2014 Running time: 142 Certificate: 12 Rating: 3
The-Amazing-Spider-Man-2

Synopsis

While struggling to balance his life as a student with his alter ego Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) begins to probe into the life of his father... and discovers that the threat posed by renegade electrician Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Russian mobster Rhino (Paul Giamatti) have one thing in common: the sinister OsCorp multinational, run by his old buddy Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). Director Marc Webb delivers a super-sequel with great responsibility... and the visual power to pull it off.

Director

  • Marc Webb

Cast

  • Andrew Garfield

  • Emma Stone

  • Jamie Fox

  • Paul Giamatti

  • Dane DeHaan

  • Campbell Scott

  • Sally Field

Review

A year or so on from the events of the Spider-Man reboot, we find Peter Parker (Garfield) at a crossroads in his life. He's happy, but with the spectre Gwen Stacy's father hanging over him, that happiness can't last forever.

For before Commisioner Stacy (Denis Leary) died, he forced Peter to promise to leave his darling daughter out of his action-packed life, for her own protection. But even though it's a promise she's well aware of, it's not one he's able to keep.

Meanwhile, nice-guy Max Dillon (Foxx), an electrical expert at tech-giant Oscorp is busy being ignored by the world around him, something the world will struggle to do once he's been fished out of a vat of electric eels.

It's classic (read: basic) origin stuff, but the villains are almost incidental; what's of real interest here is the mystery behind Peter's parents, and how the puzzle fits together, not only in how it relates to Peter's own superpowers, but the path of Oscorp in itself.

Indeed, it's the most intriguing plot change for the new series, and gives the writing team plenty of room to manoeuvre, particularly with the father-son Osborn dynasty.

But the the biggest issue facing the writers of TASM2 isn't, as one might expect, the quantity of villains, but the timing and - crucially - the motivation for their appearances.

In Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn, Webb has struck gold. It's the relationship between him and Parker that sizzles the most, but his journey from well-intentioned billionaire-brat to psychotic bomb-wielding supervillain takes time, hence the need for Electro to rattle some cages in the build up.

It's almost impossible to buy into Electro's motivation for hating Spider-Man yet the logic behind Harry's transformation is far more plausible and indelibly written into the franchise's DNA... even if the donning of super-armour and a flying machine - and his natural ability to use both - doesn't quite add up.

As was the case with the last outing, Webb's at his best when he does something as simple as have his actors reading lines, and on more than one occasion, whether it's Sally Field rolling back the years, Emma Stone being about as cute and kooky as a genius scientist girl-next-door can get or, surprisingly, Jamie Foxx emoting through a CGI face, Webb finds a heart amongst the chaos.

Garfield's comfort in the role is plain to see, so much so that his Peter Parker gibbers, stammers and repeats himself to an almost ridiculous degree. His wise-cracking Spider-Man, however, is pitch perfect.

Foxx's pre-Electro Max Dillon is all Jim Carrey in Batman Forever (the part is remarkably similar), which is a pity, as he sparks Electro to life whenever he's required to fill the CGI monstrosity with emotion, while Paul Giamatti is one part rhino, ten parts ham, and it's a relief to find his screentime whittled down to the bare minimum.

As pretty as it all looks, the aesthetic around the Electro sequences is akin to watching a feature-length advert for one of Sony's many electrical products - and on more than one occasion, that's literally the case.

The score, meanwhile, flits between melodramatic rock, the occasionally sweet piano interlude, and an almost too simplistic Spider-man theme that sounds awfully like it was written by a superhero themes computer program.

Much like the first movie, the sequel has been through a rigorous editing/ streamlining process - Shailene's Woodley's Mary Jane ended up on the cutting room floor - and although the missing scenes are not quite as glaring as the first film, it might explain why the love story involves more make-up-and-break-ups than a week of Eastenders reruns, with only a ghostly appearance of a frowning Leary offering any reason for the upheaval.

There's enough plot left dangling for the inevitable third movie to wrap itself up in, and in one particularly comic-faithful plot point, the writers have got plenty more to emotion for Webb, should he wish to return, to explore. The foundations for the Sinister Six spin-off are pretty clear to see too.

It's far less daunting a prospect to be compared to TASM1 than the first two Raimi movies, and in that sense, Webb couldn't go too far wrong.

But more than that, TASM2 is a more confident movie than the first. And even with the motivational issues, and slightly odd pacing of the Parker/Stacey relationship, it's still the second best Spider-Man 2 ever made.

Rich Phippen

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