The Amazing Spider-man 2 is a film with a split personality
The Amazing Spider-man 2 is the second of Marc Webb’s planned trilogy starring Andrew Garfield as the title character, Emma Stone (Garfield’s real life girlfriend) as Gwen Stacy, Jaimie Fox as Max Dillon (Electro) and Dane DeHann as Harry Osborn (The Green Goblin). Paul Giamatti appears in a bookend sequence at the beginning and end of the film as Alexsei Sytsevich (The Rhino) and Sally Field returns as Peter’s Aunt May.
Watching this film I couldn’t help but wonder if directing duties were actually divided up for the different threads of the film, because I definitely felt like there were two different visions on the screen. One vision of the film has spectacular action sequences that bring to life the way I had always imagined Spider-man swinging through New York, and how he battled his deadly foes. It also does a great job of the smart aleck chatter that Spidey is known for in his battles as well as showing the inner turmoil and nobility of Peter Parker. The chemistry between Garfield and Stone is readily apparent and it helps sell the sweetness and depth of the love between Peter and Gwen. Sally Field does a wonderful job at giving depth to what would be easy to play as a one-note character in Aunt May. Her conflict in trying to take care of herself and Peter at her age is almost palpable. The additional strain of trying to hide her feelings about Peter’s father is also very well done.
The other vision of the film does a disservice to the origins and motivations of the many foes of Spider-man and spends time on sub-plots that don’t really have a pay off. The 2 sequences that feature Paul Giamatti are totally unnecessary as depicted in the film. They serve as bookends to the film to showcase Spidey when he’s on top and when he’s ready to take up the good fight once more, regardless of his personal pain. I’m all for the concept of these two bookends but Giamatti’s character is so one-dimensional that it is laughable. To add insult to injury, when Giamatti appears as The Rhino at the end of the film, the decision was made to forego the Rhino as depicted in the comics but rather to create a ridiculous mechanized battle armor/tank outfit that makes no sense logically and further depict the character as a cartoon villain that yells threats.
The writers of the film did a great job of bringing the character and concept of Electro to life. However, the depiction of Max Dillon is very reminiscent of Otis from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies and does absolutely nothing to create any feelings with the audience other than as a children’s cartoon cliché. The plot devices used to create Max Dillon’s motivations and that are used to put him in the situation that creates Electro are poorly thought out and executed.
The decision to make Harry Osborn the Green Goblin at this juncture of Peter’s saga was a complete misfire. I have always felt that the Father/son dynamic that developed and eventually went awry between Norman/Harry and Peter was always one of the strongest elements of the original source material. The Green Goblin has always been the arch nemesis of Spider-man. His manipulations were directly responsible for the uncovering of Spider-man’s identity and the death of Peter’s first love. The tension and build of these relationships could and should have been the focus of the whole movie. Instead it is a wasted opportunity. Harry suddenly and conveniently develops a fatal disease that drives him to desperate means to seek a cure. Instead of building up the tensions in the relationships between Peter, Gwen and Harry till it reaches the breaking point, Gwen becomes just a damsel in distress that Spider-man valiantly tries to save. While I appreciate the detail and construction of the sequence that leads to Gwen’s fate, I must state that such an important event in the life of Spider-man should have spent more time on playing up the evil that was at fault. Instead too much time is spent on a sub plot about the work of Peter’s parents that actually does nothing more than serve as a McGuffin to provide a pseudo-scientific reason for Harry’s actions.
Ultimately, I feel that The Amazing Spider-man 2 is a good film but not a great film. Its strengths lie in the action sequences and the chemistry between Garfield and Stone. Its weaknesses are the inconsistent development of the villains that results in a cartoonish portrayal that detracts from the maturity of the rest of the film. Rating: B ~RDavis