Overstuffed but still entertaining, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a close to average summer blockbuster.
Its greatest merit? Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) and the character she plays. Courtesy of Stone, director Marc Webb and seven credited writers, Gwen Stacy is complex and interesting, becoming someone whom viewers can admire.
The picture’s visual spectacle is almost as strong. Spider-Man’s (Andrew Garfield) exploits are visually impressive, as are Electro’s (Jamie Foxx) and near everything else we see.
The audio design and score compliment on screen events well.
So do most of the performances. Garfield, Sally Field (Aunt May), Stone, Dane Dehaan (Harry Osborne) and Colm Feore (Donald Menken) are all excellent.
Jaimie Foxx, on the other hand, is miscast. While a multi-talented performer, Foxx is too handsome, too muscular, too recognizable to play Max Dillon, a supposed cipher. In Foxx’s hands, partially at no fault of his own, Max is not what he’s meant to be; instead, he seems a movie star with a bad hair-do.
There are also far too many characters in this film. Electro could be an interesting foil for Spider-Man. Ditto that for the Green Goblin/Harry, or the Rhinoceros (Paul Giamatti), but because there are so many villains, none of them are aptly developed.
Of them, Harry is the worst. His transformation from friendly and moral to rage-filled and villainous is too-sudden, which is also true of his hatred for Peter.
Furthermore, Harry’s illness is senseless. His father (Chris Cooper), suffering from the same sickness, lived to middle age, most of that time reasonably comfortably, whereas Harry is near death at twenty. Why?
Aunt May is underdeveloped and underutilized, a fact which means Sally Field’s empathic performance is wasted.
Even more troublingly, Peter Parker’s personal journey is rushed, at every stage. He undergoes no less than three major internal conflicts. 1. To be or not to be with Gwen; 2. To help or not to help Harry; 3. To be or not to be Spider-Man. All three could make for compelling narrative, but the filmmakers misstep by shoving them into the same two hour film. They don’t have time to properly develop any of them, which means all fail to resonate.
Yet, there are some powerful moments here. Consider the clock tower scene, where Webb shows the truth and then patiently lets its settle on Spider-Man. From there Garfield takes over; his performance produces the finest moments of the franchise, at least thus far.
Finally, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 remembers it’s an action summer-blockbuster and is always fun.