In 2012 Andrew Garfield and co re-wrote the Spider-Man play book and manage to breathe new life into a tired and seemingly dead or dying franchise. Another re-imagining of the story of Peter Parker, keeping as far away from the old as possible. The first Amazing Spider-Man certainly managed to quell the doubters, the ones who thought 5 years wasn’t a long enough wait for a reboot, with a rather stunning addition to the comic-book / superhero genre. The hype machine became fully alive for the second offering, with many a viewer salivating with anticipation (myself very much included) and there was a lot of hope that the new cast and crew would allow the Spider-Man franchise to compete on a similar box office and critically acclaimed level to Nolan’s Batman trilogy and any of Marvels Avengers output.
Unfortunately second time is not a charm for the Spider-Man franchise, in a nutshell the film is a bit of a mess, seemingly confused about it’s own identity. Starting with a rather light hearted and comical tone, it suddenly lurches to super serious in tone moments later and continues on this back and forth for the films duration. It’s trying to incorporate what makes The Avengers (it’s light hearted humour) and The Dark Knight trilogy (dark and serious tone) so great but never manages to fully convince at either of these. Not content with being bi-polar, it manages to suffer from multiple personality syndrome, veering briefly into a bog standard National Treasure-esq adventure caper, complete with conspiracy theories and underground wonders. I’m all for films trying to think outside the box when it comes to exhibiting a formulaic genre but it needs to fully convince with it’s core message before venturing out into other fields.
As hard as the assorted players have tried to steer away from the comparisons to the Raimi Spider-Man films, it’s almost impossible to not see significant shared issues that exist within the two worlds. Everyone knows the problems with Spider-Man 3 and how it seemingly blew it’s load with villain overkill and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just no different, with 2 bad guys craving Spider-Mans head on a platter. There’s no time to fully flesh out all of the characters, leaving the film feeling like a bit of a rush job. Dane DeHann, Peter Parker’s long lost old friend Harry Osborne, is quite frankly a poor choice for The Green Goblin, coming off at most times as nothing more than a bland, monotone, almost-reading-off-an-autocue kid with daddy issues. The Goblin himself, seems to have taken most of his cues from the Joker, looks and feel wise, making the character feel more like a poor imitator than a dyed in the wool nasty little so and so. But the problem isn’t just with Osborne himself. Going back to the films villain overkill and inability to flesh out characters fully, the script never really manages to convince us of their friendship and long past, despite Garfield’s best intentions.
Whilst the finale does look visually stunning, as do the opening acts with Spider-Man web slinging his way across New York, it suffers from never really having a proper finishing point. There seemed to be at least 3 or 4 occasions when I was ready to leave the cinema as I presumed it was the end. There’s just too many climatic scenes for one film and rather than being blown away by a climatic ending, it just leaves the viewer clock watching and asking themselves why the film is dragging its multiple finales out.
To its credit, or rather to Garfield and Emma Stones credit, there are a couple of heartbreaking scenes between the two which carry quite a lot of emotional gravitas, their chemistry really being the main shining light in this sequel.
I genuinely wanted to adore The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and it pains me to be so scathing of it, but it really is a mess of a sequel. Its major identity crisis with what film it wanted to be, not learning from the mistakes of the past Spidey offerings and seemingly trying to pander to every fan-boys request means that it’s just a rather uninspiring and confused effort. Sony should consider handing the rights to someone who can continue the franchise and steer it in the right direction. The main pieces are all there, it just needs a little love and care in order to develop into one of the greatest franchises of our generation.