Peter Parker, a.k.a. the Amazing Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), has become the unofficial hero of New York City, though there are some who question his vigilantism. After graduating from high school, Peter breaks up with long-time girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), claiming that he’s unable to forget the promise he made to her father about protecting her. And just in time, too, as former Oscorp electrical engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) suffers a horrible accident and becomes villain Electro. On top of that, Peter’s trying to learn more about his father’s secrets while reuniting with childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who has a few secrets of his own.
After seeing The Amazing Spider-Man sequel, I spend the entire drive home ranting to my boyfriend, throwing out “would have,” “could have,” and “should have” in practically every sentence. Poor guy. Not only did he have to listen to me discuss the Marvel Universe (both cinematic and comic), of which he has little to no knowledge, but he also prefers to sit back and enjoy movies, not pick them apart.
The reason I bring this up is because The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn’t a horrible movie by any means. But I could see so many areas in script and direction where this movie could’ve been made so much better. Obviously, it was thoroughly entertaining with a great cast (For me, Andrew Garfield nails Peter Parker every time), excellent action sequences, and solid CGI effects. Unfortunately, that’s not enough.
When you have a movie that’s this sloppy, it’s hard not to notice its confused plot structure and schizophrenic tone.
One minute, the movie is about Peter learning of his parents’ deaths, centering around Richard Parker’s “Roosevelt” lab and the details of the Oscorp conspiracy. Nope, that’s shoved aside and answered so quickly that you have to wonder why it wasn’t just held off and discussed with more depth in a later film. Then, we’re introduced to Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti), who we think is going to be Spider-Man’s recurring foe since his character later becomes Rhino, one of the Sinister Six. But then he’s shoved aside, too, and not seen until the very end of the movie (Why bother, right?).
Then, there’s Jamie Foxx’s Electro, who ideally should be the movie’s main protagonist, considering they spend so much time showing us Max Dillon before his accident and building up the climactic fight at the Oscorp main power grid. Annnnnnd then we’re already moving on to Harry Osborn’s Green Goblin. Because MORE VILLAINS. If you’re thinking this movie sounds like a whiplash, that’s because it is.
I worried about that, too, when I saw the trailer. My initial reaction was “There are a lot of villains in this movie.” That, to me, is a sign of a poorly-developed movie. Why? Well, because the more villains there are, the less time we spend getting to know them. And that’s exactly what was wrong with this movie—too many things going on at once. It even overshadowed Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy developing more of a relationship (and that irritates me because Garfield and Stone have such great chemistry onscreen). Which reminds me…
You probably saw that picture going around the web. So let’s just get it out in the open. Yes, Gwen Stacy dies in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s not exactly how it goes down in the comics, but it’s more or less the same. Green Goblin is involved, and Gwen’s neck snaps when Peter tries to save her. Goodbye, Emma Stone. We hardly knew ye.
While I knew this was the eventual outcome for Gwen, I’m kind of annoyed that director Marc Webb and the writers decided to include her death in the sequel when it should’ve been held off until the third film (but we’ll get to that in a moment when we talk Harry Osborn).
Peter and Gwen barely dated in the first movie, and in this movie, they’re on the outs for most of the time. So it felt like we really didn’t get to see their relationship grow in a way that made her death leave an actual void, you know? Sure, it was sad, but like everything else in this movie, it was rushed. Rather than forcing a serious character change for Peter Parker and Spider-Man, we got a montage of his sad face in a cemetery before he’s like “Well, back to saving the city!”
And I’m pretty sure the only reason Gwen’s death was rushed was because Harry Osborn/Green Goblin’s story was rushed. Like, Jesus, Sony. We get it. You want to make a Sinister Six film. But do you really have to sacrifice Norman Osborn so quickly (especially when you want to dig deeper into Oscorp and Richard Parker’s work)? And does Harry Osborn really need to just show up, ask Peter what’s up, and then instantly turn into a psychopath? Character development, goddamnit. I don’t believe you when you tell me Harry and Peter are good friends because you never showed it to me (Show vs. tell, guys).
Introducing Harry in this movie is fine so that you can establish his friendship with Peter. But the third movie would’ve been the place to start fleshing him out as a crazy asshole so that he and Peter could actually butt heads and eventually fall out when Harry directly—or indirectly, depending on your perspective—causes Gwen’s death. I mean, Green Goblin is a great villain. He shouldn’t share the spotlight with lesser villains (that is, until the inevitably bad Sinister Six film).
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a decent sequel, but the lack of structure when it comes to character and plot development is so weak that the action sequences and big-budget CGI can’t cover the blemishes. It’s not hard to make an action-packed and well-written movie (See: Captain America: The Winter Soldier). But I guess some production companies are too busy profiting from merchandise and keeping their contracts away from Disney to craft a solid film.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2: B+
For my radio review of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 26:50 mark).