Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bonus Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Here it is. The sequel to the superhero reboot that nobody felt was really needed. Marc Webb returns to direct, everyone gets to reprise their onscreen roles, and the new faces are all welcome additions. It may still lag behind the Raimi movies, but this is a step up from the film preceding it.

Things are about to get pretty stressful for your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man/Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield). He's worried about how his superhero duties may endanger the lovely Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), he still wants to find out more about his parents (played by Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz), and there's a new villain to deal with in the shape of crackling, supercharged Electro (Jamie Foxx). And when Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) comes back into town . . . . . . . . . . well, I think most fans of Spidey will know what's going to happen there.

Deftly stepping between light and dark moments, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels, at times, like a teen comedy riff on the character. From the opening sequence, showing a determined villain (Paul Giamatti), driving through town with a load of stolen plutonium while Spider-Man tries to stop him, to the very last scene of the film, Spider-Man seems completely at ease win his role, and sure that he'll win out. Thankfully, the movie throws enough at him to give him doubt, but it's fun to hang out with a superhero who doesn't spend the majority of the film as a tortured soul. Oh, he has his moments, but they don't taint the entire movie. This is a fun blockbuster, but one that ups the stakes just in time for a gripping third act.

The script, by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, is fine, I guess. Everything is sketched out well enough, and Garfield gets a lot of lines that provide laughs, but it's also very heavy-handed at times (although that's nothing new when it comes to Spider-Man movies). It's admirable that the film never feels rushed or overloaded, despite the extra villains in the mix, as well as the developed backstory for Peter's absent parents.

Webb clearly has a blast this time around, and that feeling is shared with the viewing audience. Swing around the town with Spidey, revel in some of the huge set-pieces that provide some great eye candy, and enjoy the fights that always seem to allow Spider-Man one or two of his usual smartass lines, no matter how beaten and out of breath he is. The CGI certainly dominates at times, especially in the second half, but it's all polished enough to make the excess a bit easier to accept.

The other element making things easier to accept is the great cast. Garfield and Stone are still fantastic in their roles, with the former especially good at doing the slightly mopey teen schtick without seeming too irritating. Sally Field is fine as Aunt May, and Scott and Davidtz are good to see in their small roles. But it's the villains that everyone gets excited for, and what a selection of good folk being bad this movie has for you. Foxx is great, both as the timid and "invisible" Max Dillon and then, later, as the powerful Electro. You really feel sorry for him, in both incarnations, before he decides to embrace his powers and make his mark. Dane DeHaan doesn't get as much sympathy, but he's no less enjoyable as Harry/Green Goblin. Anyone hoping to see much of Giamatti will be disappointed, as his role is little more than an extended cameo this time, but he still does well with the limited screentime. Colm Feore is easy to dislike, as a conniving member of the Oscorp team, Chris Cooper is Norman Osborn, the man responsible (directly and indirectly) for most of the events in the movie, Felicity Jones is sadly underused as Felicia, an assistant to Harry, and there's another Stan Lee cameo, although it's more groan-inducing than amusing in this instance.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks good, sounds good (top marks to Hans Zimmer for the score, especially anything accompanying the scenes featuring Dillon/Electro), and doesn't disappoint anyone looking for superior blockbuster entertainment. It also sets everything up for a mouth-watering next instalment without those building blocks feeling like too much of a distraction. It's not up there with the best of the recent superhero movies, because some of them have really raised the bar of late, but it's a fun time at the cinema and one that I look forward to picking up on shiny disc.


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