the-amazing-spiderman-2-poster2014

Genre: Action, Adventure

Directed By: Marc Webb

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHann

By honing in on what worked last time and fixing most of what didn’t, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a real superhero treat – and the best Spider-Man film in a decade.

The first Amazing Spider-Man film had a lot working against it, namely justifying the existence of an entirely new Spider-Man franchise just 5 years after the flawed (but hugely successful) Spider-Man 3 and trying to find its own voice while necessarily retreading much of the same ground as 2002’s Spider-Man. It was a conflicted and muddled film but against the odds it succeeded, largely on the charm of Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and his obvious chemistry with love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). The prospect of a sequel was suddenly an enticing one, the enthusiasm for which Sony seemed determined to destroy with a loud and confusing marketing campaign hinging on the number of villains Spidey would have to face this time, how very important his absent parent’s secrets would be and how this film marked only the beginning of his ‘greatest battle’.

Thankfully, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not the cynical, overstuffed, sequel-baiting mess it seemed destined to be. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is fun. Enthusiastically and unashamedly fun. Freed from the shackles of retelling Spider-Man’s origin, director Marc Webb has pinpointed exactly what worked and what didn’t about Spidey’s last outing and has created a refreshingly loose-feeling sequel that improves upon its predecessor in every way.

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy’s blossoming romance was a highlight of the first Amazing Spider-Man and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone’s undeniable chemistry rightfully takes centre stage here. The two make a great on-screen couple and Peter’s guilt over the death of Gwen’s father (and his promise to stay away from Gwen) adds an interesting wrinkle to their dynamic.

With mysterious industrialist Norman Osborn on his deathbed and Curt Connor’s unfortunate case of trying to turn everyone in New York into a giant lizard putting Oscorp Industries under intense scrutiny, young Harry Osborn (Dane DeHann) has returned to the city to say goodbye to his father and assume control of the family business. It turns out that he and Peter were childhood friends and while the two reconnect, Osborn becomes aware of his company’s corruption and of his own ailing health. Meanwhile, mild-mannered Oscorp engineer and Spider-Man superfan Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) has his own problems to deal with when an industrial accident leaves him in possession of extremely powerful, and dangerous, electrical abilities.

One thing the first Amazing Spider-Man leant heavily on was the shady disappearance of Peter’s parents and his father’s ties to Oscorp. Though this angle succeeded in differentiating these Spider-Man films from the others, it also made Peter feel less like the ‘normal teenager’ he’s supposed to be. While Peter’s search for answers drives much of this film, surprisingly what he discovers is both more important and less ‘important’ than you might expect.

Amazingly, and despite what the trailers may have lead you to believe, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 largely avoids falling into the same trap as Spider-Man 3 of overcrowding the narrative with multiple villains and supporting characters. The narrative of Amazing Spider-Man 2 is loose, with multiple plot threads, but there’s one core plot and the embellishments add to, rather than detract from, the experience.

Most impressively, and unexpectedly, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 recaptures much of the carefree charm of Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man films. There’s action here, and drama too, but there’s also wit, humour, and a surprising amount of eccentricity. The bumbling Max Dillon’s exploits play out in an endearingly slapstick fashion; Peter’s dialogue with Gwen, Harry and his dear Aunt May (Sally Field) sizzles and there’s at least one comically over-the-top mad Germanic scientist here because of course all mad scientists need to be Germanic. If The Amazing Spider-Man felt a little self-conscious and unsure of what it was supposed to be, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is incredibly comfortable in its own skin.

It’s not quite perfect though. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 may not be as chaotic as Spider-Man 3 but it still could have benefitted from a bit of streamlining. And while this latest Spidey film is a great deal of fun, the tonal shifts from goofball hilarity to outright tragedy are occasionally a bit too abrupt. Still, given how bleak things looked just a few weeks ago, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is nothing short of a revelation. It’s easily the best Spider-Man film since the still wonderful Spider-Man 2 and in one fell swoop justifies the entire existence of this rebooted franchise. Roll on The Amazing Spider-Man 3.

★★★★

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