A film review by Craig J. Koban May 7, 2014 


2014, PG-13, 142 mins.


Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker / Spider Man  /  Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy  /  Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon / Electro  /  Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn  /  Colm Feore as Donald Menken  /  Felicity Jones as Felicia  /  Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich / The Rhino  /  Sally Field as Aunt May  /  Marton Csokas as Dr. Kafka  /  Embeth Davidtz as Mary Parker  /  Denis Leary as Captain Stacy  /  Chris Zylka as Flash Thompson  /  B.J. Novak as Allistar Smythe

Directed by Marc Webb  /  Written by Alex Kurtzman,  Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner

WATCH my review of the film on CTV Morning Live Saskatoon HERE


If you pardon the immediate pun, it’s amazing – if not a bit head-scratchingly incredulous - how new sequels commit the same cinematic sins of past sequels, but that’s precisely what THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 does.  

This is the fifth film in twelve years involving everyone’s favorite Marvel Comics wall-crawler, the second film in the new retrofitted series and the fifth if you include it with Sam Raimi’s original SPIDER-MAN trilogy.  Although arguably unnecessary, 2012’s THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN reboot was a welcome surprise for how it added a refreshing layer of grit and dramatic edge to the character, which made the film stand well on its own two feet.  THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is a bigger, bolder, lighter, more colorful and action packed film than its predecessor, but more, alas, does not mean more.  That, and the film is replete with too many characters, too many subplots, and too many unresolved story arcs for its own good. 

This is the same undesirable fate that struck SPIDER-MAN 3, a well-intentioned, but messily and haphazardly written send-off entry in Raimi’s series, which felt compelled to cram in far too many new villains without really developing them to their fullest.  THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 does much of the same, this time throwing in not one, not two, but three super-powered antagonists (albeit, one is more of a book-ended cameo) on top of continuing a mystery storyline involving the disappearance of Peter Parker’s long-absentee parents.  Beyond that, screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, and Jeff Pinker are also forced to deal with the on-again/off-again love affair of Peter and Gwen Stacey, Peter’s guilt over a vow he made to her deceased father, and Peter’s own turbulent relationship with his aunt.  There’s enough material for two or three films, let alone one, but THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 regrettably feels like it hastily threw in as many canonical elements from Spidey lore as possible in pathetic hopes of thinking that they would all smoothly coalesce together in one 142-minute film.  No dice. 



As THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 kicks off we are introduced to a more cocky, self-assured, and free-wheeling teenaged Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, actually 30, but blessed with 18-year-old good looks) that has hit his full stride as his spandex clad vigilante, whom has now become a mostly loved – but somewhat feared – crusader of justice for Manhattan.  Even though Peter seems to get unending thrills from his super hero extracurricular activities, he’s still somewhat haunted by the promise that he made to Captain Stacey (Denis Leary), who died in the previous film, but beforehand made Peter swear that he’d stay clear of his daughter Gwen (Emma Stone) to keep her safe.  While struggling with his feelings of love versus his honor bound duty, Peter still desperately tries to keep his alter ego a secret from his Aunt May (Sally Field) while dealing with further angst ridden feelings over the abandonment of his parents all those years ago. 

Adding to Peter’s long list of woes is the appearance of Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) in his life, a meek minded engineer working for Oscorp that develops a huge man-crush on Spider-man after being saved by him.  Unfortunately, Max falls victim to a terrible accident involving him falling into a vat filled filled with mutated electric eels (ouch) and is transformed into Electro, who soon develops a deep harboring hatred for Spider-man.  Concurrent to this is the reappearance of Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), an old pal of Peter’s that has returned from boarding school to see his dying father, Norman (Chris Cooper, criminally underused here), who is dying from an illness that will eventually – through heredity – strike poor Harry.  As he begins to exhibit symptoms, Harry discovers that the key to his survival lies in Spider-man’s blood.  However, when the hero turns him down out of fears of unwanted possible side-effects of such a risky experiment, Harry decides to utilize an even riskier Oscorp procedure that horrendously mutates him inside and out, leaving poor ol’ Spidey having to deal with two super villains with deep grudges. 

