There have been nearly as many big screen incarnations as there have been comic book adventures, of the superhero web-slinger. However, after the films featuring Tobey Maguire began to loose direction with Spider-Man 3 (2007), it is good to see that with the latest incarnation, in the form of Andrew Garfield – which started with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and continues now with the The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) – the franchise appears to be back on track. The new film (directed by the appropriately named Marc Webb) – in which Garfield co-stars with Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx and Sally Field – is such fast, furious fun, that its admittedly lengthy two and a half hour running time passes as quickly as many movies half the length.
Peter Parker (Garfield) and his web-spinning other-half, Spider-Man, have their work cut out rescuing the good citizens of his home city of New York from a seemingly unending host of villains, megalomaniacs and dastardly lawbreakers. However, when it emerges that a new enemy (with a shocking personality) is in town – an enemy with hidden connections to the OsCorp corporation, the mysterious company which Peter’s father worked for – it becomes a race against time for the web-slinger to save the most important person in his life from an electrifying finale.
There is plenty in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to keep comic-book fans happy. As well as the now seemingly obligatory fleeting cameo by Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, you get two of the best criminal adversaries old Spidey has ever had to face – Electro (Fox) and the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan). That the revenge fuelled transformation of these characters’ hard-done-by human alter-egos is something of a staple element within this particular brand of superhero story, lends the film a comfortable and reassuring familiarity. Here the viewer doesn’t have to concern themselves with convoluted plot-lines or confusing backstories, allowing them instead to sit back and get lost in the sheer spectacle up on the big screen.
Furthermore the film has soul – which is refreshing for this type of big budget, popcorn fodder outing. A suitably nail-biting opening sequence explains, for those not in the know, what drove Peter’s parents to ‘abandon’ him when a child, with this Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). The revelation of the real reason why his father did what he did, provides plenty of occasion for dark bouts of introspective, angst ridden self analysis on Peter’s part, which Garfield puts over with suitably moody believability. His relationships with those closest to him – his aunt, girlfriend Gwen (Stone) and old friend Harry Osborn (DeHaan) – also present ample opportunities to give depth to a character who could otherwise have appeared cartoon’esque and one dimensional. As for the misunderstood character of Matt Dillon who later becomes Electro – Foxx manages to infuse him with such pathos that the viewer (almost) feels sympathy for his plight.
Of course what audiences and really looking for in this type of film is spectacle, which is delivered here big time. From plane crashes and rush hour pile-ups to the destruction of Time Square on an industrial scale, it is not hard to see where the estimated $200,000,000 budget went. As each successive blockbuster gets more expensive to produce, it is understandable that audiences should begin to question the relevance and justification of spending so much money on what amounts to little more than throw away entertainment. However, with something like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there is no denying that the public gets their money’s worth both in terms of what’s shown on the screen and in the film’s running time.
On IMDB they are already listing release dates for the next two instalments of the franchise in 2016 and 2018. Though this may make the film’s producers – Marvel Enterprises and Columbia Pictures – appear a little too sure of themselves, in this case their presumptiveness could be warranted. Going by The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker and his web spinning double have a lot of life left in them yet.
Action, Adventure, Comic-Book
Columbia Pictures, Marvel Studios
16th April 2014 (UK), 2nd May 2014 (USA)
Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx, Dane Dehaan, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti