The combination of a long day in the sun working on the yard (including the resultant sunburn) and a late showing, after a dinner date with my wife, made me a bit groggy for this movie. The result was a bit of head nodding during some of the climatic showdowns. Which is actually apropos for this particular installment of the Spider-Man franchise.
There are many things to like about the Amazing Spider-Man 2. The production values are there, the chemistry between the leads (not too surprising given their off-screen romance), the exposition of Peter’s parent’s backstory. But ultimately a few issues take the fizz out of the production leaving a flat note to the otherwise sweet taste of the movie.
The movie opens with a flashback to the events leading to Richard and Mary Parker’s (Peter’s parents) demise. This sets up the plot of the movie as Peter deals with the emotions sparked by their deaths, his promise to George Stacy to leave Gwen Stacy “out of it,” and the terminal illness of his childhood friend Harry Osborn.
The notional villain of the piece is Max Dillon aka Electro. His character’s introduction left me with flashbacks to Superman III, though the similarities faded over time. But what did not fade was the 2 dimensional aspect of the character in either of his two guises. Either as the mild under-appreciated nebbish or the homicidal supervillain, the writers/director did little to give more than a cursory explanation of his emotional transformation between extremes.
The Goblin’s introduction and actions are given a fuller treatment as well as providing an arc and reasoning for his actions.
Gwen’s storyline is treated adequately, but also underlines some of the issue with Peter’s emotional reactions. The first problem is that we are just as frustrated as Gwen when the first part of the movie re-plays the previous movie’s Peter/Gwen together/not together issue due to Peter’s promise. This was adequately covered in the previous movie and could have been covered purely in flashback form. They obviously wanted to create emotional resonance later in the movie, but was instead completely unnecessary and irritating filler.
The second issue is Peter’s mood swings are more extreme than his swinging between Manhattan’s skyscrapers. His bi-polar reactions don’t come across as believable- childish rather than cathartic.
That said, while the flaws are evident, they aren’t fatal. It is still a good popcorn superhero movie- but the bar raised by Marvel’s own production arm seems to be getting harder for Sony to reach. Hopefully the inevitable Amazing Spider-Man 3 will find a way to climb the same heights.