REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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Release Poster – Columbia Pictures

This short updated review (2020) of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) includes some story spoilers.

Today I want to talk to you about success. What makes a movie successful? Is it the merchandise it sells, the box office numbers, or the score on Rotten Tomatoes? I gave this much thought when I first saw Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014, and I think I know why. I have always loved Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films. I think Raimi really understood how to make the most of the characters and the universe, the music is obviously iconic, and I think the tone of the films is pitch-perfect. Then, along came the final installment in Raimi’s trilogy and it, frustratingly, didn’t work as well. It was undoubtedly a bloated film. However, when I look back at that third film, though, I am not all that sad. You see, I always looked at those three movies as the story of a friendship.

The trilogy told the story of Harry Osborn and Peter Parker — James Franco and Tobey Maguire. While the trilogy’s landing was a little bit messy, it, on the whole, still makes me feel good about the characters in the films (including Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, who I don’t think gets enough credit for those films). I loved how the entire cast worked together. Whenever I rewatch those films — especially the first two — it’s comforting to return to so many beloved and well-played characters.

I was very nervous when I was about to watch The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for the first time since I knew that Dane DeHaan would be the new Harry Osborn. I like Dane DeHaan quite a bit actually, but I initially felt that he might’ve been too different, if that makes any sense. I didn’t know if he and Garfield would work together, and I still don’t like the updated character design for Harry Osborn. However, in the end, I was pretty satisfied with Garfield and DeHaan’s connection. In fact, the one thing that I really think works really well about this film is the main relationships in the film. Most of the performances in this film are solid, with Garfield and Stone being the obvious highlights.

However, what really disappointed me about this movie is that I had tonal issues with the film and that I don’t think they did a good job of introducing iconic villains to their then-well-established new Spider-Man universe. I love comic books and many of the films based on them, and I am protective of some comic book characters. I remember being really disappointed by the approach to the film’s villains in this film. I felt that, with one character, in particular, it didn’t feel like they had respected the source material. I felt that the Rhino-character fell flat. They basically just took a great English-speaking actor, gave him a weird look, a bad temper, and a fake Russian accent. Then they instructed him to scream his name like it was nonsense. The over-the-top character design of Rhino, but also of Max Dillon, clashed with the rest of the film’s serious tone and, in my opinion, tarnished the film’s best moments.

I wrote this updated review in December of 2020, and I have now seen this film a handful of times. While I still don’t love this movie as much as I love any of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, I have to admit that the more I watch Marc Webb’s films the more I absolutely love Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield’s scenes together. That also means that every time I watch this movie, the ending of the film is increasingly devastating. This third-act-sequence is breathtaking, and I think Andrew Garfield is incredible in these scenes. What Stone and Garfield had together in these films was really special, and while I still cannot say that this film is good enough, I will say that their scenes together are probably, at the time of writing, some of the best Peter Parker scenes that we have ever seen on the big screen.

Ultimately, I think this film feels like three 45-minute long episodes of a TV-show. The pacing is off, there are way too many villains, and thusly, like the slightly frustrating Sam Raimi-helmed Spider-Man 3 it feels bloated. The smaller character moments are fantastic, but most of the major superhero blockbuster movie moments just don’t work for me as well as they should’ve.

But was it a success? I’m sure it made Sony a lot of money, and, if that’s the definition of success, then, sure, it is. But it didn’t get a lot of praise from critics, and I can’t fully recommend it either, even though I enjoy significant sections of this film. But I often think back to that first time I watched the film. I remember experiencing something when I left the theater, which made me think that it just wasn’t made for me.

While I didn’t love the movie as much as I had hoped, I noticed that someone else — a little kid — had. He was walking out of the theater with his father, and, I presume, his big-brother. As they walked out, I saw that they were, probably, talking about the movie. But then I noticed something that really put a smile on my face. The young boy was playing and acting as if he were Spider-Man. He tried to crawl on the walls and everything, and I have to say that that made the movie feel like a success. The friendly neighborhood Spider-Man had done it again. Marc Webb’s messy and bloated The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is elevated immensely by Stone and Garfield’s performances, was still some kind of ‘success,’ even though it hadn’t lived up to my expectations.

5.5 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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