Friday, May 2, 2014

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Release date: May 2, 2014
Running time: 142 minutes
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Sally Field
Who to see it with: Fans of comics and/or angst-ridden romance


Following the end of The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter (Garfield) and love interest Gwen Stacy (Stone) are together again, but the haunting final wish of Gwen's father has made their relationship frustratingly on-again, off-again. Peter's difficult choice between keeping his lover or saving her by staying away is a lot to handle, but his plate becomes even more overcrowded when he has to deal with Max Dillon (Foxx)—an Oscorp employee who life dramatically changes following another radioactive Oscorp accidentthe return of wealthy old friend Harry Osborn (DeHaan), and his continuing research into the fate of his parents.

The best aspects of ASM—Spider-Man's wisecracking attitude and his relationship with Gwen—are back. Pete and Gwen's jokey conversations and complex circumstances make for one of the better comic film relationships, though the up/down nature of their emotions and interactions sometimes change abruptly. Other elements are good but somewhat unsatisfying. Jamie Foxx's pitifully nerdy character is fun during the brief time before his transformation. An early action sequence makes good use of Max's quirks, but afterward he loses much of his personality and is mostly utilized for nifty special effects and a couple of okay action sequences. Garfield and DeHaan's friendly banter makes their friendship feel believable, but the later events of Harry's arc sometimes feel convenient or underdeveloped. I'm thankful that Paul Giamatti makes little more than a cameo appearance as Russian criminal Aleksei. His character adds little to a story that has more than enough complications.

Maybe the filmmakers felt that the various plot threads could not stand on their own or would work better as part of a single film, but the ways that they combine can feel rushed or unnecessary. A few events, rather than feeling like natural developments, seem included primarily to set pieces in place for the two upcoming films. Despite this, the hints, familiar comic names and major developments make me interested in where the story will go from here. And ASM2 is generally faster-paced now that the original's slower origin story, possibly too fast because I wouldn't have minded more time with some of the characters. The following films should similarly benefit from ASM2's laying of groundwork. The Amazing Spider-Man 2's tortured romance and numerous villains are affecting and fun, but each would have benefited from a more focused plot.

Rent it.

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