Going into the first Amazing Spider-Man, I expected a cheap attempt to cash in on the name, and to keep the rights for the character from reverting to Marvel. But, though the reboot felt unnecessary at times, and awkward where the origin story intersected that of the early 2000’s Toby McGuire Spider-Man, it was also full of honest effort, care, and spirit.
So, going into The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I had high expectations.
They were largely fulfilled, and maybe even surpassed. The casting continues to be perfect, the acting all but flawless, the action spectacular, the plot mostly solid.
My biggest worry going into the film was the presence of three villains, but it’s executed much more naturally than the previous movie to attempt it—Spider-Man 3. In some places, the villain’s arcs feel just a tad rushed. But the pacing feels like it was done as well as it possibly could have been, given the basic story. (There are rumors that much of the buildup is to lead up to spin-off movies, rather than the direct sequel, which if true will affect my opinion of this issue greatly)
The relationship between Peter and Gwen drives much of this film, as it should. The progression of the romance feels natural and realistic to a degree perhaps surpassing the Iron Man films. Throughout both movies, Gwen has been treated as a legitimate character in her own right, with growth and motivations. She works to achieve her goals, whether that be pursuing her academic career or helping Peter take down a villain. She is always smart, brave, determined, and capable, and is essential to Peter’s success.
The acting is on par with the best mainstream dramas, and every interaction between major characters feels real. Sally Field (Aunt May) and Andrew Garfield demonstrate both the warmth and the disconnect between a parent and a teenage child, and produce both some of the funniest and most emotional moments in the movie. Dane DeHaan is terrific as Harry Osborn, making us immediately attached to the character (though I’m not quite as fond of the treatment of the Goblin). Jamie Foxx does well to show the development of Electro (his arc from nerdy, invisible scientist Max Dillon to the near-omnipotent Electro deserved perhaps a few more minutes).
The plot itself gets a bit convoluted, and they alter a lot of origin stories in order to fit everything in with Oscorp, as is their wont. But it hardly distracts from the well-scripted dialogue, the wonderful action, and the phenomenal acting.
Before I wrap up, I feel I should mention two things that I noticed about this film really surprised me.
One, it contains perhaps the greatest use of shaky-cam I’ve ever seen. Most of the action is shot fluidly, with a grace that elevates the action almost to an art. But in the first scene, the action is shaky and confused. I won’t spoil it—but it’s for a very good reason. This coming from a man who hates shaky-cam.
The other is the soundtrack. I noticed this before the first shot even came into focus. From the very first note, the soundtrack is sublime. The development of Electro’s theme is superb in particular, but the soundtrack has no weak point.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a very good movie, with astounding moments that elevate above the average comic book movie. It makes no major stumbles, and the few minor gripes I have are washed away by the strengths. If the next movie lives up to the expectations set by these first two, we will have a trilogy to be proud of. It’s a must-watch for any Spider-Man fan.
What’s up with the Rhino? They get Paul Giamatti, a world-class actor on level with Jamie Foxx, and feed him five minutes of screen time? Yes, I understand that they’re setting him up for a larger part in another movie, but come on! It’s true that the Rhino is not typically portrayed as a serious threat on his own, though. SPECULATION: Maybe they’re setting up the Black Suit arc. I’d love to see that executed properly.
When I say Electro is nearly omnipotent, I mean it. He does things that I don't remember him doing in the comics, but that are entirely within suspension of disbelief—such as using his electricity as an electromagnet—and some things that caught me completely off-guard—dissolving his body and running along power lines?
Felicia Hardy makes an appearance! Yay! SPECULATION: Maybe we’ll see Black Cat. (Hopefully not as a love interest, at least in the next movie. I vote for NO love interest in 3.)
Alistair Smythe has a cameo, which may also point to interesting things in the future.