I haven’t felt this conflicted about a movie in a very long time. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t a bad movie, necesarrily, but I don’t think I can call it a good one either. While Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is the best version of the character we’ve seen on the big-screen thus far, the movie’s plot is so weighed down by its own ambitions that it ends up becoming a dizzying mess of sadly untapped potential.
The movie picks up some time after the end of the first film, with Peter seeming to have finally adjusted to his role as his city’s costumed vigilante. He’s bold and daring, and makes saving the day look like a walk in the park, and with movements so quick and agile, watching him swing freely through the busy city streets becomes one of the most enjoyable aspects of the entire film.
Director Marc Webb seems to understand how Spider-Man moves and operates even better than Sam Raimi did, and never before has Spidey looked this good. His costume is wonderfully bright and nostalgic, and Garfield’s frequent banter and one-liners, even in the midst of a tense battle, seem to have been picked right off of a comic book page.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is by far one of the most classic superhero movies we’ve seen in the past year or two, and everything about it has a traditionally comic-book tone that makes the film’s proceedings feel, for the most part, fun and energetic.
His moves seem effortless, and Webb directs each and every action sequence with a keen eye for the dramatic, perfectly capturing the essence of the graceful web-slinger we all know and love. Garfield’s Peter Parker may be a little too awkward at times, but he’s such a capable actor that he makes it work, and watching him easily transition back and forth between Peter and Spider-Man is truly impressive.
However, the script for Spider-Man’s newest adventure is so heavy and over-populated that it nearly succeeds in derailing the entire thing in the end. This is where Marc Webb seems to have gone wrong, and while his intentions were in the right place, he just tries to do so much with his movie that he actually accomplishes very little.
There are at least five different plot threads all running concurrently throughout the film’s overly lengthy running time, and as much as I enjoyed seeing so many different sides of Spider-Man and the world he’s living in, none of these plots get the attention they deserve and never end up reaching the heights they so desperately tried to achieve.
The first Amazing Spider-Man movie tried to do something unique with the character’s origin by involving Peter’s father, but that particular plot thread was never developed enough to feel like anything more than a side-note. For this movie, we were promised a fuller, more complete understanding of who Richard Parker was, but sadly, the results are just as confusing as they were in the first movie.
Outside of a couple cool flashbacks, the plot never implements Peter’s parents in any kind of meaningful way, and it only ever leaves us asking more questions that aren’t likely to be answered. Thankfully, Sally Field’s Aunt May is able to salvage a lot of it simply because she’s such a great performer, but much like the rest of the movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just can’t seem to juggle more than one plot all that well.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 makes the same mistake Spider-Man 3 did, although it thankfully stays far away from replicating some of the laughably bad moments in that movie, and overpopulates its plot with an array of villains and secondary characters that are so rushed and underdeveloped that they become little more than plot devices in the end.
Jamie Foxx’s Electro, for example, starts the movie off with an interesting origin story and some especially exciting confrontations with Spider-Man, but is then sadly side-lined until the film pulls him back into the mix near the end just to make the climax feel a little more, excuse the pun, electric.
Foxx does an admirable job with what he’s given, but since the plot never seems to figure out what to do with him outside of the aforementioned fight scenes, that he’s simply relegated to a supporting role that does little to benefit the already busy script. Which is a shame, because I would’ve loved to have seen the plot really delve into the potential of the character it created, but alas, that just doesn’t happen here.
Dane DeHaan fares a little better, and his interpretation of Harry Osborn is unique and interesting, but outside of a couple strong scenes with Andrew Garfield, he’s not given much content until the final act either, where his character arc is so needlessly rushed that his entire character misses out on any of the potential that he seemed to be so close to tapping into.
That’s the most crippling flaw with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 it seems, it just doesn’t know what to do with the potential sitting right in front of it. With a great cast and so many fantastic action scenes that just get who Spider-Man is, it’s disappointing that the plot is more preoccupied with setting up future sequels and spin-offs than it is developing its characters and creating a meaningful story for them to engage in.
The only exception comes from Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and their wonderful chemistry together. While some of their dialogue borders on the melodramatic, they still pull it off because they make you believe in their relationship. It’s awkward and difficult at times, but watching them fight to stay together was well done and gave their characters an extra layer of realism that was like a breath of fresh air amidst everything else going on.
The two of them imbue the film’s final, dramatic confrontation with a layer of emotion that was lacking from the rest of the film, and it’s thanks to them that the movie ends on the high note that it does. The final scenes are powerful and memorable, and actually managed to leave me interested in seeing where the series might go after this.
For all of its flaws, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is still a decent movie, albeit an inconsistent one. It understands Spider-Man better than any of the other films did, and the relationship between Peter and Gwen is more genuine and enjoyable than it has any right to be. However, it’s impossible to ignore the unnecessarily clunky and disorganized script, and it’s a shame that they held the movie back from actually living up its title.