Review - The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), PG-13, 142 minutes - Somewhat surprisingly, this film didn't quite make my Most Anticipated Films of 2014 list.  It was however, a part of my honorable mention.  The second film of the Spidey reboot - which began with 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man - continues to build on elements introduced throughout that film and includes a good dose of action along with strong character development, making it a pretty entertaining kick-off for the official summer blockbuster season.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens much the same way its predecessor does, flashing back to Peter's youth and elaborating more on just what happened with his parents.  The film is brought into the present day by a typical Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) sort of problem: getting caught up fighting crime, causing him to miss his girlfriend Gwen Stacy's (Emma Stone) valedictorian speech, and almost miss graduation entirely.  It really is a great way to open the this new chapter in the story as it adds a little mystery, introduces a key character - Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) - and begins the strong character development that continues throughout the film (especially the relationship between Peter and Gwen).  As the film moves on, we see the horrific accident that turns Dillon into the eventual villain Electro, the reunion between Peter and childhood best bud Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), Peter's continued efforts to learn the motivations behind his parents leaving him as a child, and his inner conflict over dating Gwen despite promising her father to stay out of her life to keep her safe.

The film runs for almost two and a half hours, but it doesn't feel like it as it is chock full of meaningful sequences.  From beginning to end, there's very little that could be considered throw-away.  Even the smallest details set up things to come or build on something that came before.  Electro and the Rhino (Paul Giamatti) got tons of exposure during the filming process, but both play out as the secondary villains they have always been in the comics, which is fitting.  Garfield, Stone and DeHaan are great in their respective roles, especially Stone (and I'm not just saying that because I'm a big fan) who continues to be Peter's intellectual and wise-ass equal.  DeHaan's take on Harry Osborn feels more natural than previous Osborn appearances (nothing against James Franco in Sam Raimi's trilogy).  We don't see much of Giamatti, but Foxx's introverted and fanatical Dillon plays well as he makes his turn to villainy - all he wants is to be wanted and needed.  Sally Field even has a couple of hard hitting emotional scenes with Peter, which is what Aunt May has always been good for in the comics.  There's even a very important event in Spidey's history that plays out towards the end of this film, and while the scenario varies a bit from the comics, the adaptation to the big screen was handled quite well.  It has the appropriate emotional impact and fallout, not only for the viewer but for Peter himself.

I really enjoyed about two and a half of the three Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, but these Amazing Spider-Man films just seem to feel more natural.  Generally speaking, I can't say that the original trilogy did it wrong.  It's more that the films in this current Marc Webb iteration have gotten things that much more right.  It is that feeling, along with the bits and pieces that are clearly being built towards that leave me excited for what's next in The Amazing Spider-Man universe.  Sony has already announced plans are in development for a Sinister Six film and possibly other solo villain spin-off films.  With a little luck, they can play out and interconnect in much the same way the Marvel Studios films have.  If you're a fan of Spider-Man, comic book movies, summer action flicks, films with good character development, or films that are a piece of a bigger puzzle, then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be right up your alley.  One slight drawback though: this is one sequel that you really are better off having seen the predecessor of first.


- I'm torn.  Emma Stone was a perfect Gwen Stacy, but anyone who's read the comics knows that Gwen dies.  I knew that the time would come in these films eventually, it was just a matter of when.  Her death in the comics was iconic visually and emotionally and I felt like the film adaptation version got it just about perfect.  Did the fall kill her?  Did the whiplash from Spidey's web do it?  Neither Peter or us will ever really know.  We just know that it was tragic and it really messed him up.

- That leads to another nice hint towards the comics.  While they it wasn't as blatant as it was done in Spider-Man 3, Peter's hanging up the Spidey suit after Gwen's death was effectively 'Spider-Man No More'.

- Gwen's death leaves things open for Mary Jane Watson's eventual appearance in these films.  Originally, Shailene Woodley was set to cameo in this film as Mary Jane and to play a larger role in future installments.  They decided to leave Mary Jane out of this film, and Woodley now has other commitments such as the rest of the Divergent franchise.  What happens with, or who plays Mary Jane in the future will be interesting.

- I loved how they portrayed Peter's being haunted by his promise to Captain Stacy (Denis Leary).

- Norman Osborn's (Chris Cooper) assistant Felicia (Felicity Jones) that Harry appoints during his first board meeting is, hopefully, a teaser for the future appearance of Black Cat.  In the comics, a Felicia Hardy is a burglar and on again off again Spidey ally/romantic interest.

- Another cameo and potential teaser for a future character is that of Alistair Smythe (B.J. Novak), Max's boss at Oscorp.  In the comics he eventually becomes the Spider-Slayer.

- Norman's look on his deathbed (specifically his hands) was a nice nod to the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. 

- The slow-mo effect that they used was a good way to illustrate Peter's Spidey Sense.

- There's more first person web swinging which is a pretty cool effect.  Even the third person view of Spidey's web swinging was extremely well done.

- The various personal moments that Spidey has with those he helps throughout the film do a great job of grounding the character.

- The standard Stan Lee cameo in this film was one of his weakest to date.  He plays a random graduation ceremony guest who sees Peter start to walk in with his Spidey mask still on and says "I know that guy!".  Pretty weak after his cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

- Max's birthday cake is a cute nod to his comic book counterpart: green and yellow frosting with lightning bolts.

- Luckily, they went with a character design for Electro more in line with his Ultimate Universe look than his original look from the standard 616 Marvel Universe.

- Similarly, making the Rhino suit a mech as opposed to looking like a Halloween costume like his original comics design was a good move.

- I was originally worried that this film may suffer from bad guy fatigue, but the use of the three villains worked out quite well.

- While he doesn't physically appear in the film, they nailed the essence of J. Jonah Jameson with a short and sweet reply to Peter's e-mail suggesting that Spider-Man is trying to help people.

- The score, primarily composed by Hans Zimmer, is one of the most unique in recent memory.

- The use of the old Spider-Man TV theme song for Peter's ring tone was a fun touch.

- There is a mid-credits scene, but it isn't Spidey related at all, it's actually a teaser for X-Men: Days of Future Past coming out later this month.

- Prior to the film being released, if people used the Shazam app to identify the Alicia Keys song 'It's On Again' they could see a clip set to the song that teased the future appearance of The Sinister Six.  I'm not sure what all the commotion was about because it isn't an actual scene or even character designs, but just some graphics depicting things that those six villains are known for (Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Rhino, Vulture, Kravan, and either Mysterio or the Chameleon).  The same stuff also plays during the films ending credits, making the unlocking feature of the app completely worthless.  The equipment that Harry finds in the Special Projects vault beneath the Oscorp facility is more of a teaser than this.

- Mid/post credits sequence have been a staple of many Marvel films, even those not made specifically by Marvel Studios, but these 'teasers' (if they can even be called that in the case of the Sinister Six graphics) are by far the weakest of any Marvel related film I've seen.  Marvel Studios films can use one character's movie to tease another because they are all known to be involved in the same universe.  Sony is now trying to use Spider-Man to hype the upcoming X-Men film from Fox with no known correlation whatsoever.  I'm not really complaining - I was happy to see a short clip from Days of Future Past - it just feels a little weird.  The final scene between Spider-Man and Rhino was more of a teaser for the future involvement of the Sinister Six than the end credits graphics were.  Why they were treated like an Easter Egg is beyond me.


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