Netflix UK film review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Ivan Radford | On 04, Sep 2014
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan
Watch The Amazing Spider-Man 2 online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Sky Store / Google Play
“You’re Spider-Man,” Gwen Stacy tells Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, “and I love that. But I love Peter Parker more.”
It’s no secret that the relationship between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is the saving grace of Sony’s franchise reboot. Garfield is fantastic as the wiry web slinger, firing off wise-cracks with the believable cockiness of a teen given super powers, but Gwen – and the chemistry she and Garfield brings – is what gives this tale heart. Andrew may be the headliner, but Emma’s the real hero.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 realises this, but it is a restless beast, unhappy to sit still and bask in the happiness of its lovely lead couple. Scenes between Peter and Gwen ring with a real emotion, her smiles and angry tears the perfect foil for his big eyes and perfect hair. The only problem is that they are surrounded by The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The sequel continues the mysterious story of Peter’s parents and his father’s work with OsCorp. It also introduces us to a new bad guy: Electro. And Peter’s old friend, Harry Osborn. And another villain called Rhino (played, laughably, by a Russian-accented Paul Giamatti).
If that sounds like too much, that’s because it is. The script, by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner, could have formed the basis of three different films. Instead, they cram all three into one giant web of messily connected strands, suffering from the same old Spider-Man curse of stuffing itself with too many flies.
And so it falls to the cast to try and make an impression. Jamie Foxx does downtrodden well as Max, an overlooked OsCorp employee with an in-depth knowledge of the city’s power grid, who, thanks to a close encounter with a live wire (and a vat of eels), finds himself charged with electricity. A chance encounter with Spidey turns him into a crazed fanboy, who dreams of being his best friend – and takes only a little push to become his enemy.
Helping to nudge him over the edge is another quality name: Dane DeHaan as Harry, who manages to sell his boyhood bond with Peter despite us never seeing them together before. Even Sally Field somehow convinces as Aunt May, despite solely being given dialogue lines only an aunt in a blockbuster would ever say.
But all these performances drown in the sheer vat of stuff that is The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s hard to think of a film with more stuff in. It’s like Sony rented a self-storage container for a couple of years and filmed it all pouring out. Felicity Jones is somewhere in there, but you wouldn’t know.
Director Marc Webb continues to craft some impressive visuals. Here, he leaves behind the low-fi, emotional focus that the (500) Days of Summer helmer brought to the series and drives into Zack Snyder territory: vibrant yellows and electric blues are the order of the day, complete with high contrast shadows and slow-motion collisions. In HD, it is a superb spectacle, despite Electro looking like Tobias Funke blue himself once too many times. Even the once dubious near-first-person shots of Spider-Man slinging through the streets leave your mouth open.
There is little substance beneath the glossy surface, though – or rather, too much. Who has time to care about Max and his fantasy outbursts of rage when they’re so busy paying attention to Harry and his ill-judged villain make-up, which is closer to grumpy pixie than Green Goblin?
The parade of endless plot lines is most notable when, once the final act is neatly concluded, another final act arrives, dragging out the ending for another 25 minutes. The climactic punch-up is a brilliantly smart piece of writing, giving Gwen a central role in the fight – but amid all the chaos and CGI, the moment is soon forgotten. The screenplay is more concerned with setting up the next (presumably even bigger) sequel.
As the relentless corporate cogs keep turning, the thought of having to one day endure The Amazing Spider-Man without Emma Stone – Gwen must inevitably make way for Mary-Jane – is moving indeed. It is telling, though, that as soon as such a future is thoughtfully hinted at, Paul Giamatti barges in wearing a mechanical rhinoceros costume. “I’M RHINO!” he bawls, killing the mood.
“You’re Spider-Man,” Gwen tells Peter, “and I love that. But I love Peter Parker more.” The Amazing Spider-Man’s problem is that it doesn’t choose either of them. It loves more more. And here, that is always less.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.