The most common complaint about Spider-Man 3 is that it’s overstuffed. It’s got too many villains, with Venom in particular feeling completely wasted. So what did they do with Amazing Spider-Man 2? They repeated the same mistakes, while seemingly focusing more on building up to a Sinister 6 film than actually making a good standalone movie. It often feels like movie studios are very slow to learn from their mistakes.
Despite these mistakes, Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a financial success, earning $709 million on a budget somewhere between $200 and $293 million, the higher end would put this in the top 10 for the most expensive movies in history, but it’s more likely on the lower end of that. Despite making money, it was considered a box office disappointment. It didn’t help that the film’s marketing budget is estimated at $180 million, on top of the film’s already high budget. Additionally, the lukewarm critical reception of 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 5.8/10, didn’t exactly give Sony Pictures confidence in the future of the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies. Thus, we saw the second Spider-Man film reboot within the same decade, giving us Spider-Man: Homecoming. But I’ve already reviewed that one.
This movie was announced shortly after Amazing Spider-Man’s success. At the time, Marc Webb was unsure whether he’d return for the sequel, although by September of 2012, he confirmed his return, along with Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man. Emma Stone actually signed on for two Amazing Spider-Man sequels, which sounds weird considering … we’ll get to that. Also returning, you’ve got Sally Field as May Parker, and Denis Leary appearing from time to time as Captain Stacy’s ghost.
Although they never found room for him, J.K. Simmons expressed interest in reprising his role as JJ Jameson from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. In October of 2012, they announced that Jamie Foxx would portray Electro, and soon after, they announced that Dane DeHaan would play Harry Osborn. Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso in Rogue One) was also announced for the movie in a then undisclosed role, which would later be confirmed as Felicia Hardy, the civilian name for the morally ambiguous Black Cat in the comics. This clearly takes place before she becomes Black Cat, as she’s working as Harry’s assistant. Shailene Woodley was cast as Mary Jane Watson at one point, but her scenes were cut before filming began.
Early on, they announced that Amazing Spider-Man 2 would be shot on film, instead of digitally as the first movie was. It would also be the first Spider-Man movie filmed entirely in New York State. One car chase was filmed in Rochester, as the speed limits there are less restrictive than New York City. Because of the move back to shooting on film, the movie needed a post conversion from 2D to 3D, whereas the first Amazing Spider-Man shot in native 3D.
With the late James Horner in the middle of a hiatus during the making of Amazing Spider-Man 2, Hans Zimmer took over soundtrack duties. He and Webb then created a super group to work on the soundtrack, which they called the Magnificent Six (referencing the supervillain group, Sinister Six). Zimmer did this partly because the soundtrack was quite different than his normal work.
Amazing Spider-Man actually managed to release on April 16th in 2014 in the UK, 2 days earlier than the original planned release date. The marketing surrounding the movie, which I mentioned earlier was estimated at $180 million on its own, was quite varied. They released “Daily Bugle” articles and pictures on Webb’s Tumblr page, a message written in Dwarven language revealing the first trailer would debut in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, four minute trailers at conventions that leaked onto the internet, footage reveals at New York’s New Year’s celebration, and tie-ins with WWF’s “Earth Hour” campaign. While creative, in hindsight it’s a bit over-the-top.
I’ve already touched on how this movie performed, both critically and commercially, so let’s get into the real review. I saw this back when it first released, and although I already heard the very mixed reception beforehand, I still found it disappointing. At the time, I considered this to be a messy, mediocre superhero movie, but with a very good romantic comedy trapped inside. I was disappointed enough that I didn’t even watch Amazing Spider-Man again until last week. My opinion hasn’t changed all that much about this one, but I did enjoy it a bit more the second time round.
Also, this movie does benefit in the hindsight of Spider-Man: No Way Home, and how it gives Garfield’s Spider-Man some closure.
First, the good. The opening car chase with the criminal who would later become Rhino is exciting, introduces Max Dillon in an efficient way, while also highlighting how Peter’s work as Spider-Man is getting in the way of his personal life. It’s a great way to open the movie. On that note, the scenes where Spider-Man is helping ordinary people are quite good. Also, while their relationship is in a strange spot for this entire movie, Peter and Gwen’s relationship works quite well as a romantic comedy. Garfield and Stone work so well together from a chemistry standpoint, and the drama involved with the challenges to their relationship is very compelling. Mainly, the sense of guilt Peter has knowing that he promised her dying father that he’d stay away from her, while at the same time, Gwen is most likely going to get a scholarship at Oxford University in England.
Judging by these elements alone, this movie is very good. Unfortunately, everything else is a bit of a mess.
I won’t go into too much detail here, but I was never a fan of Aunt May in the Amazing Spider-Man movies. She always seemed so oblivious to what’s going on. In the first trilogy, Peter does a great job at hiding his superhero work from his aunt, but almost slips up a couple of times. There are times when one must wonder if his aunt suspects him. In the MCU trilogy, Aunt May just finds out, and that worked out quite well for the trilogy. I also like how in the 2018 PS4 game, it’s revealed towards the end of the game that Aunt May has known for a long time, and just wanted Peter to feel like she didn’t know. I’d like to think it’s like that by the time you get to Spider-Man 3 in the Raimi trilogy. That’s my head cannon. Anyway, in the Amazing Spider-Man movies, she just seems oblivious.
