The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Dir: Marc Webb
This is the last we’ll see of this particular Spidey, and I for one, though excited for the future and pleased about the way the character rights have been negotiated, am still sad to see Andrew Garfield leaving the role.
Really getting to grips with his abilities and hero status as Spider-Man, Peter Parker is still struggling with his teenage years especially regarding his difficult relationship with girlfriend Gwen (Emma Stone). When a quiet Oscorp employee (Jamie Foxx) has a fateful accident, Peter faces his toughest challenges yet, facing powerful enemy Electro, while dealing with personal turmoil related to his parents, old friends, and the girl he loves.
Other than ‘The Interview’, one of the most widely reported parts of the Sony hack were leaked emails about Sony’s plans for Spider-Man. It would be nice to think that the hackers inadvertently did us all a favour, because something certainly led to Marvel and Sony coming to a really good agreement over the character and the way forward for the films. However, this film, and the lead actor, have taken quite a heavy battering of criticism, much of which should have remained private, and some of which is unfair.
The movie itself has been bemoaned a lot, but when it was released I thought people (critics included) quite enjoyed it. I feel the situation is a bit like ‘Superman Returns’, which when released it was praised decently enough, but once the studio had declared it a failure everyone else piled on top with retroactive criticism. Certainly, it’s not perfect and doesn’t rival the franchise high point of ‘Spider-man 2’. Quite predictably, this film suffers somewhat from the issue of ‘Spider-man 3’, that of having too many villains and a bit too much going on. Interestingly, a few months ago Sam Raimi admitted that ‘Spider-man 3’ was “awful”, something I could have told him years ago when I left the cinema after seeing it. For all those saying that this film is bad, they should watch that one again and reassess what they think bad really is.
I have never liked the Green Goblin in live-action films, it was by far the weakest part of the original ‘Spider-Man’ in my opinion. I think Dane Dehaan is great as Harry Osbourne, but when he transforms into the Goblin his appearance becomes just too silly for a film that otherwise aims for quality visuals, and again the character becomes the movie’s weakness. There are some positives though, such as some strong, though ultimately fruitless, development of the relationship between Peter and Gwen, whose chemistry and interpretations of their characters are hard to fault. Different strands of the story do have a habit of pulling away from where attention needs to be, and so I don’t think that we really get the full sense of Jamie Foxx’s character Max Dillon who transforms into reluctant villain Electro. Though his origins are shown clearly, there’s a subtlety and depth to the character development that I think may have been filmed, but ultimately got discarded on the cutting room floor. Especially as we know there was a lot more planned for this film that was edited out, with the most notable excision being a whole character played by Shailene Woodley. THis leads me to think that there were countless script modifications and re-edits that changed the intended project completely from what was originally scripted, then intended to be the second part of a three or four movie run, and resulted in this unbalanced piece, that falls short of its clear potential.
However, I don’t think it’s a terrible film. The rebooted franchise clearly had many of the pieces right, and so it’s a shame it’s all now being scrapped and rebooted without Andrew Garfield, it’s a case of throwing the baby (sorry Andrew) out with the bathwater. The film took the character in a direction that had otherwise not been explored in the original trilogy, and left things in such a way that a properly developed third and fourth film could’ve been excellent. Sony clearly got cold feet about the franchise and then floundered on which direction if any to take it, but there’s still clearly an audience who want to see more of this character. I’m very glad that Marvel Studios are now involved, their ability to take even the least-known and loved characters and turn them into hugely succesful and enjoyable movie franchises is undeniable, and so guiding Sony’s ship with such a hugely popular hero will be an exciting thing to see.
I almost wish Andrew Garfield hadn’t been in the two ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ movies now, as I think he would have been high on Marvel’s list to put in the suit for their film, but they have no choice but to recast the role now for a completely fresh start. Andrew Garfield was brilliant casting in the suit as I felt that while a good Spider-Man, he’s even more well-cast and effective as Peter Parker. The critics are right, the scripts and screenplays are often the weak factor with movies like this, letting down the other strong elements. It’s easy to see that for example ‘Spider-man 2’ is a better film than ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’, but if given the right script Andrew Garfield would have easily proven the perfect casting choice from contemporary actors, he got the wit and mischevy of an empowered Peter Parker just right. If everything else was as solid as his portrayal of the character he would still be in the role, though maybe we wouldn’t have the excitement of Spider-Man joining the Marvel Universe and taking his rightful place, as Andrew Garfield once wished he could, as an Avenger.