Watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is like freefalling from a 60-storey building – a complete heart-in-your-mouth head rush from start to finish.
Marc Webb swings in and out of comic-book lore so often that even those who are up to date with their reading will be left in a spin. There’s the ongoing mystery of what happened to Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield)’s parents, his on-off relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), the introduction of notorious frenemy Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) and the latest OsCorp experiment-gone-awry, Electro (Jamie Foxx).
What could have been a tangled web of plot threads driven purely by action becomes a character-centric masterpiece.
Garfield quips and thwips with expert timing, which this film sees him doing more so than ever. Once he’s graduated from high school, we hear he’s sold the odd selfie to The Daily Bugle, but it’s the quietly grieving Aunt May (Sally Field) who’s working the extra shifts to fund his heroics.
The police force relies on him and young would-be webcrawlers adore him, but the mean streets of Manhattan are haunted by visions of Gwen’s late father, whose dying wish was that Peter leaves his sweet girl alone. She’s the brightest and most charismatic squeeze in the genre, and thankfully, she has other ideas. The sparks that fly between these two rival that of Electro.
The high-voltage villain may be another sympathetic foe in the vein of 2012’s Dr Curt Connors/Lizard, but at least the CGI holds up, which is no mean feat considering he’s a essentially human rave stick. As Max Dillon – a gap-toothed self-professed ‘nobody’ – he can’t believe his luck when Spidey saves his life.
The pity parade is laid on pretty thick, though, especially when the only guests at his birthday party are a tank full of eels. It’s one of the well-known symptoms of supervillainy, but there’s more to his transformation than being evil just because the costume fits.
More than any other franchise, this looks and sounds like a comic-book brought to life. From the slow-mo showdowns in Times Square to the script that’s loaded with Stan Lee-style zingers, it’s as if someone’s switched on the light after multiple summers’ of ‘dark and gritty’ superhero flicks. The only element it shares with The Dark Knight trilogy is the thrashing score by composer Hans Zimmer that complements the nature of Electro’s power.
Harry Osborn is another unintentional nemesis, born out of a desperate need to sidestep the same fate as his green-gilled father Norman (played by criminally underused Oscar-winner Chris Cooper). DeHaan plays the part of the troubled rich kid with slimy supervillain hair (“A butler holds the hairdryer while I work the comb,” he grins). Watching the trailer, it was tricky to see how these misfits could be crammed into one film, but what connects them is just that: they’re united in their loneliness.
And smashing straight through any nuance is Paul Giamatti’s Rhino, a hammy Russian mobster who should have been cut from the movie, along with Marton Csokas’ asylum scientist and Colm Feore’s OsCorp exec.
How they even got so far as to film (and later cut) Shailene Woodley’s scenes as Mary Jane is inconceivable given the already saggy running time. The credits should have rolled long before Rhino had the chance to pull up his pants (blame Spidey) and jump into a giant mech suit.
It’s clear why these choices were made, though. Sony is devising an expanded universe to rival Marvel’s own, and there’s constantly one eye on the bigger picture – and we’ve got to say, it’s one heck of a view from up here.