Mark Webb, who previously made THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, is back at the directorial helm again and, more than ever, seems to really have an affinity for getting into the headspaces of his actors, which benefits this sequel quite finely.  THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is at its most endearing when it’s honing in on quieter, more introspective moments between the characters, which is greatly assisted by the wonderfully nuanced, natural, and unforced chemistry exhibited by Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.  Their respective performances always manage to bring a low-key verisimilitude and dramatic honesty to the story that films like this desperately require, which helps make the more outlandish moments in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 that much easier to swallow.  Garfield himself – as shown before - has an immediate likeability, even when Peter’s own youthful arrogance and naiveté gets the better of him.  Garfield’s Peter is still the lonely outsider that Tobey Maguire’s version was, but this Peter seems more darkly conflicted and emotionally uncertain.  As is the case with all comic book films, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is in solid form when it focuses in on the man behind the mask. 

Unfortunately, it’s Webb’s insistence on stripping away the grit that he concocted in the first film while simultaneously overstuffing this new film with an overabundance of…well…everything…that sort of betrays the rock steady performances.  Visually, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN just may be the best looking of all five films, and no expense was spared in giving us virtuoso CG-enhanced shots of the arachnid-powered hero in action (more than ever, you get an adrenaline rushing first-person feel for what it would be like to scale buildings and swing through the city as the hero so easily can).  Yet, for as glossy and well orchestrated as the effects and action are here, they seem to draw too much fetishistic attention to themselves and have the negative effect of subverting any sense of earth-bound tension and intrigue in the film.   

Webb’s noble mindedness in trying to marry a summer tentpole/event film aesthetic with thoughtful characters and drama aside, the director can’t seem to get a sense of tonal ebb and flow to the proceedings.  The all-over-the-map screenplay further stymies the film, especially when trying to develop and embellish both Electro and Harry Osborn as well rounded and compelling antagonists.  Jamie Foxx’s Electro is a large misfire, who seems to be the product of the BATMAN FOREVER school of campy and one-note super villains.  Dane Dahaan, the wonderfully intuitive actor from CHRONICLE, LAWLESS, and THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, is a terrific fit to evoke the sad, tragic, and downright creepy downfall of Harry Osborn, but his arc with Peter could have been that much more nurtured if Electro were excised from the film altogether.  Added to this is an inexplicable blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo by Paul Giamatti as Russian baddie Aleksi Sytsevich, who comic book aficionados know from the source material as The Rhino.  Yet, I must ask: Why hire an Oscar winning talent to appear in a film like this and then give him virtually nothing to do but serve as a placeholder wink to future installments? 

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 achieves a rather strong, gut-punching emotional wallop in its final 15 minutes that echoes a famous storyline from the comics, and it's handled with reasonably assuredness by Webb and his fine cast, but far too much of the film feels like one overlong and cobbled together two and half hour build up to it.  It’s sad, because Garfield’s moments with Stone and Field (so thanklessly good as her empowered, but deeply vulnerable surrogate paternal figure) ring with so much truth, but the unfocused, unbalanced, and too-jam-packed scripting fails to compliment them.  I understand the need for films like THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 to deliver as an extravaganza summer film and as a big budget sequel, but its undoing is that it tries to achieve too much and cater to too many fanboy whims.  This is not a bad comic book film, per se, as much as it is just an undisciplined and overcrowded one.  

Let’s hope they get it right for number three.


CrAiGeR's other



Spider-Man 2 (2004)  jjjj

Spider-Man 3 (2007)  jj1/2

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN  (2012)  jjj1/2


And, for what it's worth, his ranking of the SPIDER-MAN films:


1.  SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) jjjj

2.  THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012) jjj1/2

3.  SPIDER-MAN (2002) jjj

4.  THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2  (2014)  jj1/2

5.  SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007) jj1/2






  H O M E