Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review
The Amazing sequel is out and this time Peter must face his growing celebrity and how it can sometimes affect people for the worse. Generally I really liked this movie a lot more than I thought I would. Based on the trailers and the posters I thought the worst of this but the best scenes weren’t in those trailers and they kept the movie on track and held it together. As usual this review will be as spoiler free as I can make it. Though there will be one thing spoiler blocked as it needs discussing but is also a major spoiler.
Completely spoiler free review, the best part of this movie is the romance between Peter and Gwen as they have great chemistry and is probably the best superhero romance in the films. Then there are all the scenes of Spidey saving citizens of New York, as it’s still great seeing a superhero movie that has the hero saving people. It has some problems, mainly narrative ones with probably more plotlines than there should be. But I think the good parts outweigh the bad and it comes together pretty well.
Spider-Man’s riding high on public approval since the first movie as he saves people every day, even almost misses his high school graduation because of it. One of the people he saves is Max, a guy no one seems to notice, and he’s an electrical engineer for Oscorp. One night while trying to fix an electrical problem he accidentally falls into a genetically engineered bio electric eel tank, mutating him horribly. Meanwhile Harry Osborn has returned at the beckons of his father, revealing that Harry has the same genetic disease he has. Leaving him to contemplate his fate and maybe try to find a cure. All the while Peter and Gwen’s relationship is getting rather complicated due to the events of the previous movie.
There is a bit more going on than usual, but all the plotlines fit in well with each other and the cast gels so well that they hold it all together. Peter in this is, as usual, having great times as Spidey which is leading to his personal life being a bit of a mess. He’s feeling the ghost of Captain Stacy haunting him, knowing that he can screw up and that it might be the people closest to him that pay for it. His relationship with Gwen is strained because of it leading to them breaking up, but not really, and still acting awkwardly in love with each other. As with the first film Peter is still portrayed as a scientist with his main fights with Electro determined by his intelligence than just punching his way out, because of how powerful a foe Electro is. When his webshooters keep shorting out when fighting lightning butt he tries to figure out a way to keep it from happening, using science and montage powers.
Aunt May actually gets a small subplot in this, though it is more used for irony of her trying to keep a secret from Peter when he’s doing the same to her. There’s also a much better role for her as we see what effect Peter constantly focusing on his missing parents has on her. It is a much better use of Peter’s parents than anything else they’ve tried to do with them. Seeing an adoptive parent getting a little territorial and feeling overshadowed by birth parents is a natural and believable character beat.
Gwen in this is still as awesome as Emma Stone can make her. She has her own agency and subplot in this with her getting a bit fed up with Peter and his guilt over her father. She’s trying to move on with her life and applying to colleges after she graduated. She’s still just as capable as Peter, even figures out his webshooter problem. Definitely one of the best female characters in superhero movies. She is one of the reasons why these films work a lot better than the sum of its parts.
The main villain, Electro, gets lots of good scenes and Jamie Foxx is fantastic as Max Dillon. He’s a socially inept electrical engineering genius working for Oscorp. Portrayed as practically invisible by almost everyone, which leads him to grasp onto anyone who pays him attention. Which leads to some rather creepy moments when Spidey saves him, giving his usual friendly banter, and Max almost psychotically graft onto him as a best friend. When he has an accident with an Oscorp electric eel tank Oscorp hides his death, another example of being treated as a nonentity, and his body turns into living electricity. The accident either physically or emotionally pushed him over the psychotic edge as his grip on reality breaks down as he focuses on his anger at people treating him like nothing and blaming Spider-Man for it. We get some small bits that show his psychos, such as a small repeating voice melding with the background music pushing his actions, or a scene before the accident where he imagines physically assaulting someone over insulting Spidey. Which does look eerily similar to the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon when Otto Octavius has the same imagined scene. Sadly Max is edged out of being a solo main villain by Harry Osborn.
Harry comes into this as a childhood friend of Peter’s that was shoved off to boarding schools by his father. We find out the disease his father has is genetic and Norman gives him the keys to Oscorp and all his research so maybe he could find a cure. But since this is Norman he does this by insulting Harry at every turn and telling him to man up. The story then focuses on Peter and Harry rekindling their friendship as Harry contemplates his own mortality. While I’m not too convinced that Harry could be a credible big villain his friendship with Peter and their chemistry is well done. They do seem like real life friends and that does help bolster up his villain chops. His turn to villain is a little rushed and could’ve been better paced, or left for another movie. Sadly that is not the least of the movies problems.
