Swinging back into cinemas after 2012’s solid if hardly spectacular (and certainly not ‘amazing’) reboot, this sequel aims to start putting its own spin on the Spiderman mythos now that it’s got the origin story out of the way. It’s an admirable attempt yet sadly the finished product comes off as less than the sum of its parts, with plot developments that are sometimes interesting, well acted but often predictable and one thread that I’m not sure anyone really cares about.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is still doing his saving New York thing but harbouring guilt over the death of his girlfriend’s father which is driving a wedge in their relationship. He wants to keep her safe but won’t give up being Spiderman. She wants to be with Peter and not with Spiderman. The appearance of a new villain, Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Peter’s old friend – who will absolutely not become a villain in his own right whatsoever – Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) complicates matters further.
Thankfully, with the first movie out of the way we can jump right in to the world on Spiderman. Garfield is, as he was previously, perfect as Spiderman, imbuing him with a snarky sense of fun that Tobey Maguire never did and Emma Stone proves a far more likeable and believable girlfriend/damsel in distress as Gwen Stacy than Kirsten Dunst ever was as Mary Jane. Their chemistry is what makes the movie sparkle, and even when the plot drives contrived wedges between them the two are a fantastic pairing who can more than bring the emotions when the movie requires it. Jamie Foxx is somewhat lumbered with a pre-transformation character that seems as though someone has typed ‘nerd’ into Google, but his arc throughout the movie is tragic even when he’s turning things into rubble as Electro, even if his motivation for hating Spiderman is a bit shonky. [He also has a brilliantly bonkers theme song that shouldn’t work but totally does.] Dane DeHaan is equally excellent as Harry Osborn, although he feels shoehorned into the movie as a set up for further adventures rather than anything of note here, and his own story feels a tad rushed even in a movie that pushing the two and a half hour mark.
The film has three distinct threads, and it’s shame none of them get the screen time they deserve; there’s the thread involving Electro, one following Peter and Gwen’s relationship and the other picking up the supposed ‘untold story’ of Peter’s father. The first two I can get behind especially because aside from a few niggles they’re very well done, but I’ve yet to meet someone who actually cares about the shadowy government conspiracy angle these films are pushing. I know they’re – once again – setting things up for future cinematic projects but when you’re watching this film it’s boring and slows the movie to a crawl.
Happily though the action is the best it’s ever been in a Spiderman movie. Electro is a stunningly well realised villain whose abilities prove to be more than a match for Spiderman who himself has never looked better, whether it’s swinging through the streets, or fighting a giant mechanised Rhino thing. The standout scene however has to be a Times Square rescue which beautifully showcases all of Spiderman’s abilities (Spidey sense, web slinging as well as Peter Parker’s own smarts) and as a result comes off as the coolest thing I’ve ever seen Spiderman do on film. Seriously, it rivals the train fight with Doc Ock in Raimi’s first sequel.
Overall though the film is more ‘so what?’ than ‘wow, cool’ and it still can’t shake the slightly redundant air that hangs over it. Certain plot elements are reskins of things we already saw in a movie that only came out seven years ago that still are reasonably fresh in the memory.
The Pretty Great In Parts And Not So Great In Others Spiderman 2 is a more apt title. Bit long though.
3 and a half stars
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
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