The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (3 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by: Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci (Star Trek), Jeff Pinkner (Lost)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, and Jaime Foxx
In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, director Marc Webb is quoted as saying "I told my friends I want to "unleash my inner Bay." Webb goes on to discuss the visual impact Michael Bay has had, and states there is a spectacle to things I want to embrace. If that's used in service of creating drama for that character, and exploring a physical or emotional dilemma, then it feels great." While I get the point to this in his interview, and hell I will give Michael Bay credit; he is strong with visuals, its an interesting stance to blend with Webb's signature style, which brings strong emotional character development to the table.
In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter (Garfield) and Gwen (Stone) are about to graduate high school, but Peter is stopped on the way to the ceremony, by a thug trying to steal from Oscorp. Peter saves the day, and manages to walk accepting his diploma, but he misses Gwen's speech. The balance of being a boyfriend, family member, friend, along with being a super hero, is of course at the center of the story. At the end of the first in this franchise, Spidey promises Chief Stacey (Gwen's dad), he will stay away from her in order to protect her from the people he fights against.
As Spider-Man Peter also represents something to the unknowns, the people helps from bullies or flying cars. Spidey save Max Dillon in opening montage, saying "he is his eyes and ears." Dillon is a bit of loser, and takes this message to heart. After a tragic accident at Oscorp, Max's body soon becomes a giant blue beam (think Watchmen), and unknowingly becomes someone everyone can see. Oh and Peter's friend Harry Osborne comes back into the picture as his father is about to die.
Sounds like too much, it might be, Jamie Foxx was miscast in this role which reminded of the Riddler, pre-transformation, in Batman Forever. I would have liked someone who was a bit more of a sociopath, they went the well intended victim route like with Lizard in the first film. I do not know that there was a point to that. I am not sure if Electro or Max Dillon needed to be a part of the film. From day one when this was announced, the film got a lock of flack, and as the images started to leak online there was even more uproar, maybe Webb and Sony Pictures should have tested this out a bit more. With that said the fight sequences, and visual effects centered around Electro were awesome. If Webb was look to capture the visual mastery of Michael Bay, he did a good job, the visual effects are masterful, even in 3-D.
On the other hand, Webb is a great at blending the action, and emotional character depth, which helps this film to be much more successful than the original trio of films. Garfield and Stone have terrific chemistry, maybe in part because they are a real life couple, but I think there is something magical about Webb and the way he can make you feel connected to two people in a film; he did this with (500) Days of Summer too. Webb uses Sally Field more wisely as Aunt May in this film; she does a great job with Garfield where she explains her hurt in his search for what happened to his parents; she exclaims "you are my boy." Webb's personal touches like this make this super hero story have more of an emotional impact on the viewer. With that said, it's time to keep the story of Peter's parents in that box where Peter puts things.
So is the film too much, is it an over stuffed mess? No, the team behind these films just need to focus a bit more. I would have used Rhino a little more, since they are trying to focus on the Sinister Six, and if you wanted to create an emotionally charged story then maybe just stick with the Harry Osborne character. Dane DeHaan, was fantastic in this role, while I have always seen Harry as a less smart Norman Osborne, or too whiny, Webb captures that the malicious apple does not fall too far from the tree. DeHaan has made some impressive impact in his short career in The Place Beyond the Pines, and Kill Your Darlings. I loved watching his smile turn evil, and the laugh he had while turned into the new Green Goblin, that's how you do that, not some stupid metallic costume. I think if Webb should have focused on his relational style of direction and built more of the film around the emotional connection friendship.
Even with some complaints this series feels the way I envisioned live action Spider-Man films. Garfield is great as Peter; he has made a name for himself playing the more sensitive guy, from Lions for Lambs to his role as Eduardo Savrin in The Social Network, and this makes Peter a more interesting hero. Garfield's signature Spidey wit, captures everything I envision with this character. While Stone his leading lady, and could be seen as secondary; she also helps keep the film franchise on its toes with her wit, allowing her to be more than just a damsel. This duo's chemistry, mixed with the stunning visuals, are worth it, see this in IMAX 3-D. The film is entertaining, a bit long, but entertaining.