There is a lot going on and some of it should’ve been cut out and saved for the sequel. As usual Peter’s parents and the conspiracy of their death is really superfluous. It’s only touched on in brief ways that don’t add much other than giving Peter something to obsess over. At this point it feels like they felt it needed to be put into the film rather than given any large part of the story. It’s a conspiracy that is not given any real conspiracy plotting, same with the mysterious man in shadows from the first film. Even the big scene with the hidden lab shown in most of the trailers is incredibly superfluous, it’s treated as a big deal but nothing comes from it other than one plot point.
There are multiple plotlines spread throughout the movie. It feels a little like Iron Man 2 in that regard, but since Oscorp ties most of them together it doesn’t feel too disjointed or unnaturally shoved together. As much as I don’t like Oscorp being the major force behind everything in these movies it does at least have a positive side in dealing with these simultaneous plots. I’m not sure how well Oscorp being the big bad will work out when they introduce the Sinister Six and all their individual personalities since it’ll get rid of their origins and merge them all together.
There are also a lot of cameos in this, random ones too. They are interspersed and do nothing other than give a name shout out. Such as Harry’s assistant being called Felicia, no last name given but obviously a reference to supporting cast member and Spidey frienemy Felicia Hardy AKA the Black Cat. Her role is just to be Harry’s assistant and she only has two scenes, though her introduction makes it seem like she would have a larger role and maybe her other scenes got cut. There’s also Oscorp head of security named Smythe, long time villain who created the Spider Slayer robots, but there doesn’t seem to be any robot or other connection to the comic book version.
There are however there are other characters from the comics that don’t feel like name shout outs. Like Donald Menken, Norman Osborn’s assistant in the comics, who is probably in this because the Spectacular cartoon brought his existence to the attention of fans. There’s also Dr Ashley Kafka, head of the Ravencroft (totally not ripping of Arkham) Institution. Though this time the Dr is a man in all likelihood due to the role he plays in this wouldn’t be well done as a woman, mostly because of terrible Hollywood stereotypes.
Now this part I need to talk about a major spoiler from the ending. It is spoiler blocked and if you want to read it highlight this section.
In this movie Harry becomes the Green Goblin. It’s at the very end and is done for one and only one reason, for the biggest reason why the Goblin has remained the greatest adversary in Spidey’s rogues gallery. He kills Gwen. The location changed but it’s in the same manner of her iconic death. That’s literally all the Goblin does in this movie, he shows up, grabs Gwen, fights Spidey with her life on the line, and then she dies. End of scene, the fight’s over after she dies. It’s a waste of the Goblin. Which is a real shame as that’s the only real downside to it. Peter and Gwen’s relationship was well crafted and believable; from that standpoint the death was earned. It had merit in it and the consequences were right. However the Goblin part was not earned, it was not part of a grand triumph of this great foe but a guy who showed up at the end to get revenge. The Goblin just didn’t work that well.
What’s more this spoiler is mostly going to be taken as a “well, dur. Of course she died.” I didn’t hear any shocked gasps in a packed theatre, but one kid saying “she dies in the comics.” It’s a sad indictment of a character who has a long history and many storylines just be summed up by her death. That one of the best parts of these movies is killed just because that’s what most people think of her as, the one who died. That’s why they did it here and rushed the Goblin into this movie. The film would’ve been better if Harry becoming the Goblin had been the last scene and they’d made him the main villain of the third movie where he can be a great memorable foe. Then kill Gwen and do the story justice.
In the end I really liked this movie. The characters and the actors pull it up from the narrative problems. The action is great, having Spidey be more a man of the people and showing him helping people was a highlight of the Spider-Man part of the movie. Some of the plotlines should’ve been taken out and the Goblin should’ve been saved for another movie, but the good parts outweighed the bad for me. Also still very cool to have a superhero movie where the mask stays on for the majority of the film. It still skirts the line of being good but not as great as a Marvel Studios movie, but having just enough problems for anyone who hated the first film to hate this too. If you liked the first film this one is better and while it doesn’t fix all the problems of the first one it’s still an improvement.