"Webb weaves the growth of Peter and Gwen’s complicated relationship into perspective and promptly yanks it away from us just as we are invested in their stability and future."
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a very emotional and important film to me so I maybe bias in this review. As a die-hard Spider-Man fan, watching the sequences of events unfold brought out frustration and various other positive and negative emotions in me. This is a review that invokes the struggle of analyzing the film plausibly between my screenwriting background and my Spider-Man inner-child excitement. Make sure you have seen the film or understand the significance of the #121 to Spider-Man before reading this review.
(SPOILERS FOR AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2)
Let’s jump straight to the point; The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a lot of issues. The main problem I noticed was that some plot points were introduced with no necessary benefits, while others were dragged on for an inexplicable amount of time. A prime example of this was when Electro shuts down all the power to New York City and two aircraft loaded with passengers were on a collision course flying blind. This was obviously inserted to heighten the sense of urgency for Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) and his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) to re-start the power grid. Was that really necessary? The inter-cutting between the battle, the pilots in the cockpit and the communicators in the command center did little to engage my sense of urgency. In fact, I was actually deterred from any fears for the fate of the passengers in the planes. I didn’t care much about them or if they crashed. The situation just felt forced onto the audience. Yes comic books always have victims that magically appear out of nowhere in need of saving, but seeing that in a feature film is less effective than reading it on the pages of a comic book. Somethings work translated onto the big screen and somethings just seem cliche. This was the latter.
The second frustration I had, was the guilty ghost visions of Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) that haunts Peter over and over and over again. While I’m not adversely against using this framing method to callback the promise Peter made to him in the first film, this was simply overdone. There were two spots in the film that made great moments to insert those callbacks and they had them there. The other times were just downright comical and somewhat cheesy. The viewing audience in the showing I attended actually laughed after seeing the Captain a few times. Captain Stacy basically became the creepy ghost who stalks Spider-Man and stares at him with a rather comical intent face.
What The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does really well however was showcasing the human relationships beyond the mask. Director Marc Webb, who directed the romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer is a master at crafting complicated romances on screen. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone’s chemistry is astounding. Their playfulness and concern for one another seem very genuine. We can see their off-screen relationship bleed through in their roles. But it wasn’t just the romantic relationships that shined in this sequel. Aunt May (Sally Fields) and Peter shared a very touching scene that solidified the iconic relationship between the two characters that comic fans have long seen in the pages of Spider-Man lore. Garfield and Fields were truly terrific in demonstrating the importance of Aunt May in Peter's life.
I was however disappointed in the lack of importance Uncle Ben has played in this current film franchise. For a man who raised and essentially made Peter Parker the righteous hero he is today, Uncle Ben sure hasn't received much recognition from his nephew up to this point in the film series. In fact, if you did not know Spider-Man lore and just saw this sequel, you would have believed that Peter's greatest inspiration in life was his father Richard Parker. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 focuses a majority of the film bringing the audience to that conclusion and it was wrong of them to do so. In no Spider-Man adaptation, past, current or future, should anyone have more importance to Peter Parker and his morals than his Uncle Ben. He just would not be Spider-Man if Uncle Ben's teachings were not his moral fiber.
The acting was another strong point for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Jamie Foxx was surprisingly charming in his portrayal of Electro. I was also very satisfied with the time distribution for the villains. At no point were we as an audience distracted or confused about who the main villain of the story was. Sony made sure not to make the same mistake of muddying the film with too many villains like they did in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3.
Lastly, Garfield and Stone have so much chemistry on screen I can flat out call it magical. It’s a pity we won’t see more of these two characters together anymore. It makes her tragic death all that much harder to swallow for the audience. Webb weaves the growth of Peter and Gwen’s complicated relationship into perspective and promptly yanks it away from us just as we are invested in their stability and future. As a die-hard Spider-Man fan, I can honestly vouch for the sincerity of Gwen’s death scene. The film respected the source material, but made the moment its own thanks to Garfield and Stone. I don’t believe any adapation could have done “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” any better than in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
From a story structure standpoint, this Spidey sequel misses on many points. With a bit of cheesiness (ironically not from Spider-Man) and suspect subplots, audiences may feel frustrated that for all the good the sequel does, it never feels as if it reaches its full potential. Still, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a very satisfying and emotional ride that many fans of the hero will enjoy. We may never see chemistry between a hero and a love interest like that of Garfield and Stone in a super hero film again.
Did you like The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Did Gwen's death affect you the way it did me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section or on Twitter!