There is a common misconception that I feel I need to deal with. In 2007 Spider-Man 3 turned out to be quite the travesty. The main issue leveled at it was that it had too many villains. That was never the case, how ever many people said it. It was also a bloody lazy thing to say. The issues was that the characters were mishandled. Long established story elements were messed around with, and the one villain that everyone wanted to see was completely miscast. Emo Parker however, cannot be explained. That was just terrible.
So imagine the feeling of unease that fell upon me upon discovering that Harry Osborn, Rhino and Electro would all be squaring up against Andrew Garfield’s Spidey in this latest installment.
It turns out I was right to be concerned, though not quite in the way I feared. I’ll come back to that though.
Peter Parker is loving being a hero. With all the sarcasm and agility you could ask for we see a pretty much perfect representation of the web-slinger. It’s a joy to see and makes for really some fun gags and visuals. Put together the new costume with Garfield’s slender frame and charmingly cocky nature, and you have Spider-Man.
Parker’s reveling in the role rubs off on many of those he rescues, especially Max Dillon (Foxx). Finally feeling appreciated, Max reminds me somewhat of Jim Carrey’s Riddler, getting a touch too interested in his hero. One real cheesy lab accident later and we have a powerful villain whose obsession leads him down the wrong path. Foxx seems all too happy to run with dialogue that is generally hokey, but he looks great and gives us a chance to check out Peter’s (and Gwen’s) scientific know-how. I could do with some explanation as to how his costume comes about (and stays about), but with everything else going on it’s not a big deal.
Lots going on is the films biggest problem. At two and a half hours long it’s odd that it still manages to feel rushed in places. We’ve got a trio of villains, the ongoing back story of Parker’s parents, his relationships with Gwen/Harry/Aunt May, plus the obligatory world building and sequel setup. I can’t fault each character. I understand their motivations, their choices and their conclusions. Nor can I complain about the parents back story, whilst the Peter/Gwen relationship is just great and the best part after Spidey himself. The problem comes when you add them all together. It’s a complete jumble, with the tone constantly shifting. The film runs full speed with story threads, then drops them in a rush to get to the next part.
The character who loses out in this mix is DeHaan’s Harry Osborn. Though he does a hell of a lot with what he’s given I’d have liked to see more of him. His anger and loneliness belies his cool exterior and quirky haircut. A lesser actor would have become lost in the maelstrom.
On the flip side Peter and Gwen get plenty of time to shine. Webb’s only previous directing credit was the awesome 500 Days of Summer, and his comfort with these scenes is obvious. The frisson between them is wonderful, leaving me always pulling for them to stick it out together. It made me happy seeing them happy.
Not every comic book has to be grim of overly serious. I’m quite happy to hear enemy names proclaimed proudly. It has its place, and though I may have rolled my eyes a couple of times I really did enjoy the spectacle. My fears of a CGI fest were not realized, as it was all appropriate and very exciting. I could watch Spidey swinging around new York for an age.
Despite myself, I can’t help but root for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. No it doesn’t do enough to warrant its title, but damnit I really enjoyed it. I just wish the story matched the performances given by a great cast. We have a definitive Spider-Man. Now we need the story to back it up.