Friday, 16 May 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Film Review

Check it out... if you appreciated 2012's reboot of the character, and enjoyed Mark Webb's direction, because this film's result is dictated by that same dictation.

Skip it... if you didn't enjoy the latest reboot and where it took the franchise, and didn't appreciate the chemistry between our mains Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, because their chemistry does make or break the film. 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 poster

"Charming, funny, action packed, and even partially emotional, TASM2 is a great ride from beginning to end."

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a film directed by Marc Webb, and stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane Dehaan, and Jamie Foxx, and continues the story from the 2012 Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, with Peter Parker enjoying life that comes with being a famous superhero, before being challenged by the dangerous Electro. 

From the early days of it's release, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was met with a great deal of criticism over various parts of it's construction and execution, most noticeably being that of it's screenplay and it's underutilized villains, namely Electro, played by the incredibly talented Jamie Foxx. And whilst these criticisms are most certainly deserved, I feel like the film's negative rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a little harsh for what it truly deserves. After my recent viewing of it, I've found that I quite enjoy this sequel to another film which I thoroughly enjoyed. 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man was an entertaining reboot for the character of Spider-Man, with my only focal criticism of the film being it's poor use of it's main villain, The Lizard, which was criminal. Otherwise, though, the film played it's cards well, and whilst taking some of the ideas of the prior films, including the 2002 classic, the first film I ever remember watching, The Amazing Spider-Man was a success of a reboot. The sequel, costing a substantial $255 million, over the previous entries $230 million, had a job that had Sony employees crossing their collective fingers, and that was to find public approval of an expanded Spidey universe. Ultimately, there is only so far you can take a solo Spider-Man franchise, where you include a new villain or two every film; the formula runs old eventually, and you need to excite the audience in some way or another. So TASM2 has the job of hyping audiences up for not only another 2 Spider-Man sequels, but a Sinister Six film, as well as a possible Venom solo endeavour. Sounds like a tough job, because it is just that! So, lets go into more depth regarding what I enjoyed and disliked about what we've received in this 2014 addition to the Spider-Man saga.

Straight off the bat, the cast is impeccable. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone's chemistry off cameras obviously influences their character's romance here, as everything Peter and his off-and-on again girlfriend Gwen Stacey do feels very real and genuine. Garfield and Stone become these characters that they're performing as, instead of imitating them, as all actors do. Jamie Foxx is fantastic as Electro, and embodies both the sympathetic side of his character that they writers get so very right, as well as the aggressive, angry side that he embodies during most of his time as Electro. Again, he becomes the character of Electro, and makes you feel both sorry for him, as well as angry at him. Dane Dehaan's Harry Osborn is unfortunately the most weakly written character; his presence isn't strong enough, and his friendship with Peter and entire character arc seems utterly rushed. Whilst Dehaan gives his best shot, and for the most part, gets the character spinning correctly, the writing for the character drags his performance down partially. The rest of the ensemble, including Martin Sheen, Sally Field, and Paul Giamatti, all give respectable performances, most notably Field, who plays the lovable and sympathetic Aunt May, and nails everything relating to her character. For the most part, the ensemble gives top class performances, and this makes the sometimes disappointing writing bearable. 

Unfortunately, most of the action is quite short here, but when Spider-Man does get an opportunity to fight a villain, it's quite the show. The visual effects department knocked it out of the park on all fronts, most certainly within these scenes, where you have a man who shoots artificial webs and walks on walls, and another man who shoots electronic beams out of his hands, fighting each other! Looking at the behind the scenes for this film, you can't help but marvel at the ingenuity of the men and women behind the camera, shooting these complex and visually engaging scenes. Cinematographer Daniel Mindel, who has previously handled the cinematography for films like Star Trek Into Darkness, John Carter, and Mission Impossible III, absoutetly nails every shot in this film, and has managed the implementation of visual effects into live action sets perfectly, and it has made for a fantastic looking film. No matter the gripes with the screenplay or Webb's direction, you can't doubt the brilliance of the visual effects team, who had to animate large portions of New York City, with hundreds of people running around, and superhero and super villains fighting in between. The opening fight between Electro and Spider-Man in Times Square is near all done in post production; the vast majority of the Times Square scene was actually all made by visual effects artists, who had the tremendous job of creating a vibrant and life-like location, which naturally has hundreds of people running throughout every minute. To be able to recreate that location, with all the life and energy of the real place is quite an achievement, and to everyone involved, a thumbs up is in place! 

I've already acclaimed the score enough, but I feel like I have to explain how well it is utilized within the context of the film. By itself, Hans Zimmer's score is fantastic, but in the context of the film, it really lights up. It represents all the villain's in perfect light, and works immaculately well within every individual scene. Electro's introduction was particularly well done, as well as much of the romance scenes between Gwen and Peter. Zimmer's take on the hero works very well in tone with what has been presented for us this time around, in comparison to Horner's score working with The Amazing Spider-Man, which focused much more time into the romance area, and so therefore required a much more lighthearted effort from Horner, which he achieved. The theme is much more Spider-Man-like, and I find that to be a relief; Horner's theme just didn't seem to suit Spider-Man for me, and whilst it was executed well, it's use within the film didn't bode well with me. Here, the trumpets light up, and you know Spider-Man is home, and it's a great feeling; to have a theme that yells Spider-Man from the second you hear it is something I've been craving for a long time. Elfman had my nod, Horner not so much, but what Zimmer has provided definitely earns first place. 

Now, the biggest problem with this film lies in it's screenplay; whilst I do enjoy all the individual aspects of this film by themselves, the interplay and pacing of the film as a whole is rough to say the least. Electro was played out perfectly, everything romance-wise was executed to perfection, and Peter's solo moments really shined; it's Harry Osborn that bugged me. He feels shoehorned into the film, though not to the degree of someone like Venom in Spider-Man 3. It feels as if the writers have inserted him into the story late in the game, and whilst patching up the holes that this insertion left in the story line, they forgot to rub out all the creases, so this leaves his portions feeling a little crinkled, rough, and imperfect. Dane Dehaan tries to work with some out of place scenes, but his efforts don't always hide the fact that some of his scenes feel weirdly disconnected to everything else going on. Spider-Man is fighting Electro, trying to keep Gwen safe... and also trying to reconcile his friendship with Harry, just on the side. We'll be going through the motions, Peter trying to resolve conflicts, and then suddenly, Harry is just there, and it's awkward, and he's yelling, and you don't feel like this scene works in the context of the film; it's just strange. And Harry's final conflict with Peter, whilst appearing well executed, seems very shoehorned into the film, as is the case with the character as a whole. It's as if the writer went "Well, we've wrapped up Electro's angle... but I think we need to add some more Harry! Let's chuck in a final conflict, immediately after the previous conflict between Spidey and Electro, just to throw a spanner in the works!" and went on to write the scene with all that in mind. Apart from Harry though, the rest of the film feels well centred and direct; just be wary coming into the film that he may not bode well with you either. 

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a fantastic ride, one that has many laughs, wows and dropped mouths involved. Whilst it's not as good as Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 surpasses it's predecessor in near every way, and has the balls to allow an entire Spidey universe to spawn from within. Action-wise, it's a blockbuster not to miss, and if you're interested in the chemistry and romance between the two leads, you shan't be disappointed in what you're receiving. Despite the fairly major issue with Harry Osborn's character, I can somewhat forgive his inconsistency and problems thanks to Dane Dehaan's stunning performance. In sum, this is one of the strongest Spider-Man films to be put to film, and I hope to see many more Webb interpretations of the character, as I very much enjoyed this one!  


Junkie Score: 8.7
Worth Admission Price? Yes

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