The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gives Andrew Garfield his inevitable second appearance as the titular hero, given the success of 2012’s first outing. And given the packed crowds on Good Friday for this sequel, no doubt Sony will be happy to bankroll TASM 3 for 2016. In fact, director Marc Webb has already confirmed he will direct that one, making it his last, and that he will remain as producer on any further sequels.
Without any hint of opening credits proper – apart from a teaser when you see the Spider-man logo, which turns out to be part of Peter Parker’s costume when he’s in character – there is an amusing first section involving the superb Paul Giamatti as baddie Aleksei Sytsevich, a starter to the main course we’re yet to indulge, but while I won’t go into depth about his appearance, I did feel rather cheated given that his name appears rather high up in the cast list.
That main course is Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon, the brainbox who invented the city’s electricity grid – or something like that. Either way, he deserved a great deal of recognition but since he works for Oscorp, they stiffed him on the deal and he got nothing out of it. That is until a freak accident which leaves him turned into Electro, a baddie who recharges himself via that same grid and then vents his spleen with expensive consequences, although while he’s really just a misunderstood individual, the authorities will never see it that way and so he becomes so vengeful it feels like the Lawnmower Man revisited.
At the same time, Peter’s old friend Harry Osborn (Chronicle‘s Dane DeHaan) finds himself taking over Oscorp itself when his father Norman (an uncredited Chris Cooper) shuffles off his mortal coil. At the tender age of just 20, it doesn’t take him long to settle into being a megalomaniac, much to the chargrin of the again board of directors, especially when he appoints the only female sat round the table, Felicia Hardy (the delectable Felicity Jones), as his underling and for them to all serve under her. I don’t know a great deal about the backstory behind the majority of Spider-man’s friends and foes, so whether she was a secretary or the token female board member, I’m not sure.
Then rather than a dessert, the love interest with Gwen is more like that bread roll you buttered at the start of the meal and then, casually, forgot about. For the most part, you can use her scenes as the point to take a breath inbetween Electro snarling, Harry plotting, and Peter flying about in his custom-made suit. I did note, however, that since the film starts with both her and Peter graduating from high school, that would make their characters 18, yet Emma Stone is 25, while Andrew Garfield is 30.
Despite the age issues, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 serves much better in its sequel than the 2012 film, given that it’s very well-paced. I didn’t expect that. I expected a number of decent action sequences (check), a lot of baddies grimacing and snarling (check), and a lot of gaps of nothing inbetween (not present). While I found the Peter/Gwen lovey dovey bits boring, they were very brief and served to move on the inevitable plot between them.
In fact, there are a great number of characters, and one even had to cut one out. Divergent‘s Shailene Woodley had actually filmed some scenes for this sequel as Mary Jane Watson, the love interest played by Kirsten Dunst in Sam Raimi’s trilogy with Tobey Maguire, but it was felt competing love interests wasn’t the best way to go here. After all, how can Spidey cope with the demands of two women when he’s already got numerous enemies to take care off?
There’s brief appearances again from Embeth Davidtz and Campbell Scott as Peter’s parents, as flashback scenes bring up something with the codeword ‘Roosevelt’, the importance of which will be discovered later in the film; and if you blink, you’ll miss an uncredited Martin Sheen popping up as Uncle Ben, but still not bringing his famous rice recipes to the table. It’s always pleasing to see Sally Field onscreen, again here as Peter’s Aunt May, and there’s another guest appearance for Stan Lee. However, I much preferred his similarly brief cameo in the last film.
I don’t know what the plot will be for the third film, and I don’t want to look it up so as to avoid spoilers, but given that there’s a lot more to the character of Felicia Hardy than a glorified secretary, and given that Felicity Jones is as stunning as the day is long, I do hope she gets another go in No.3, given that she was only in two scenes this time round.
Of the cast’s performances in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, both Garfield and Stone are nothing to get excited about, and Foxx is always worth a watch, but the real find here is DeHaan as Harry Osborn. He’s only 27, he looks about 12, but he can act everyone else off the screen with his menacing performance. He’s like a younger Leonardo Di Caprio and, definitely, is one to watch for the future.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2, like the first film, is available in many flavours at your local multiplex – bog-standard 2D, bells-and-whistles 3D and all-singing-dancing IMAX 3D.
Here is what to do if you want to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in IMAX: Forget it.
Normally, I’d say go for it, for a number of reasons. The 2012 film had the final 30 minutes of action filmed in IMAX, as well as a few other scenes along the way including Spidey flying at the camera right at the end. In each of these, the 2.35:1 frame opened up to the full IMAX ratio of 1.44:1 and it looked incredible. Nowadays, more and more directors are shooting digitally whereas Marc Webb still prefers to use 35mm film. For IMAX, when shooting digitally, this gives you a potential maximum ratio for the 2.35:1 frame to open up to, not to the full 1.44:1, but only to 1.90:1.
