Peter Parker loves everything about being Spider-Man: the power, the responsibility, and New York City adores him for it. But not all is well in The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Peter is struggling with his promise to the late Captain George Stacy, his promise to leave Gwen, Stacy’s daughter and Peter’s girlfriend, alone to keep her out of danger. It’s hard on both lovebirds, especially on Peter because he doesn’t have that many loved ones left after the still unresolved disappearance of his parents and the murder of his beloved uncle Ben Parker. Meanwhile new threats emerge: an unhinged engineer becomes the supervillain Electro and Peter’s old friend Harry Osborn is obsessively looking for a cure to an illness that plagues the Osborn family line.
Because The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has so much going on, it sometimes feels like a juggling act. The movie manages to successfully explore its multitude of plot strands for the most part, but those involving the film’s new characters are underdeveloped. Jamie Foxx’s Electro completely loses his personality once he acquires his superpowers, basically rendering him an impressive talking special effect, and Dane DeHaan’s Harry is a hodgepodge of emotions, which makes it hard for viewers to get a sense of who he really is. It’s DeHaan’s acting that makes Harry a mesmerizing character to watch, which makes up for the lackluster writing of one the comics’ most interesting figures. Luckily the villains are hardly the movie’s main attraction or focus: the beating heart of the film is Andrew Garfield’s Peter and his relationship with Emma Stone’s Gwen. This is where The Amazing Spider-Man 2 truly shines. With outstanding acting Garfield brings humor, vulnerability, wit, angst and courage to Parker, proving once again that his casting as the hero was a stroke of brilliance. His chemistry with Stone’s Gwen Stacy is also palpable and it makes their scenes a joy to watch: it’s all incredibly sweet and believable, a sense that these two characters belong together. Stone’s sass, confidence, vulnerability and comedic timing complement Garfield’s performance perfectly, their interplay the reason that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 actually manages to be a moving film instead of just another superhero action fest.
Talking about the action: Marc Webb’s first Spidey film had some nice moments, but with his second outing the director proves that he definitely has an eye for what makes an exciting action film. Spider-Man’s web-slinging has never looked better and Electro’s particular set of powers makes for some spectacular showdowns in which both characters move at incredible speeds and perform some crazy feats. Unfortunately the movie’s score is often distracting, especially during the action scenes, because of its volume and the incredibly annoying dubstep drops that are used every time Electro fires a bolt of electricity toward the wall-crawler. It gets tiresome fast. Another element that makes the action quite dull at times is that Spidey seems to be able to take a lot more punishment than he could the last time around, which makes the action scenes lack tension. There’s never a sense of danger to the action scenes that just feature Spidey and a baddy. When Gwen gets tossed in the mix your pulse starts racing though, another testament to the relationship at the heart of The Amazing Spider-Man films.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is overcrowded, but still very compelling because of the performances by Garfield, Stone and DeHaan. It’s fun entertainment with a strong emotional core. Be prepared to be moved. 7/10