[alert-announce] Verdict: Three and a half stars out of five. Anchored by the wonderful chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and buoyed by some spectacular action, its achilles heel is an age-old one for comic book movies: weak villains. Nevertheless, a hugely enjoyable film with some great performances, and a real emotional punch. [/alert-announce]
It all begins with a glimpse into the past, and the circumstances surrounding Richard Parker’s (Campbell Scott) death. The veil is lifted to foreshadow the troubles that will fall upon his young son Peter (Andrew Garfield) two decades down the road, and the wrath of the man his father once worked with: Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper).
Now there’s a concept you’ll come across a lot in the movie: foreshadowing. There’s loooots of foreshadowing in the movie, some of it really on the nose. I can’t say too much for risk of spoiling the movie, but eagle-eyed comic fans might want to pay attention to the colour of Gwen’s (Emma Stone) clothing….
Fast forward to present day, and Peter is still filled with the angst and doubt we saw in the first movie. Haunted by the promise he made to Gwen’s late father (Dennis Leary) to stay away from her, he is torn between his feelings for Gwen and wanting to protect her. And therein lies the movie’s greatest strength: the pitch perfect chemistry between the couple, one that tugs at your heart strings and makes you root for them.
If Garfield is a great Spider-Man, then Stone is a perfect Gwen (though her movie incarnation is distinctly different from the ice-queen of the comics). She is no wilting violet, matching her on-screen and real-life partner stride for stride. “You’re Spider-Man. And I love that. But I love Peter Parker more,” says Gwen, in a moment guaranteed to have you reaching for the Kleenex.
Besides the human element, I daresay that the amazing (see what I did there?), dynamic, colourful visuals of a comic book have never been as richly realised as now. You are WITH Spidey as he swings all over New York, thwarting baddies and pulling civilians to safety. An astonishing (see what I did again?) showdown in Times Square between him and Electro (Jamie Foxx), in particular, is a throwback to The Matrix (1999) – except that this is bullet time on steroids.
Early talk from reviewers has been of a “darker” sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, but what may be the most important element in Spider-Man (besides the guilt, the responsibility and the self-sacrifice) is ever present: the humour. Garfield nails every aspect of it, from the banter with baddies to the physical comedy – look out for a wonderful set piece with some Oscorp security guards – to his wink-wink ring tone.
Now, let’s talk about what’s wrong with the movie. To be fair, almost every superhero movie has struggled to humanise and/or flesh out its villains thoroughly, and Spider-Man 2 is no different. Electro (groan) fizzles, and it is criminal that an actor of Jamie Foxx’s calibre got stuck with such cheesy lines. Is it really that hard to come up with a villain with a proper motivation?
Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan) has a proper motivation, especially when played by an actor who invests him with an immense creepiness. He and Garfield also have great chemistry, but alas, he too falls prey to the quick-we’re-running-out-of-screentime-let’s-have-him-turn-psycho-now-for-no-apparent-reason plot device. Which is a real pity, considering that a lot more could have been done with the Peter-Harry relationship.
Look out for the Easter eggs (Harry’s assistant is named WHAT again?), especially in the Oscorp lab, clearly an intro to the forthcoming Sinister Six movie. There’s also the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, in this case greatly appropriate, since Spidey is the character he is mostly strongly associated with.
But I must say that I was greatly heartened to see this tweet from writer Gerry Conway, the man mostly closely associated with the Peter-Gwen relationship of the comics, from the New York premiere of the movie. It’s just nice to see someone other than Stan being given credit for once.
— Gerry Conway (@gerryconway) April 25, 2014
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in Singapore on Thursday. Leave us a comment and tell us what you think of our Amazing Spider-Man 2 review once you’ve watched it!