This time round, the director sticks purely to 2.35:1 throughout. And while there have been many IMAX films shot in 2.35:1, this one wasn’t even filmed with IMAX cameras. So what do you get for your extra couple of quid? Nothing, really.
I had a particular ticket which allowed both 3D and IMAX, so as I hadn’t seen a film at the Trafford Centre in IMAX before, I went for this particular one. It still looks great on a bigger screen than you normally would there, but you’re not getting the true IMAX experience. In fact, a lot of studios release films in IMAX format when they were never filmed that way, so it’s no surprise that a number of film fans have referred to such output as “LIE-MAX”.
If you’re going to see ths film, see it in 3D. All of Spider-man’s action films look, to coin a word, amazing. Webb clearly knows what he’s doing with the 3D when it counts, although for the more ‘drama’ moments, 3D isn’t required at all. That said, you wouldn’t jump back and forth between 2D and 3D unless a film’s plot demanded it so the 3D in those scenes is purely perfunctory.
Another reason to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 3D, as I had confirmed when faced with the evidence – or, rather lack of it – is that Sony and Fox have teamed up to slice an X-Men: Days of Future Past clip into the closing credits. It pops up just after the cast section. You can see there’s a couple of Electro-like zaps at that point where it would fit inbetween. Well, I saw those, but I never got to see the clip because, for reasons best known to Sony, they’ve chosen to omit it from their IMAX prints. I had heard this to be the case beforehand, but for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, I still went for the IMAX screening.
Unfortunately, for a lot of other people who also stayed behind until the end credits – and I was there because it’s just one of those things I do – they clearly were expecting the clip to appear, and were still sat there for a minute after the credits had ended, in disbelief.
Like I said, I went for the IMAX version. Why? Well, yes, I’ve seen a number of films in IMAX beforehand, but they’ve all been at the Manchester Printworks IMAX, which has the second largest IMAX screen in the country (the biggest is the BFI IMAX in London). So this was the first time I had visited the new-ish Trafford Centre IMAX, which opened last November to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
To be honest, while it’s one of their biggest screens, they can’t really expand the old screen 20 to massive proportions because they’re encased within a shopping complex, so although it goes under the name of IMAX, it doesn’t *feel* IMAX, not least because the most it can open up to is 1.85:1, even though few new films now utilise the full 1.44:1 frame for reasons previously explained. Also, when it comes to regular screens at Manchester Printworks, in order down from the biggest, even screens 18, 13, 17 and 12 are larger than the Trafford Centre’s IMAX. Hence, when I want to see a film that really demands the huge IMAX experience, I’ll be taking a trip back to Manchester. This is a shame for the Trafford Centre because they’re more convenient in terms of parking (which is free, unlike Manchester which is expensive everywhere, meaning a train is the best option to get there).
As an aside, given that my ticket allowed any type of seat, I had my eye on Premier Seat L13. I didn’t book it in advance, but I saw on the online booking form that while two groups of people were sat on the row behind me, the gap between them was precisely the seat behind L13. That would be M13, then. However, such as human nature is, the two pillocks closest to the aisle couldn’t count and so sat right next to the other group, and so one of these two was behind me. Thankfully, they didn’t kick the seat, but I wasn’t impressed with their maths skills.
And on this final section, I had to put down some thoughts about one particular aspect of the film, but which will have to have to be put under a spoiler warning. You should only read this if you have seen the film already.
Running time: 142 minutes
Released: April 16th 2014
Format: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision/Digital Intermediate (4K))
Director: Marc Webb
Producers: Avi Arad and Matthew Tolmach
Screenplay: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner
Music: Johnny Marr, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer
Spider-Man/Peter Parker: Andrew Garfield
Gwen Stacy: Emma Stone
Electro/Max Dillon: Jamie Foxx
Harry Osborn: Dane DeHaan
Donald Menken: Colm Feore
Felicia Hardy: Felicity Jones
Aleksei Sytsevich: Paul Giamatti
Aunt May: Sally Field
Mary Parker: Embeth Davidtz
Richard Parker: Campbell Scott
Dr. Ashley Kafka: Marton Csokas
Graduation Guest: Stan Lee
Young Peter Parker: Max Charles
Norman Osborn: Chris Cooper (uncredited)
Uncle Ben: Martin Sheen (uncredited)
Captain Stacy: Denis Leary (uncredited)
Flash Thompson: Chris Zylka (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.