What is it about directors and their toys? Why do so many of them not know when enough is enough? “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has so much going for it from an acting and plot point of view, but the 30 minutes or so before the film’s final 10 minutes almost does it in. Thank goodness for Andrew Garfield, who, as Spider-Man, really does save the day.
Directed by Marc Webb, with screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” opens explosively with a great chase scene with Paul Giamatti (as we’ve never ever seen him before) as the villainous Aleksei Sytsevich and some very witty dialogue from Spider-Man. The film feels almost joyous in part…at least in the beginning. Spider-Man/Peter Parker is basking in his “Spidey” ways and enjoys helping people and making a difference.. And he’s in love…in love with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). His main problem at the film’s start is that NYC has grown tired of him. To some, he’s a vigilante…to others he seems to be inserting himself into situations where his help may not be wanted. However, his life begins to change when he and Gwen break up. His concerns for her safety have finally gotten the best of their relationship…at least for a while.
Entering into the mix are two new characters—Matt Dillon (Jamie Foxx) and Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). Matt works as a maintenance man/electrician for the mega corporation, Oscorp. As a lowly worker, no one ever notices him and this “invisibility’ has taken a toll on his psyche. To make matters worse, it’s quite possible that credit for a plan which he submitted to Oscorp and could have brought him millions, was stolen from him and has truly embittered him. Harry is Peter’s childhood friend, whose father owns Oscorp and is dying. In his own way, Harry has led an invisible life, spending most of his time abroad, deliberately kept away from the family business…Oscorp. These two lonely characters collide in a very sad, violent manner, becoming Electro and the Green Goblin respectively. In so doing, they initiate a battle scene with Spider-Man that seems to go on for hours and hours.
Therein lies “The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s” problem—the very lengthy war between the three. It would appear that no one had the guts to tell the director, “Cut! Enough already! The audience will get it.” I understand that the film needs to get its money’s worth of the 3-D effects. But in all honesty, 3-D is completely unnecessary in making this movie more enjoyable or entertaining.
What does work for "Spider-Man 2" in spades is the acting and the dialogue. As Spider-Man/Peter Parker, Garfield is spectacular. He’s capable of expressing joy, sadness and everything in between. He brings a real fun-loving spirit to the film. Garfield also has terrific chemistry with all of his co-stars. His scenes with Sally Field, as his Aunt May are absolutely perfect…but Field is no slouch in the acting department either. There seems to be nothing she can’t do. She just feels so right as his aunt. Emma Stone is very good as Gwen…who loves Peter, but is not content to be the “little woman” waiting for him on the sidelines of his life. Stone has just the right “oomph” to make this believable. (As an aside, it must be said that no matter how good Garfield and Stone are, they cannot and do not pass for high-school seniors. College seniors, perhaps, but high school is one glaring, laughable mistake). Jamie Foxx does an excellent job in showcasing the life of the invisible. Dane DeHaan is fantastic as the “poor little rich boy.” He knows how to work those huge eyes of his as either those of a villain or innocent. His early scenes with Garfield feel like real friendship and his work with Chris Cooper as his dying father and Colm Feore as his father’s right-hand man are heart-breakingly done. "Spider-Man 2" also does a great job in rounding out Peter’s back-story with Embeth Davidtz and Campbell Scott as Mary and Richard Parker, his and mother and father.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has so much going for it via story and acting, the prolonged fights just really serve to lessen its “amazingness.” Hopefully director Webb has gotten this out of his system.