider-Man wasn't the BIGGEST hit with critics or fans. Part of me is upset this film series came to a crash and burn like it did, but I'm also thankful because if this film was great, we probably wouldn't ever see Spider-Man in an Avengers film.
I remembered an exciting Spider-Man film with trouble balancing the various plots, but after re-watch I was taken back by how little this film gets right. The tone is all over the place, too many plots are introduced and some get abandoned halfway through, and this Peter Parker is just simply not Peter Parker. Not only does the Oscorp stuff make it apparent that film was never handled with care, it was just a vehicle to set up some big universe. The best thing to come out of this film was the commercial for Evian water with the dancing Spider-Man baby.