The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will likely create a schism among fans of its titular hero and for different reasons.
First of all, if you weren’t a fan of the 2012 reboot, chances are you won’t be a fan of this second installment either. As the movie swings from its somber and intense prologue to Spidey’s slapstick entrance, you’ll already start shaking your heads and rolling your eyes. In fact, I predict you’ll hate this even more than the first movie so hold onto your money, wait for DVD or go see it for the sole reason that it will be fun to argue with your friends afterwards. But know that you’ve been warned.
On the other hand, if you did like the 2012 reboot (as I did), then depending on the reasons you liked it there’s a good chance you’ll quite like this one as well (again, as I did).
The action sequences are spectacular enough as expected and the improved FX certainly do better justice to Spider-Man’s arachnid powers and abilities than the older films. But given that this is pretty much a bare minimum standard in the superhero movies of today, it is not what makes The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a satisfying sequel.
The things this sequel has going for it most are pretty much the same things that made the reboot so solid (and that also, incidentally, made Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 one of the best superhero movies ever), and that is a focus on character and relationships. Indeed, TAS 2 spends so much time on the torrid relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy that the kids in the audience will surely be bored out of their wits throughout much of the first and second act. But for a different kind of audience, these scenes will be the highlights of the movie.
This is part of the challenge that TAS 2 has created for itself in that it’s obviously trying to please several different audiences at once: kids, teens and hardcore comic and Marvel-loving fans. Meanwhile, like Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, it also tries to juggle three villains. Based on past superhero movies, anything more than two villains and the movie in question inevitably becomes a messy cheesefest, though I must say that TAS 2 does a much better job at pulling it off than any superhero movie previous. (And speaking of villains, my favorite Spider-Man villain aside from the Green Goblin has always been the Scorpion. C’mon, let’s put that guy in one of these movies already!)
Anyway, all this contributes to the considerable 142 minute-running time, and there’s far less of that devoted to rock ‘em sock ’em than many viewers might prefer. For me personally, I loved every minute of it but I had a conflicted viewing experience in that I kept getting interrupted by the thought, “Gosh, I think a lot of people are gonna hate this or be lukewarm towards it at best.”
TAS 2 also continues a certain trend I’ve been noticing in a number of superhero and action films of late including Captain America: The Winter Soldier and RoboCop in that these filmmakers seem to genuinely understand, and more importantly not forget, that the characterization and relationship-building are what make the action scenes matter and have therefore been dedicating enough time to these things, making a lot of these movies longer in general. Intentionally or not, TAS 2 pushes the envelope in this respect with all the time that it devotes to Peter’s quest to uncover the truth about his father as well as his relationships with both Gwen and Aunt May. But these scenes are well done and either quietly moving (with Aunt May) or sweetly romantic (with Gwen), preventing the movie from becoming a soulless amusement park ride like 2007’s Spider-Man 3. And even more so than in the first movie, the real-life chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone here is palpable, making this romance one of the most genuinely affecting ones among superhero movies.
As for those fans who are curious about a certain plot element involving Gwen Stacy, I will only say that it is handled adroitly and in a way that will actually keep you guessing—on the edge of your seat, as they say. Saying anything beyond that will most assuredly win me death threats from the geek community.