Welcome back to 2014. The year was marked by several phenomenal Marvel films including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. It had only been a couple of years since The Avengers debuted, so the comic book movie landscape was full of excitement and promise. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 also happened to be released in 2014.
The day before it was released, if you had told anyone that within the next two years the Spider-Man franchise would yet again be rebooted with an entirely new British Peter Parker, you would’ve sounded pretty silly. But then after audiences got the chance to see it, you would’ve sounded like a Sony executive. Full disclosure, TASM 2 is one of my favorite Spider-Man films, because if you ignore all of the bad stuff, it’s actually not a bad movie.
I do think Andrew Garfield is a phenomenal Spider-Man. He’s the funniest, his quips are great, and overall his masked person has the most personality of any live-action Spidey. He also had some great street-level action scenes early on, and they play up the conflict between that and his normal life. This version is actually well-connected to New York City and crime-fighting, unlike a certain Iron Space Avenger Spider (but maybe that’s your thing). However, I will not even suggest that Garfield is an ideal candidate for Peter Parker – whenever someone called him “Peter”, it threw me off. That was a grown 30-year-old man, both literally and in on-screen presence.
How a director with the last name Webb could not land a Best Picture Academy Award nomination for a Spider-Man movie is beyond me. The best guess of why this didn’t happen is a note I jotted down when re-watching the movie: “This plot is dumb.” But sometimes to truly appreciate a film, you have to ignore the plot – that’s just life. With the holidays approaching, the right thing to do is forgive and forget. However, there is no question that the fact that the Rhino fight scene – which played dramatically and was highlighted in every single trailer this movie ever put out – was never even a real scene is absolutely unforgivable and you are right to still be upset about it.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was plagued by the “okay, so we just did a whole Spider-Man franchise a few years ago, so how do we make it way too obvious that this is different from those?” disease. Make no mistake, this is not the same as the Goblin disease Harry Osborn had to deal with – what better way is there to enjoy a “different” Green Goblin than to actually make him a goblin? It’s art. But Harry for sure has some issues at the end of the film, the guy looked rough, mostly just greasy, but Greasy Goblin is just angry that introducing his character as some guy that Peter hasn’t seen or talked to since middle school maybe wasn’t the best choice.
“This plot is dumb” because none of the major potential plots seem to belong in the movie. This means that the movie is less of a story and more of a smattering of ideas. But if Jackson Pollock can make it work, surely Spidey can too. I have a hard time deciding if the loose idea of the Richard and Mary Parker story was just bad at face value, or just misunderstood. But after typing that sentence I realized I understand it and I’m pretty sure it’s just bad. In any event, starting the movie with what felt like an hour (it was probably more like ten minutes) of these flashbacks was not ideal. Then, throughout the movie, it’s clear it has no real importance to the actual movie, but Peter will remember it at times so that there can be montages.
The parents’ “plot” really only served to technically create Greasy Goblin via syringe, but yet Greasy Goblin seemed to only be there to … actually, I have no idea why. Perhaps only to technically pretend to be an emo bad boy with Electro for a hot minute – even though I’m pretty sure Electro didn’t actually need help jumping into an outlet – and maybe give Gwen Stacy a slightly more comic-accurate death.
Electro was, in theory, the main villain. He’s easily my favorite part of the movie, both ironically and genuinely. Max is a lot – he’s cringy, awkward, hard to look in the digital eye. It worked well for what the character was supposed to be, but I have no idea how intentional some of it was or if it just worked out in post-production somehow. Obviously, his transformation into a member of the Blue Man Group (but with more eel inspiration) is one of the most memorable things from TASM 2, and yes, it is rough. I’m pretty sure Jamie Foxx actually nailed his performance. But with lines like “It’s my birthday!” as he tries to fry some men, women, and children, it gets hard to tell.
Obviously, at the heart of this movie is the relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy even if he stalked her way too much. First of all, part of the reason why TASM 2 is secretly good is that they did indeed kill Gwen. Not only does this introduce a darker element from the comics, but at the time it seemed inconceivable that a superhero movie would just (fairly violently) kill off a lead romantic interest, let alone Emma Stone. Unfortunately, the movie spent almost all of its run time leading up to this heartbreaking moment by making sure the two lovebirds were broken up. I’m not sure why that makes much sense, but maybe they needed to make sure they had enough time for Greasy Goblin to have his fake story.
Despite the mess that is the majority of TASM 2, this movie had some gnarly visual effects and a Hans Zimmer score. If you generally only pay attention to these two things, the film is phenomenal. Spider-Man’s swinging and action scenes were stunning. While the action scenes were fun, there were very few. An inappropriately large amount of the movie was spent watching people talk. Still, the final power plant scene was wild. It did not fit the tone of the rest of the movie whatsoever, but it was campy, dramatic, over-the-top, and I had a great time with it. TASM 2 loved its slow-motion, and I remember being in awe when I first saw it in IMAX.
Finally, Hans Zimmer really brought it. More importantly, he really brought it for Electro. I think TASM 2 thought: “how do we make sure people know Electro is Jamie Foxx and that Jamie Foxx also does music?” The answer was for the score to go hard for the character by diving into his head as the music’s base. The Times Square Electro scene, in particular, is a musical playground. It’s so great.
All in all, TASM 2 is just as lovable as the rest of Spider-Man movies, but sometimes love is hard work. The ending of the movie was magnificent, we see Peter’s montage through some dark times only to emerge as Spider-Man again in the city’s time of need. This movie had some of the best Spider-Man swinging and action sequences that currently exist, both in terms of visuals and Garfield being a fantastic Spider-Man. While we will never truly know how The Amazing Spider-Man 3 would have played out, the fact that the mystery of Peter’s parents’ story remains unresolved does not keep me up at night.