It became clear early in my viewing of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that I was going to be annoyed whenever Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone weren’t on screen.
It’s a testament to their acting abilities and insane chemistry that they would upstage all of the CGI web-slinging and explosions promised in a comic book movie such as this. The most enjoyable moments are of the teenage super-coupling of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, trapped in a romantic quagmire as Peter struggles to keep his promise to Gwen’s father from the first film to keep away from her. As you could imagine, the promise doesn’t stick, but it provides more than enough tension as Peter and Gwen begin steps into adulthood and making serious life decisions. A lot of the magic lies in the looks they give each other, whether its a shy glance or a heartbreaking stare. There are plenty of dramatic moments for Garfield and Stone to chew through, and they do so with ease. However, they are at their best with the lighter-hearted romantic moments, especially regarding his superhero status (favorite scene: Peter webbing Gwen to a car to keep her from following him). Their rapport is so easy and likable that you can’t help but wonder why the director simply didn’t toss out the script and write around such a dynamic pairing.
Alas, they didn’t, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ultimately misses and squanders an opportunity to craft a different kind of superhero flick, sticking with a formula jam-packed with crazed villains and lots of explosions. A bit too jam-packed. There are a lot of plot threads that are strung together quite loosely, and there is a feeling that the movie would’ve worked better if a few were ripped out. Harry Osborn, for instance, could’ve been completely cut: his plot points could’ve been easily folded into other storylines and his character never felt necessary, just a distraction. The subplot about Peter’s parents also felt like unneeded filler, even though it was meant to add gravitas to Peter’s superhero purpose. Even as an action-adventure flick, Marc Webb could’ve streamlined things more. It would’ve chopped time off the run length and focused more on the genuinely great performances by Garfield, Stone and the venerable Sally Field.
There is plenty of action and CGI-goodness in ASM2, a lot of focused on the electricity emanating from and around Jamie Foxx’s Electro. Seeing how reliant our world has become on electricity and technology in such a visceral way was very cool, as was the necessary webslinging, improved from the first film. Again, sometimes it was overdone (I could’ve done without the mild destruction of lightbulb-heavy Times Square), but when it worked, it was quite spectacular.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a great film, improving on the first in just about every way. It would’ve been an excellent film if it stripped away the fat and focused on the story’s grade-A meat: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.