Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Too many villains spoil the broth?

Spider-Man has always been the kid of the superhero world.

That was Stan Lee’s aim when he created the character way back in 1962. Spider-Man wasn't a secretive billionaire or an alien; he was a teenager, just like any other . . . but with one great big secret.


And ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ certainly does it’s darnedest to honour that. Although Andrew Garfield still looks a good few years older than the supposedly college-age Peter Parker, he’s clearly written as a teenager; he listens to indie music, he’s occasionally whip-smart and he spends most of his time worrying about his girlfriend. All that stuff is good, but it’s the less appealing ‘teenage’ traits that bring the film down.

Every time new villain, Electro, is on screen he’s accompanied by a strange dubstep theme and, while it may be all hippity-hop and ‘down with the kids’, it just ends up seeming rather ugly. Especially when integrated with Hans Zimmer’s somewhat bland, but occasionally stirring score.

The film’s also as messy and disorganised as a teenager’s bedroom. There’s some self-discovery going on over here, a Saturday morning cartoon over there and a great deal of rushed world-building trying to tie the whole thing together.

In an attempt to capture some of that Marvel magic, Sony have crammed as many character set-ups as possible into the totally unnecessary two and half hour running time. They go hell for leather throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the screen. Electro, The Green Goblin and The Rhino all make appearances, and there are multiple hints towards the wider Spider-Man rogues gallery. It’s all a bit much, frankly.  

It’s a shame, because having gathered a trio of such high calibre actors to play the villains (Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan and Paul Giamatti, respectively) you would have thought they’d each have been given some space. Giamatti, in particular, is given just a sliver of screen time and, for now at least, they could have hired any old bald guy. As for DeHaan, he makes a better Harry Osborn than James Franco did all those years ago, but he lacks the chilling menace he’s delivered so effectively in the past. The same can be said for Foxx; although he gets the most attention, his origin story is rushed, goofy and ultimately inconsequential. He feels invisible and becomes envious of Spider-Man’s fame and, with this, the writers aimed for a single tragic character trait for him, but it never truly strikes a chord and he’s left feeling wafer-thin.

That being said, his zip-zapping fights are distracting enough, but they flash from the memory as fast as he does and, instead, it’s the small moments that stick. The interplay between Garfield’s Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy has been much lauded, and rightly so because they bounce off each other delightfully. They’re charming and thoroughly wholesome characters played by a pair of magnificent young actors. So why did the emotional bombshell leave me feeling cold . . .

Weak performances? Not a chance. The overly-computerised visuals? Maybe. Crash-bang-wallop fatigue? Most definitely. The mass destruction just moments before had dulled me to the deafening sound of a teardrop, and that’s hugely disappointing.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ is an over-stuffed superhero movie, but the core values of the character remain resolute and I can’t think of any better actor to bring that to our screens.

★★★