Release Date: 16th April 2014
Running Time: 142 minutes
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 swings into cinemas with the hope of finally laying the ghosts of the past to rest: it’s the sequel to the reboot that no-one ever really asked for, after Sam Raimi almost killed the franchise with the unintentionally hilarious Spider-Man 3 back in 2007. A mere five years later, the appropriately named Marc Webb reset the story with a whole new cast and direction. In this universe Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker spends less time kicking himself over the death of Uncle Ben, more time scratching his head over the mysterious disappearance of his parents. It hardly reinvented the wheel, but it did at least erase the memory of Tobey Maguire’s chandelier-swinging, dance routine.
Webb’s first instalment of wall-crawling adventures proved to be a mixed bag; to a certain degree it spent a lot of screen time retreading old ground that had been well covered in Raimi’s original trilogy. The new conspiracy theory backstory however provides an overarching storyline connecting all the subsequent films in the series, as opposed to the stand-alone nature of the Maguire films. Just as well too, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is at its weakest when Peter goes looking for answers about his father’s past, but the lag these scenes create is tolerable knowing they (hopefully) serve an important part of a bigger picture.
When not being bogged down in daddy issues, there is more than enough to enjoy here. Technology has caught up enough to finally deliver truly convincing web-slinging sequences and bad guys that don’t look like dodgy velociraptors. Watching Spidey swing through the city is an awe-inspiring sight: frantic and dazzling, almost vertigo inducing, he is the hero IMAX 3D deserves. It is also refreshing to have a romantic relationship that actually adds to the drama, rather than just provide a toilet break between action sequences. There is genuine heart behind the relationship of Peter and high school sweetheart Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), their undeniable chemistry often compensating for the less than stellar dialogue (the fact they are in a real life relationship certainly helps). As a freethinking, intelligent character who makes decisions for herself, Stacy is a breath of fresh air in a genre where girlfriends are usually there purely to be rescued.
It also offers the most satisfying villain since Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. Jamie Foxx excels in dual roles as the desperately lonely Oscorp electrician Max, and the sinister, deranged Electro. Harry Osbourne’s descent from privileged youth to disfigured Green Goblin resembles the tragic plight of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight and is handled with maturity by the impressive Dane DeHaan. One of the Webb’s most impressive accomplishments is juggling multiple enemies (a feat Raimi failed so spectacularly at in 2007), allowing them enough screen time to make them seem like a genuine threat, as well as earning at least a modicum of sympathy.
Now on it’s fifth cinematic outing, it would be reasonable to assume that the series is starting to get stale. On the contrary: it is a film that breathes new life into tired legs (all eight of them). While not strictly adhering to the ‘superhero sequels must be darker’ mantra, it is a more mature offering than its predecessor, with two downright nasty character transformation scenes and an ending that packs a surprisingly emotional gut punch. It remains to be seen whether or not the dull missing family plot thread was worth sitting through, but with crisp, creative action, compelling characters and an endearing central relationship it looks as though Spider-Man may finally be starting to live up to the amazing moniker.