Writers: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Ocri, Jeff Pinker
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Denis Leary, Paul Giamatti, BJ Novak, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott
Running time: 142mins
The lowdown: Aptly named director Marc Webb spins a sequel superior to his déjà-vu afflicted 2012 reboot. A fresh story, new villain courtesy of Jamie Foxx’s Electro, enhanced action set-pieces and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone’s chemistry make this reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. Shame that a lurch into ill-advised darker territory scuppers much of the good work, leaving you feeling you’ve been duped into caring about all the brightly coloured motion and emotion.
The full verdict: Note to filmmakers. Just because Christopher Nolan made $2.5bn theatrical off his Batman trilogy, doesn’t mean all superhero films should scurry into the shadows.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffers from a third act shift that seems misjudged and callous after two hours of nicely played action, pathos and humour.
Up until then this seems to justify Sony’s decision for a super quick reboot and expands the story in interesting directions.
Peter Parker still wrestles with the guilt of dating girlfriend Gwen after promising her deceased father (Leary) he would stay clear so as not to endanger her. The mystery of his vanished parents is also unearthed as the plucky superhero turns super sleuth.
And he has two villains to contend with: Jamie Foxx’s good-natured loser Max Dillon turned crackling bad guy Electro, and Dane DeHaan as best friend Harry Osborn, succumbing to a hereditary wasting disease and convinced the cure is in Spider-Man’s blood. Nice to have villains whose diabolical schemes originate in trauma rather than a simple thirst for power.
Webb juggles these plot threads over a lengthy 142 minutes running time, but corners are clearly being cut. Max transforms into the love child of Watchmen’s Dr Manhattan and Return of the Jedi’s The Emperor merely by falling into a water tank with electric eels and faulty wiring, BJ Novak’s needling boss is dropped after two sightings while Chris Cooper is uncredited in his one moment as Norman Osborn.
No wonder Divergent star Shailene Woodley’s scenes as rival love interest Mary-Jane hit the Recycle Bin.
There is also the unfortunate superhero trend of unceremoniously dumping the mother. Embeth Davidtz as Peter’s ma goes the same way as Superman’s mum, but dad Campbell Scott’s ambiguous fate leaves the door open for a return.
Happily, Andrew Garfield wears the red and blue costume like a second skin, cracking wise with villains mid-brawl while defending the innocent, and the aerial webslinging sequences pack a joyous, vertiginous giddiness absent from 2012’s movie.
The action is as thrilling and photo-realistic as the $200m price tag would suggest, particularly a Times Square spar between Electro and Spider-Man, even if their climactic showdown is low wattage and plays second fiddle to Harry Osborn’s emerald alter-ego reveal.
This time the drama matches the fireworks. Garfield and Stone spark in the way Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson never could and Sally Field is allowed a couple of scenes to show her double Oscar winning chops as an economically challenged Aunt May.
And, with Paul Giamatti’s Rhino being moved into place for The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and a set of Octopus-like tentacles making a cameo appearance, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the first step on the road to that Sinister Six movie, and a gauntlet throw down to Disney’s The Avengers.
All of which makes that dark third act shift doubly ill-conceived and deflating.
Here’s hoping next time they let a little light in to guide the way.