“I like to believe the Spider-Man gives people hope.”
You’ve more than likely heard this quote during Amazing Spider-Man 2’s marketing campaign and as a fan of the wallcrawler myself, I find it rings true here. There’s a strong theme of hope woven throughout the film as Andrew Garfield once again dons the red and blues as New York’s Amazing Spider-Man. Following the events of the previous Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker has more than settled into his role of the webslinger now and seems to carry it in stride though he may still struggle to find a balance between Spider-Man and a life of his own. But can Spider-Man protect his city from his newest foe Electro? How do you defeat an enemy that moves like lightning and packs just as much of a wallop? Add to this the return of Peter’s old friend, Harry Osborn and some fantastic chemistry with returning star Emma Stone and you’re in for a hell of a ride.
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone effortlessly expand upon the romance, roadblocks and perils of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy from the previous Amazing Spider-Man. Garfield and Stone share a wonderfully intoxicating chemistry on screen with one another to the point where I honestly felt like a third wheel watching these two date. With scenes of love and heartbreak that feel all too natural this romance is a corner stone for the film. Caught between wanting to uphold his responsibilities and keep Gwen safe from what Spider-Man brings, while being hopelessly drawn to one another, Peter now finds his relationship and responsibilities colliding. All of this makes for fantastic acting from Garfield and Stone as the work to overcome insurmountable odds and find a way to align their paths.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 works to introduce a host of new villains to the franchise too with Jamie Foxx bringing Max Dillon aka Electro to the big screen for the first time. Electro is basically an accident waiting to happen in this film; tragically it’s one of those “If only somebody cared” accidents that could have been avoided. Anyone remember Milton from Office Space? As the proverbial sad sack at Oscorp he’s isolated, unappreciated and largely unnoticed. After a brief encounter with Spider-Man however he becomes obsessed with the webhead before a laboratory accident that gives rise to Electro. With a dazzling action sequence in Times Square Electro now sees Spider-Man as his enemy and will do whatever it takes to make him pay.
Foxx’s performance here as Electro is an interesting one but I’ll admit it is hard to buy Jamie Foxx as the pocket protector wearing lab geek before he amps up as Electro.
Also introduced in Amazing Spider-Man 2 is Harry Osborn, an old friend of Peter’s from years ago. Right away Dane DeHaan won me over. He’s a fantastically complex character set on a compelling and personal journey that practically writes itself through the film. Introduced as a spoilt entitled brat, DeHann fools us all until a “bros before they become foes” scene where we discover the friendship between Parker and the young Osborn and all before his vulnerabilities are brought to light and we see the 20 year old DiCaprio lookalike desperate to escape his legacy in a portrayal that wins genuine emotion from the audience. Harry Osborn is such a wonderfully interesting and complex character that by the time he does become full on Goblin you feel as though you’ve really lost a part of this character for the price of a faster development towards the end of the film.
With Sally Fields returning as Aunt May too there are some great scenes and parallels in the relationship between Peter and May as each keep their secrets to try and protect one another. As the woman who raised him, May struggles to uphold her strength while she guides “her boy” on his quest to uncover the truth about his parents. Field’s delivers some powerfully emotional truths that breathe a new depth in their relationship. Delivering that trademark advice that guides Peter on multiple levels of life Sally Fields nails her performance as Aunt May as far as I’m concerned.
Oh did I mention there’s action? This film boasts a serious helping of action scenes with breath-taking special effects and stunts. The Times Square scene alone is worth your money. Spider-Man hasn’t looked this good since redesigned his webs in the 90’s. The new suit is the closest you’ll ever see to the comic book and having seen this in both 3D and 2D I can confess my unpopular opinion and tell you all that the 3D does actually work really well and not just in the action scenes.
I know most people hate 3D and are just waiting for it to go away but I know some of those same people who have seen this in 3D and were left speechless with how it complements the action and blends perfectly elsewhere. Spider-Man’s webslinging scenes are really something to behold, eagle eyed fans will spot all the famous character poses and subtle gestures brought to the big screen. A perfect example of this is a scene where Peter literally just crosses the road. Using his spider-sense to guide him while he keeps his stare matched with Gwen’s we’ve got a dazed Parker edging his way seemingly lost through rush hour traffic. The casual use of Spider-Man’s abilities like this pops up a few time throughout the film and it really is a joy to see it done. Another subtle treat is the reflection of Peter’s mind-state though his room. It’s as if you’re seeing into his head. Through the film this space becomes a visual guide for Peter’s mind with increasingly unresolved projects dominating a presence there and Peter’s inability to distract himself from what he’s tried to bury or hide before the films immense climax. A climax I won’t talk about here. Trust me it’s for the best.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a lot going on in it yes, but it does manage to accomplish a lot. Admittedly there are some aspects that deserve more time to unfold but given Sony’s decision to branch out and franchise the Spider-Man universe a lot has been deliberately unresolved thus far in a way to sow the seeds for what’s to come. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. With plenty of names dropped and references to the comic book series and plot points yet to be expanded upon, there’s definitely more to come. But getting back to the themes though, as I said earlier there’s a strong theme of hope woven throughout this film. Gwen talks about the importance of hope on dark days in a speech delivered early on in the film and why it’s important to hold onto it. You’ll see moments like this in Amazing Spider-Man 2, terrifying, uplifting and beautiful moments. To see a hero lose his hope, and not only recover it but to become the embodiment of hope for others in spite of his everything past is truly uplifting.