THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 Review; "It's The BATMAN & ROBIN Of The Spider-Man Franchise"
"It's my birthday....time to light the candles!" is an actual piece of dialogue from Electro at one point in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, so while it may not be as bad as Batman & Robin, the comparison is very deserving. Hit the jump for my in-depth and spoiler-free verdict on the disappointing sequel.
As a lifelong Spider-Man fan, it would be easy to tear into The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for a lack of faithfulness to the comic books. However, when the likes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Man of Steel take huge liberties and are still so often praised, it would be almost hypocritical to spend this review whining about such issues as Uncle Ben being turned into an irrelevent afterthought or Norman Osborn's single (but memorable scene). I suppose the main difference is that those films still told a coherent and enjoyable story despite such fanboy niggles, whereas The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is simply a bad movie.
Surprisingly, the biggest problem with the sequel is the humour. Whereas movies like The Avengers and Iron Man 3 were funny throughout, the slapstick sight gags and awful dialogue here consistently fail to hit the mark. They're the sort of jokes you might expect to see in a children's movie, and it might be worth pointing out that the only laughs which could be heard in my packed out IMAX 3D screening were from those whose voices had not yet broken. The dialogue in the teaser is just one such example, while both Paul Giamatti (The Rhino) and Martin Csokas (Dr. Kafka) are hard to even watch, with their comedic Russian and German accents bordering on parody. You'll struggle to find a genuinely funny moment, but expect to cringe and wince plenty of times throughout the bloated sequel's running time.
In terms of performances, what was once so endearing about Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) and Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) is now an annoyance, with the dialogue between the two so dreadful that you'll be left eagerly anticipating the time they don't share together. The fact that THEY'RE MEANT TO BE!!! is forced down our throats, but this all pales in comparison to the misuse of Jamie Foxx. The superb actor who was so impressive in the likes of Django Unchained and Ray is wasted both as the ridiculous Max Dillon, and Electro. There are some moments where he manages to inject some much needed quality into the character - the scenes he shares with Dane Dehaan's Harry Osborn for example - but that's easily forgettn thanks to a Family Guy-like cutaway where he attacks Smythe and rants about him not sharing the same star sign as Spidey.
Talking of DeHaan, he's very good as Harry, although his arc and subsequent transformation into the Green Goblin feels rushed. However, in fairness, it still works to a degree, but when he is the Goblin, it quickly goes downhill. The piped in cackles don't help, and we're never given enough time to buy into his madness. In fact, his inclusion seems to have been a last minute decision to set up the Sinister Six movie, and while the way they're approaching both that and the Norman/Harry dynamic is intriguing, it's also more than a little messy. A lot of supporting characters (Smythe and Felicity Jones' character whose identity I won't reveal here) barely make a significant impact, so whether they're only included here to have a larger role moving forwards is unclear, but a tremendous waste if not. Like with The Amazing Spider-Man, it's clear that BIG chunks of the movie were removed in post as several key scenes from the trailers are missing. However, if you were under the impression that they've shown us all there is to see of Rhino and the Goblin...you would be right!
In terms of story, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a mess, but never dull and never completely incoherent or nonsensical. We get all the answers we'll ever need about Peter's parents, and the story arcs of the characters all feel natural and believable. Some are better than others, and it's mostly the dialogue which lets the whole movie down. With the focus back on Oscorp, the shadow of the Sinister Six looming and the mystery surrounding a few key characters, (yes, we finally learn the identity of the man in the shadows), there's a lot to look forward to. Will you care by the time the credits roll though? Probably not. On the plus side, there is one key moment which Webb nails, even if it probably won't go down as an iconic comic book movie scene.
The action and web-swinging is spectacular, despite Webb's overuse of slow motion. There's also a complete lack of point of view sequences, so whether a 3D ticket is essential depends. It certainly looks good in the format, but there isn't really any one moment which means you have to see it like that. The special effects are flawless for the most part regardless, and Electro looks great in action, if not identicle to Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan. His plasticky costume with a silly lighting bolt on the side looks tacky though, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 constantly trips itself up with strange visual choices like this. DeHaan can barely speak properly as he tries to talk with a mouthful of fake rotten teeth caused by his transformation! The Spider-Man suit is perfection though and it's hard to bash the visuals in any way. Hans Zimmer's score is also unique, and while it's nowhere near the same league as his work on Batman and Superman, Spidey's theme will stick with you for a long time. The choice of songs though are odd and distracting, and it's not a soundtrack anywhere near as good as Webb's (500) Days of Summer.
With appalling dialogue, slapstick humour, terrible design decisions and cheesy moments aplenty (Peter's Spider-Man theme ringtone or Electro beating Spidey up to the tune of "Incy Wincy Spider"), this IS the Batman & Robin of the Spider-Man franchise. It's not as bad as that movie overall, but is the kind of film which will make you extremely reluctant to watch The Amazing Spider-Man 3. Overall, it's not quite a franchise killer, but it's also not going to leave you counting down the days until 2016. It wiill however leave you disappointed.
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