That (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb’s first instalment in this Marvel franchise reboot, 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, failed to live up to its presumptive title was something of a disappointment, as a refreshing take on the web-slinger was much needed after the bloated mess that was Sam Raimi’s previous trilogy closer, Spider-Man 3 (2007). Returning to directing duties for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Webb – aided by screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci and Jeff Pinkner – clearly goes for the taken sequel analogy that bigger means better, yet his (and Marvel Studios’) drive to piece this sequel together with a larger ensuing collage ultimately proves to be its unfortunate undoing.
Returning as the titular arachnid-inflected superhero is British actor Andrew Garfield, who here remarkably builds upon his simultaneous devotion to and clear understanding of a teenage outsider attempting to grasp the great responsibilities of his even greater powers. Since defeating The Lizard last time round, Peter Parker spends his days fighting crime and protecting the citizens of New York City, all the while maintaining his status as a student and keeping his beloved Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) out of harm’s way. Events, naturally, conspire against everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man with the arrival of the villainous Electro (a woefully miscast Jamie Foxx), an electronically enhanced force of rage who seeks retribution from the OsCorp employees who once ignored him.
Enticed by the scheming machinations of newly moneyed Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who deduces that Spider-Man’s blood will save him from the same degenerative illness that recently took his father, the two form a dynamic, destructive duo that force Peter to act in order to save both his identity and his cherished city. Like Iron Man 2 (2010) before it, which was far too concerned with the bigger franchise picture than it was delivering a satisfying instalment, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a somewhat deliberately frantic first step in what Marvel intends to be an overarching schema involving Spidey’s excursions with The Sinister Six. While an exciting prospect, the film willingly trades agreeable pacing for an overstuffed structure that attempts to introduce as many supervillains (three in total) in what will eventually be a formidable, malevolent posse while attempting to be wholly coherent.
While this allows for the inclusion of a variety of impressively rendered and choreographed action sequences, it robs character interactions of their chance to breathe, even going so far as to deprive a third act tragedy of emotional impact due to the desire to get to a place-setting coda. Equally skipped over is this reboot’s alleged spine: the uncovering of the mystery behind Peter’s absent parents, though – save for an action-packed opening sequence – this is skipped over in favour of relentless over-plotting elsewhere. Perhaps this will be picked up in a planned third outing, The Amazing Spider-Man 3, that will up the proverbial ante – though, considering the studio’s grander interests, this seems unlikely.
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