Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti and Sally Field
Running Time: 142 minutes
Release Date: April 16th
A trend has emerged in comic book adaptations that has seen what on the surface look like bold choices when it comes to choosing directors. TV directors and Shakespeare vets have all tackled The Avengers and their solo efforts; and Marc Webb himself got the first Spider-Man gig on the back of a twee romantic-comedy. The rational seems to be, directors handle big character moments and establish relationships, before second-units and CGI come in to do the set-piece construction. It’s been a pretty successful model, if sacrificing final acts for uninspired, vanilla cityscape smashfests.
It’s a problem but also a compliment to Webb. In a franchise reboot no one really thought that they wanted, he knew that the best thing on display was Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy’s relationship, and the chemistry between his two leads — and soon to be couple — Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, that brought it to life. Second time around and the pair hit their romantic, comedic and just plain adorable beats every time. And it’s a good thing they do, because everything else is awful.
Life is pretty good for everyone’s friendly neighbourhood web-head: he’s graduated from school, selling pictures to the Daily Bugle, adored by his city and his girl Gwen. Yet he broods, for Peter Parker, sees dead people. His dead parents, his dead uncle and Gwen’s dead father — and no doubt, many more deceased to come. His guilt from the death of Captain George Stacy pushes him away from Gwen yet he can still get mad when she wants to move to London. Elsewhere, his childhood friend Harry returns to inherit OsCorp and one of its employees, a gap tooth Jamie Foxx with a ridiculous comb over, falls into a pool of genetically modified eels.
Comic book movies are the golden ticket and Sony is desperately trying to match Marvel in the franchise arms race. The issue is: Marvel has a universe, Sony has Spider-Man. There’s a decent core story to tell but Webb is burdened with trying to world build at an accelerated speed, setting up two more Spidey sequels and two spinoffs while teeing up a further six villains. Spider-Man 3 was the prototype for how not to make a multi-villain arc, Webb abides by it like some sacred text. Electro is a bargain basement Dr. Manhattan, soundtracked by a Skrillex remix of Disturbed. Sam Raimi and James Franco had three movies to establish Harry Osborn and blew it; Dane DeHaan has about three scenes — one of which smothers the excellent Chris Cooper under a mountain of cliched father/son dialogue and bad make-up. Paul Giamatti is inexplicably tattooed and Russian.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 works to an extent on a micro level — Spidey’s opening take down of some small-time crooks is easily the best and most coherent action scene — but that’s not the movie it is. This is bigger and broader than a young couple’s relationship. Time Square needs to be a battle ground and children need to be in peril. A lot of the expositional heavy-lifting is done now, a return to less-is-more might be a good idea in the future.