Foxx’s Max Dillan, aka Electro, is just a strange interpretation of the character. He’s a brilliant, yet socially inept scientist who starts off idolizing Spider-Man. There are a couple of scenes where he imagines himself having a deep friendship with this superhero that he only met once for a brief moment. While I could see that actually happening in a world with superheroes, his heel turn into a villain feels quite rushed. His fight scenes also feel ridiculous more often than not. With the sheer amount of electricity he’s throwing around, there’s no possible way Spider-Man could survive his attacks in their opening fight, and that’s to say nothing about how ridiculous the climactic fight at the power plant are. The moment where Spider-Man saves people by pulling back their hands just before they touch an electrified railing is brilliant, but apart from that, this fight would have worked better if they scaled it way down.
In real life, a current of 0.1 amps is enough to kill someone. A toaster generally runs on 8-10 amps. Electricity powerful enough to create a constant stream of lightning will be way above that. Even considering the fact that electricity takes the path of least resistance, there’s no way Spider-Man’s suit can withstand that, no matter what kind of insulation he’s got on that thing. At the very least, he’d receive severe burns on his hands and chest – enough to damage his internal organs. That’s not even thinking about the moment in the climax where he uses his webs to repair major electrical lines at the power plant.
For a movie featuring Peter, a bit of a mad scientific genius, this movie has a lot of questionable physics when it comes to electricity. Sure, you could say the same of a couple moments in No Way Home, but this movie did it first and worse. I’m sorry, I can’t shut my brain off with these things.
Harry Osborn’s portrayal is strange here too. Peter and Harry are apparently friends, yet they haven’t seen each other in 10 years (with Harry spending half of his childhood in Europe). Yet as soon as Harry finds out he’s dying of an illness that also killed his father, he demands that Peter helps him find Spider-Man for his blood. Why? Because Harry believes Spider-Man’s blood can heal him. This plot just feels strange. You can understand why he became a villain out of desperation, but considering he kind of got what he wanted from a formula stuck in Special Projects at Oscorp, why does he feel the need to kill Spider-Man so badly? Both Peter and Spider-Man tell Harry straight up that they’re concerned his blood will make Harry’s situation worse, yet he responds by calling Spider-Man a fraud and hating Peter? On the one hand, he was dying, but on the other hand, he’s asking a huge favour from a friend he’s barely seen in 10 years.
What you have are two villains who aren’t compelling in the slightest. Sure, the creepy stalker aspect of Electro’s personality does happen in real life. That aspect of Electro’s personality is underexplored and he escalates to full-blown villain way too quickly. There’s no real attempt at apologizing for his actions. There’s no recognition that he’s causing accidentally causing a lot of damage and harm. If you removed Harry and spent more time on Electro, his story could have been more compelling as a social reject falling into insanity. This is the kind of story that’s worth exploring, but it’s definitely not done justice here. As for Harry, his story would have worked better if he didn’t disappear to Europe for 10 years, and appeared at least as a minor character in the first Amazing Spider-Man. There is potential in his story, but it feels rushed. It’s impossible not to compare it to the much better story of Harry in the Sam Raimi trilogy. In that one, he believes that Spider-Man killed his father, just when they were starting to reconcile their rocky relationship.
As for Rhino, he appears as a dangerous criminal driving a truck in the opening, and again at the very end of the movie in his full-blown Rhino suit. We don’t even get a proper Rhino fight – the movie ends just before Spider-Man lands his first strike. He might as well not be in this movie, and I’m saying that despite enjoying the opening chase scene. It’s especially bad when you remember that shot was included in almost every trailer for the movie. Showing the movie’s final shot in the trailer is a trend that needs to end.
Even the fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin feels rushed. That said, Gwen Stacy’s death is very well handled. It uses just the right amount of slow motion to show Gwen’s terror as she’s falling, Spider-Man’s attempt to save her, only to go back to full speed at the moment. It’s a very tragic scene that’s very faithful to the original comic, in that you’re not exactly sure how she died. Was it a neck break? Was it a head impact? Maybe it was something else. Whatever the case, it works. It also feels all the more tragic because the movie’s romantic plot is by far the best part of the movie.
The biggest mistake Amazing Spider-Man 2 made is it tried to do too much. Out of all of this movie’s elements, the tragic love story is the only one that truly works. I can see what they were going for with Electro and Harry’s stories, but they both feel rushed and underdeveloped. They don’t just feel rushed through – they feel very awkward because of the combination of feeling rushed and the direction of their stories. There’s also the tacked on mystery of Peter investigating what happened to his parents that kind of went nowhere. It’s better than I remembered from my first viewing, but of the 5 pre-MCU Spider-Man movies, this is the weakest.
October will be Tom Hanks month. I’ll start with Forrest Gump. I haven’t completely decided on which movies beyond that, but I’m considering The Green Mile, A League of Their Own, and there will be at least one of his earlier movies in here. I’ll also plan a strange, forgotten Tom Hanks movie for the weekend before Halloween.