When everyone’s friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler was rebooted in 2012 it was to scoffs, with the credits having barely rolled on Sam Raimi’s version of the comic book superhero. Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man was largely a retread of the 2002 original but excelled in the improved chemistry between its leads, and in bringing a more faithful Peter Parker – played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield – to audiences. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) swings into UK cinemas next week, and while it shares problems with its predecessor, it also confirms Garfield as the very best big screen iteration of Spidey. What’s more, there’s even perhaps an argument that he’s the strongest of all of Marvel’s movie misfits.
The story picks up where it left off; Peter and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) happily romancing between the former’s web-slinging escapades. Peter is in constant turmoil regarding his promise to Gwen’s father that he would protect her by keeping her at arm’s length. This seems like a sage idea when a new adversary, Electro (Jamie Foxx), surges into New York with a vendetta against Spider-Man. At the same time, Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to town, and the mystery around the disappearance of Peter’s parents continues to thicken. If it sounds as though there is a lot going on, that is because there is. The plot threads are woven into an intricate web that admittedly ticks along at a brisk pace, but certain elements do feel a little short-changed to cram everything in.
This particularly affects the chosen antagonists who all seem to veer speedily from minor grievance to megalomaniacal super-villainy. Some of this is clearly laying groundwork for the next instalment (Osborn), some is intentionally over the top (Paul Giamatti’s enjoyable cameo as brutish antagonist Rhino), and some doesn’t quite work at all, such as Jamie Foxx’s amped-up nemesis. Fortunately, the film is still about the Amazing Spider-Man and Garfield’s embodiment of the character is just that. Where his first outing dipped a toe in Spidey’s trademark wit, this time around it has been perfected – both in and out of the mask. He hurls as many jibes at his foes as webs and consistently hits the comic mark.
Stone is once again fantastic and every scene between herself and Garfield crackles and delights. Webb additionally shows more mastery of his visuals in his second crack of the whip even if he remains more adept at the character work. The action is never mind-blowingly spectacular but the web-slinging itself has been upgraded with Garfield’s confidence seamlessly filtered into the sequences. Although it fundamentally has many of the same issues as the first film, the strengths are enhanced in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and it’s certainly a step forward for the franchise. Now, let’s give the web-head a villain worthy of his attention.
Marvel fans can always count on Spider-Man to clean up crime in New York City. Just like a cleaning service or after-hours janitor cleans up the back streets and alleyways of the city, Spidey takes on small-time crooks and super-villains with wit and style to make the city safe again.