The key to the success of the rebooted Spiderman franchise rests in the very clever brain of the casting director. The day the decision to cast Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the leading roles was made, the films were destined to a fate bigger than their predecessors. Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were promptly forgotten. Garfield and Stone have charmed the world over, and convinced fans to return to a series that in its last incarnation proved disappointing.
Second time round, a film needs more than its lead couple to attract a wide audience. The ‘Amazing’ Spiderman has therefore evolved into something complex. Intense. Sad. More grown up than the first, which was still a bit too entrenched in cliché and CGI monster enemies.This is a film that does everything – and very nearly pulls it off. It’s an action movie meets life-crises drama. Electro starts out as Max, a neglected and lonely Oscorp employee who is obsessive to the point of delusional. The Green Goblin was once old-friend Harry, newly orphaned and wasting away from disease. Gwen Stacey is the horribly conflicted on/off girlfriend. And then there’s Spiderman himself, who spends more time as Peter Parker in tears. This is by no means a downfall. The moments where the characters really come through and interact are the strongest parts of the entire film. The villains become villains rather quickly, but then again any more close-ups and it would have been pushing the three hour mark.
In between all the heartache and woe, there’s a lot of flying: flying Spidey, flying electricity, flying Goblin, flying planes. It’s a visual rollercoaster ride, so if you happen to have vertigo or motion sickness, stay far far away from the 3D showing (attested to by Emma Stone herself in a recent interview). The effects are stunning however, Jamie Foxx’s Electro lit up in curling tendrils of static blue and white, while Spidey catches police cars from behind. The score by Hans Zimmer and the Magnificent Six adds momentum, and is well worth a good listen.
It has its holes though, as all webs are apt to. Still preoccupied with the mystery of his parental abandonment, Peter searches for more clues. The hideout that holds a secret just serves to cause more problems and is actually completely useless. It has no relevance to anything. Aunt May is right when she complains of Peter’s total absorbance in the Parkers’ death. It’s presented as having the importance of a main plot line, with the execution of a meagre side story. The believability of the secret identity is also starting to come apart thread by thread. There are people who by this time really ought to have worked out the big mystery. He lives with his Aunt, is hardly ever home, and dyes the washing red and blue.
The Amazing Spiderman 2 is a film split in half; there’s on the ground personal struggles, and there’s in the air all-out-action. There’s a continual transition from one to the other, but they aren’t evenly matched. The villains are more sophisticated, their evil intentions suitably strengthened, but it’s still Peter and Gwen’s relationship that is the true success of the film. The chemistry between the actors burns bright, and what the franchise would do without that is hard to even imagine…
Note: Hold your seats! If you can’t wait for the new X-Men, catch a preview partway through the credits.