Let’s get this out of the way at the very beginning; The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does a lot more right than wrong. It’s main crime is that like last year’s Man of Steel, it’s not perfect. In an age where Marvel Studios has set the standard so high, fans tend to be a lot less forgiving of anything short of a homerun. Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is infinitely more watchable than Man of Steel and director Marc Webb’s world is definitely more enjoyable than Sam Raimi’s.
What The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does right, it knocks right out of the park. It looks spectacular. Regardless of anything else, it a slick-looking movie. The Electro effects are really cool and Spidey looks better in action here than he ever has before. The cast is equally excellent. Andrew Garfield is still a perfect Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Likewise, Emma Stone embodies Gwen Stacy like she was born to play her. The entire returning cast is perfect, just like they were in the first movie. Jamie Foxx’s take on Max Dillon, the invisible electrician is interesting. A lot has been made of the fact that he straight up falls in a tank full of eels to get his powers, and while that is definitely a bit hokey, it gets the job done and takes nothing away from his performance. The ridiculous musical bed during the Times Square fight does that all by itself. He goes a little over the top in some of his early scenes, but it fits in with this take on the character.
*Spoiler Warning From Here on Out, Kids*
It’s hard to get a read on Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn. His early scenes with Peter are very good. He’s a fine actor. It just feels like there’s a lot left unsaid about his character, which brings us to the biggest flaw in the movie: the plot. There’s a lot going on in this movie, so much that it makes the whole thing feel a little clunky. The movie spends a lot of time on Peter’s father and the nature of his research and why they disappeared. The movie’s opening scene is not Spider-Man chasing down not-yet-Rhino. It’s a long scene with Peter’s parents in a jet where they meet their untimely demise.
That’s how much emphasis this movie puts on that plotline. It starts the whole movie. It’s all predicated on seeds planted in the first movie, but it’s an odd choice to focus so much on what is a largely ignored aspect of Peter’s backstory in the comics. Maybe that’s why they chose to spend so much time on it. There’s a more or less a blank slate on Richard and Mary, so there’s not much room for misinterpretation, but it comes at the expense of the rest of the movie. Peter and Gwen’s complicated relationship is really well done. Peter’s few scenes with Aunt May are really great. There’s a lot about the story that works, but there’s quite a bit that doesn’t.
Norman Osborn, arguably Spider-Man’s greatest villain, is relegated to the sidelines. He has one scene with Harry and is shown in some old recorded footage, but that’s it. According to the trailer, some of his scenes were edited to be even shorter. From the very first trailer, we were shown a moment where Norman sets Harry upon Peter in some capacity, but it was totally excised from the final cut, as was the scene where Harry shows Peter that Oscorp had him under surveillance. That scene and everything around it would no doubt give more weight to Harry’s discovery that Peter and Spider-Man are one in the same.
It’s also never really spelled out what’s wrong with Norman and Harry. It’s some disease, but it’s all very vague. Harry’s plan to heal himself goes wrong, but it’s okay because there’s a new armor thing nearby that heals the damage done to him by the super spider venom. Does that mean they could have strapped Norman into that thing and saved him? Maybe. It’s all really unclear what the suit did versus what the venom did, just like it’s unclear as to how Harry ends up arrested and normal-looking at the end of the movie. When he was a whacked-out not-quite-Goblin when we last saw him. Despite feeling really long in places, there’s a lot left out of this movie.
On the bright side, there’s a good bit of world-building happening. With a 3rd Spidey movie in the works, along with dedicated Sinister Six and Venom movies coming up, there’s a lot of opportunity to fill in these gaps later. Regardless of how it all shakes out, it doesn’t change that there are a lot of missed opportunities in this movie. Great performances, spectacular effects and fun action sequences aren’t enough to save the movie thanks to its clunky plot and odd narrative choices. Taking all that in, we give The Amazing Spider-Man 2 3.5 out of 5 ridiculous hidden subway labs. It’s absolutely worth seeing and the good stuff is a lot of fun. It’s just nowhere as polished as its predecessor, let alone the current crop of Marvel movies.