Spider-man continues to investigate the truth about his parent’s disappearance as a new sinister threat appears in New York.
Here’s the short version – The Amazing Spider-Man is basically great.
No really. Marc Webb’s sequel takes the template of the previous film and erases it completely, turning every shortcoming into a strength and in the process it might just serve up the best non-Marvel Marvel movie yet made.
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone’s chemistry is still (naturally) intact here but they’ve both become strong actors in the meantime, bringing real drama to their continuing relationship crises. And the familial mysteries just hinted at in the first film are finally properly explored, if not entirely fleshed out yet. Which just leaves us wanting more.
Everything just feels so much more solid and purposeful – story elements serve a purpose, there are few extraneous characters and the focus remains on Peter’s personal issues, which help to shape the more lurid elements on hand. Maybe it’s the influence of Star Trek writing duo Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci who are new to the franchise but the structure flows brilliantly – even over 142 minutes.
Story, character, strong performances – even the worry about multiple villain syndrome is hardly an issue as Jamie Foxx’s totally batty Electro takes most of the limelight. What this means for the final confrontation is one single battle, basically in real-time, without the need to flit across multiple characters and spoil the flow. Which creates a breath-taking sequence of thrills and incredible special effects.
One of my big problems with Spidey 1 was the severe lack of the kind of high stakes spectacle and visual verve we expect from a comic book movie. But fear not for the sequel, there’s wall to wall action and most of it is stunningly crafted. In the intervening years Webb has picked up a great sense of space and camera placement as well as a better understanding of the best ways to use a character like Spider-man.
The combination of photo-real CG work and intimate moments of chaos leads to several super slo mo action beats in the picture, picking up the fine details of Spidey’s fights in a way that calls back to some of Sam Raimi’s best moments. It’s a perfect way to illustrate the incredible feats of the character and, not incidentally, a stunning showcase for the effects and 3D work.
It’s all just seriously good stuff – even the quieter moments like a proper showcase for Sally Field’s dramatic prowess that had me close to tears. There’s a great mix of tones here – from the lightness of Peter tossing off one liners mid fight to some much darker moments as the film progresses. And its all brought together by a score from Hanz Zimmer (and Pharrell Williams) that doesn’t do so well on the smaller moments but fills the big scenes with meaty bass – especially those featuring Foxx’s Electro.
If I had to nit pick (and it is my nature) there’s a little muddiness in the final third and the relationship between Parker and Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn feels a little underdeveloped which spoils a little of the drama. But there’s so much good stuff here from a franchise I had more or less written off that it’s time to focus on the positives. The blockbusters are here, and Spidey is going to be one of the biggest of the year.