Tomorrow, The Amazing Spider-Man 2: The Rise of Electro opens in Swiss cinemas. In it, Spider-Man faces off against The Green Goblin, Electro and The Rhino! Can Spidey survive and entertain audiences? Find out in our review!
First and foremost, this review will contain spoilers. I will indicate that there will be spoilers in a paragraph at the beginning of a paragraph. So don’t worry.
Let’s get going then. The obligatory question: Is it better than Amazing Spider-Man I? No, it’s not. Is it better than Captain America: The Winter Soldier? No, it really isn’t. Is it a bad movie? No, it’s not that either.
The plot goes as follows: One day, doing his heroics, Spider-Man saves a man named Max Dillon. Max is a bit of a nerd, thinks of himself as invisible, has no friends, no family and no significance. So when Spider-Man tells him that it is him, Max, who is his eyes and ears out on the street, Spidey has a new fan. In fact, Max thinks that Spider-Man is his best friend. And when Max Dillon’s birthday rolls around, nobody remembers his birthday at his work, which just so happens to be Oscorp’s superawesome science-fiction electricity lab that does… well, something. It has eels and coils and whatnot.
That’s where the movie kind of buggers it up for the first time and it’s also a thing that is repeated often. They charge through that bit of necessary exposition at breakneck speed and in the end, it’s not entirely clear why they would have eels in an electricity lab that look like moray eels who are inherently electrically inert. The movie also never dwells on any scene or any plot thread long enough to actually have it have an impact.
That’s because it has to cram a lot into the two hours and twenty minutes of time this movie takes up. There are the following things and here be spoilers: Max Dillon’s life, his becoming Electro, him fighting Spider-Man, Harry Osborn’s life, his becoming the Green Goblin, him fighting Spider-Man, Aleksei Mikhailovich Sytsevich’s life, his becoming The Rhino, him fighting Spider-Man, romantic subplot involving Gwen Stacy. That one infamous scene of Gwen Stacy that comic book fans know is coming. A subplot involving Peter Parker’s parents and one about Peter Parker, too.
Spoilers over. Now, as you see, this is a whole lot of plot. It’s the classic mistake that all superhero movies eventually make. They have so many great ideas, great characters and a good budget, so everything needs to be stuffed into the one movie for some reason. And it’s not that any one of these plot threads is exceptionally bad, even though there are some creepy undertones to one, but it’s just too much. If this movie were twice its already long length, then maybe this movie would have been excellent. Because Rhino is interesting. So is Dane DeHaan as the Green Goblin and Electro is – while stereotypical – a pretty good character.
But no, we must charge through all that and we must spend just slightly below the minimum amount of time needed for audiences to be really invested in it on each plot thread. It’s a bit like Man of Steel in that way. There’s not the one bad thing that it mucks up, but all the not-quite-so-bad things add up and you end with some sort of mediocre thing that is more mess than entertainment. Even worse is the fact that you can see how this could have been good, excellent even.
Dane DeHaan gives an excellent performance as Harry Osborn. He’s desperate, human, funny at times, serious at others, disillusioned, a friend to Peter. And him and Andrew Garfield bounce off each other well. Speaking of Garfield, he’s probably the movie’s biggest flaw. It’s not that he’s miscast. But in the movie, Peter Parker graduates from high school. Andrew Garfield was born in 1983, which makes him 30 this year. And no matter how much you’re going to tell me that he is playing his part well – and he does – you can’t convince anyone that this man is in his late teens. Andrew Garfield looks 30.
You know what also doesn’t look too good or rather appropriate? The CGI. I have absolutely no idea what went wrong during the web-slinging scenes, but they looked incredibly fake. I get that they were trying to get the excitement and fun of swinging through New York City across, but the animations just look horrendous. It’s not that they lack detail, because even the costume ripples in the wind of Peter jumping from a skyscraper, but it’s just not real. And it’s painfully obvious.
The plot is the standard fanfare for the most part, but one thing really, really bothered me. Everything goes as expected, except the one thing. Warning: slight spoilers in this paragraph. Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker break up for the usual reasons. Peter can’t be with Gwen because of his responsibility as a hero and his promise to Captain Stacy in the first movie. But that’s not the end of it – oh no – because Peter then follows Gwen around. Every day. Yes, ladies and gentlemen our hero is basically a creepy stalker who has nothing better to do than use his amazing superpowers to stalk a woman. Remember that thing about «With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility»? You know, the core wisdom of Spider-Man’s being? Well, our hero doesn’t. Oh, and it gets worse. At some point, Gwen and Peter make up again and he admits to his being a creepy stalker. At that point in the movie, months have passed. So he’s been stalking her for months. And instead of going «Dude, you’re a creep», she finds this cute and adorable. The short version: Every single thing about this subplot is wrong.
More spoilers. If you’re a comic book fan, you know which scene is coming, if you don’t know who Gwen Stacy is, then this will be spoilers for you. The makers of this movie know that everyone who had a clue knew that Gwen Stacy has to die in this movie. In the comic books, Gwen Stacy dies after being thrown off the Brooklyn Bridge. This movie has a great scene atop said bridge where Peter Parker and Gwen make up. As a comic book fan, tension rose. But Gwen survives. However, she does die. Later. In a clocktower. And that’s the strongest scene in the movie. Gwen falls, you hear this sickening THUNK as her head hits the floor. Spider-Man swings down and cradles her head. This is the Hollywood moment where the love interest typically wakes up and everything is fine. The scene is shot exactly like that. Only that instead of fluttering eyelids, we get to see a trickle of blood from her nose. This was one excellent scene. If the entire movie could have been like this, then this would have been brilliant. It played with expectations, defied them and delivered a truly strong point.
Swiss German audiences who do the right thing and go see this film in its original version will be treated to shoddy subtitles. Now, many might not know this, but his name is Spider-Man. Look at the title. It says so right there. Spider Hyphen Man. The subtitles consistently spell it Spiderman. Would it have killed the people who wrote the film’s subtitles to look at the bloody title of the movie? In the same vein: He’s called Iron Man not Ironman and they’re the X-Men and not the Xmen. Just for future reference.
On a larger scale, it appears that the makers of the movie have collectively not realized that superhero movies have come a very long way since the first Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire paved the way for the genre as we know it today. Compare it to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which tells a mature story that both kids and adults can enjoy. There’s a healthy mix of realism and ridiculous plot points, gaudy costumes and serious drama. We’ve had movies going the ultra-gritty and serious route with Nolan’s Dark Knight movies and more light-hearted ones like The Avengers or Iron Man. But they dared to go into a direction. Audiences can handle that. They don’t need the gaudy with the dramatic with the dark and gritty. They can settle for one of the things. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does it all. You have goofy Max Dillon, his dramatic turn into a villain. The over-the-top gaudy Ivan, the badass rhino. The tortured Harry Osborn who’s a good friend. The happy Peter Parker who has to deal with sacrificing his happiness for his heroics. All crammed into one film.
So ultimately, the Amazing Spider-Man disappoints. Not because of one weak plot point, but because of several good ones that weren’t used properly. The result is a messy movie with crappy CGI and one truly excellent scene. Here, have a trailer.