Without partaking in the current trend of dividing the title of a sequel with a colon, or adding onto the title of the original movie so as to add flavour such as in the cases of Star Trek Into Darkness, X-Men: First Class, Captain America: The Winter Soldier etc. – Spidey is staying true to the classic numeric coding of yesteryear. And The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a lot of expectations attached to it as The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) not only introduced a franchise for the second time in a decade, but also managed to remove the memory of the first attempt to a less prominent spot in the minds of a whole lot, if not most, of Spidey’s fans. Peter Parker’s journey from nerdy high school student to masked hero is told in both versions through humour, warmth and an understanding of the character, but The Amazing Spider-Man takes it a small step further and, by using such small means, onto a slightly deeper level. And the title with a 2 absolutely holds its own.
I would even go so far as to say that the title with the 2 holds its own – and then some. It opens with two staggering action sequences, leaving the audience barely enough time to draw half a breath between them. The first takes place in a flashback onboard an airplane where shit happens (The Dark Knight Rises, anyone?) and then we are smashed into the second and honest Spidey action as we’re taken to the heart of NYC, a set-up that not only anchors us in the present, but also in Spider-Man’s role as crime fighter and how he’s established a familiar and congenial relationship with the inhabitants of the city: he cares about them, listens to them and encourages them.
The film is truly brimming, not only with action, but also with acting talent. Naturally Andrew Garfield is back as the lead character and I couldn’t tell you if it’s his choices as an actor or Mark Webb’s choices as a director that carries the most weight when it comes to Peter Parker’s characterization, but little moments are added that give him beautiful and simplistic depth. Emma Stone is back as the love interest Gwen Stacy – who, thank the heavens, is allowed to be more than The Reason For The Hero to Be Heroic. The chemistry between Gwen and Peter is as delightful to watch as in the previous installment, and though I sometimes had certain choices make rather wonder at them, I still felt very much engaged by the relationship.
Sally Field returns as Aunt May and the delightful Felicity Jones can be more or less glimpsed in a smaller role, as can Paul Giametti. As public enemy numero uno Jamie Foxx takes on a dual role, as is custom (after all, this is the universe of Spidey, where all men seem to be cursed with inescapable double natures). He starts out as the underappreciated loner Max Dillon and ends up the blue blazing Electro. Added to the mix is actor Dane DeHaan, who creates needed texture (or is it?) for the second act in the form of Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn, back in town due to his father’s deadly illness.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is offering everything one would expect of a blockbuster movie. The CGI is ever present, in an impressive way; the fights are nicely choreographed to actually appeal to the eye and hold your attention for more than the first minute or two; the characters and the relationships between them are granted enough screentime to feel important and leave an impact, giving the audience a chance to actually land in the world of the film inbetwixt all that impressive action; there is humour and drama galore. And perhaps this is the movie’s biggest weakness: the galore of it all. It just gets to be too much of a good thing.
With a plot that contains three threats (yes, count them – three) directed at Spider-Man it doesn’t leave much room to build an actual understanding for any of the true motivation behind these threats, or promote a sense of connection between them and the world they are supposed to wage war on, no matter if that war lies with society at large or Spider-Man specifically. It is attempted with Max Dillon and a rocky base for his motivation is established quickly, but in the end it doesn’t quite hold up and his hunger for revenge feels almost out of character.
Disregarding the above paragraph I still took pleasure in this worthy sequel, much thanks to Spider-Man himself and the portrayal of the character. More than once I found myself cheering silently to myself as I watched him, feeling utterly convinced by him being a hero, a real one, someone who, instead of staying in to eat popcorn and strive for third base with his girl, makes the active choice to put on a mask and go save the lives of perfect strangers. One of the best visual manifestations of this side to him actually takes place in The Amazing Spider-Man when Peter, bloody and beaten up after the final confrontation, returns home to Aunt May, pulls out an egg carton – which she reminded him to buy for her – from his backpack and rests his head on her shoulder as she hugs him, moaning: ”Rough day.” Because, at the end of every day, underneath all the enhanced spider senses, he is just a young guy who makes that active choice to do something heroic with his life. He gives people hope, he’s a role model, and, damn, if he ain’t entertaining to watch on the big screen.