When Fox Studios released Marc Webb from his obligations on his original commitments with them in order to continue his work on the relaunched Amazing Spider-Man series, bad pun writers across the world must have been rubbing their hands with glee. As if the obvious jokes of swinging onto screens or spinning a tale weren’t enough, now to have an added bonus of Webb was for most an easy starting point. Luckily we are above such things here at Geek Chocolate.
And so, two years on, Webb resumes his trilogy which started to critical acclaim despite being received in a mixed fashion due to the nature of the previous incumbents having so freshly worn the eponymous webslingers suit. And whilst it was a fresh update to the origin story Sam Raimi delivered a mere decade before, it is in this second instalment that we now see the new story taking its own course as it sets up for at least another two films planned in its own franchise.
In looking to add depth and characterisation to central themes already fleshed out in the 2012 reimagining such as Peter’s relationship with Gwen Stacy or his complex home life struggling to find answers for the absence of his parents, his Aunt May still grieving herself over losing her husband, Star Trek’s Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have been brought in to give weight to a series which became increasingly devoid of depth under previous director Raimi, darker tones particularly desirable in an era where Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is seen as a yardstick for success. Given the writing duo’s impressive resume on shows such as Alias, Fringe and more recently Sleepy Hollow they can add more dramatic plots whilst still retaining Spidey’s trademark humour, and this instalment does not disappoint.
Having several films to play a story certainly has advantages, and as the movie starts by replaying the opening scenes of its predecessor but from the perspective of Peter’s father Richard Parker (Campbell Scott) leaving his son in the care of Aunt May (Sally Fields). Seeing this story through his eyes reveals not only his reasoning but also what happened next, providing context for the original but not relying on it so viewers unfamiliar with the 2012 film would be clueless. From this flashback sequence we are brought up to date, with four years passed since the events that led to the death of Captain George Stacy at the hands of the Lizard, and whilst carefree vigilante justice is the face Spider-Man presents to the city the guilt of this event still weighs on the shoulders of our hero.
Andrew Garfield may still be a newcomer in Hollywood terms, but since the early days of his career in Channel 4’s Sugar Rush he has shown a depth of range not normally associated with stereotypical action hero roles and is able to flesh out not just the cocky self-assured masked hero but also the sensitive guilt-riddled teenager. Sharing the complex love life of the titular hero once again is Emma Stone (The Help, Zombieland) as Gwen Stacy, who has blossomed into a brilliant and strong-willed woman who is struggling between her heart’s desire for Peter and the chance of a lifetime to study at Oxford University.
Thrown into the mix the first appearance of Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan of Lawless and Chronicle) who returns to say his final goodbyes to his dying father Norman and learn of his likely fate due to the genetic curse flowing through his DNA, and Jamie Foxx’s Max Dillon, an Oscorp worker whose own chance meeting with Spidey leads him to believe the two are best friends. Obliged to work late on his birthday, an accident with the hydroelectric eels used to power Oscorp causes a molecular change in the already unstable Max, leading him to become electrically charged and violently dangerous.
Subdued by Spider-Man, and taken to the Ravenscroft Institute for the criminally insane, where an ousted Harry Osborn visits him with a proposition to help the two of them gain back what has been taken from them. With central themes of identity and choice, as each of the characters progress through the film shows the conflict both internally in their struggles to make the right choices for themselves and externally in the battles as identities are revealed and battle lines are drawn, and it is through the performances of Garfield, Stone, DeHaan and Field that the film lives.
Not everything in this movie is brilliantly executed, and some familiar tropes such as the repeated use of the original television series theme and the ubiquitous cameo by Stan Lee himself are beginning to feel more than a little forced. The music in general is not on a par with the Disney Marvel franchise, and some of the choices are questionable. Visually the film is fine, and will hopefully stands up to future viewings unlike Spider-Man 3, which despite being only seven years old has dated more than films twice its age due to the mediocre effects work.
The humour is back though, and Spiderman feels much more like the cartoon version many viewers will have grown up with as opposed to the somewhat limp version Tobey Maguire was left with, and despite the delightful teasing of the Sinister Six villains in the secret projects lab, the film is not overburdened with too many characters on screen which was another failing of Spider-Man 3. With two more movies to look forward to things look a lot rosier for Spider-Man, but in keeping with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the Raimi’s first web slinging trilogy, number two is certainly the movie to beat. For now, however, the cinema posters can proudly boast he is indeed, the Amazing Spider-Man.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is now on general release in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX