This one's

This one’s worth checking out.

Actually not too bad; fun

Actually not too bad; fun

The follow up to Spider-Man’s 2012 reboot The Amazing Spider-Man has at long last hit theatres in select parts of the world. The marketing for it made me go into it with expectations that were, well, rather mixed.

Peter and Gwen. Will they be together? Or is the life of a hero simply too dangerous?

Peter and Gwen. Will they be together? Or is the life of a hero simply too dangerous?

On the one hand, I liked the choice of actors. On the other, some effects looked mediocre and the visuals, right down to the design of the trailer titles, looked oversaturated and almost a little too comic book-esque. On the one hand, the choice of villains was nice. On the other, why do we need three of them? Basically: I was curious but skeptical.

Andrew Garfield stars in Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Peter Parker, the not so geeky geek that dons Spider-Man’s suit and web-shooters. He is a confused orphan who ponders the enigmatic fate of his parents, lives with his aunt May (Sally Field), and crushes on a cute girl whom his life as a superhero might just be too dangerous for, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). He also reunites with his old buddy Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), heir of the powerful tech company ruled over by his dying father: Oscorp. Harry reveals, though, that he has caught his father’s fatal illness and that he wants Spider-Man’s blood, believing his spidey-powers can heal his sickness. Hence Peter’s friend becomes Spider-Man’s enemy, and as the film progresses Peter finds out more about Oscorp and its links to his his long lost parents. Norman Osborn, Harry’s father, is played here by Chris Cooper.

Meanwhile, an incident at Oscorp causes the creation of a nearly godlike super-villain called Electro (Jamie Foxx), who was once a nerdy Oscorp electrician named Max Dillon. Often ignored and alone, he idolized the legendary Spider-Man and just wanted to be noticed. The incident grants him the ability to create and manipulate electricity and his jealousy and rage leads him to lash out at New York, and soon also Spider-Man. Harry himself becomes a major threat once the illness starts affecting his sanity (or something) and he, somewhat randomly, becomes none other than the classic Spidey nemesis The Green Goblin. And if that’s not enough, there’s Paul Giamatti hamming it up like there’s no tomorrow in his small cameo as a Russian gangster that later becomes a villain known as The Rhino.

The idea that this film, like the universally despised Spider-Man 3, ended up having three villains is something that turned people off, but I’d say it works much better this time around, particularly in terms of screentime balance.

Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon, now known as Electro.

Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon, now known as Electro.

Completing the large cast are Colm Feore as Oscorp’s vice president of sorts, Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz as Peter’s lost parent, B.J. Novak as Dillon’s boss Alistair Smythe, Marton Csokas as German stereotype Dr. Kafka, and Felicity Jones as Felicia Hardy, a future love interest if the film follows the timeline of the comics correctly. Martin Sheen and Denis Leary appear in flashbacks/dream sequences as Peter’s deceased uncle Ben and Gwen’s late father respectively, and of course, what would a Marvel Comics film be without Stan Lee? There’s no Jameson yet but he is hinted at!

Now, the most crucial flaw of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – apart from, ya know, getting some of the science pretty damn wrong – is the motivation of its villains. As much as I thought that the Electro character was mostly quite cool and interesting to watch (in spite of looking too much like Dr. Manhattan), his backstory amounts to little more than “Spider-Man didn’t remember me, therefor I must turn to evil”, although one can argue that the experiment that turned him into Electro had the same effect on him as it did on those angry eels at Oscorp.

Also, as much as I loved seeing Dane DeHaan in a role similar to his part in the wonderful 2012 movie Chronicle, he becomes somewhat hammy once he becomes The Green Goblin, his motivation for turning evil feels weak and his Goblin persona nearly ends up feeling tacked on. Not as badly as Venom in the Sam Raimi films, but still. Really, the best villain in the film is Paul Giamatti, the one who is in it least.

But it is the main characters that truly remind me how much better Marc Webb‘s films are than Raimi’s loathesome Spider-Man trilogy. Not only are they funny when they need to be (and quite honestly should be if you’ve read the comics), but they also stay strong whenever the film takes a warranted breather from the action and makes room for drama. You care about Peter, you believe in the relationship between him and Gwen, you wish that they work things out and stay together, and, of course, you feel sorry for him and aunt May when times get bleak at home. It’s the main reason I still make the case that this is, in fact, a passable film.

Spider-Man fights the Green Goblin. Whether the new design is good depends on the viewer.

Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin. Whether his new design is any good is arguable but at least he *looks* like a goblin.

I won’t, however, dare to go further than giving this a 3/5. As much as I was entertained by most of the characters, laughed at Peter/Spidey’s charmfully snarky quips, enjoyed Hans Zimmer‘s new theme (as well as the Electro theme with vocals by Pharrell Williams), and liked all the build-up revolving around the “Sinister Six” storyline from the comics, there are still things  that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets very wrong. There are action set-pieces that are too silly, there are some non-sensical character motivations and there are some visual effects, particularly ones involving Electro, that aren’t quite holding up. Although at least it’s not as bad or cheesy-looking as in many of the adverts and teasers.

Even some of the posters are cartoony in their color schemes and are in general poorly made. One poster shows Spider-Man crouching down in front of a garishly blue sky with lightning on it. Supposedly it is meant to signify his battle with Electro, but since Electro is nowhere to be found on the poster, it looks more like he’s about to fight either God or Thor, and we all know why the Spider-Man character isn’t allowed inside the Avengers universe.

However, should you choose to see this, watch out for a post-credit sequence that surprisingly enough references, not the Avengers, but the X-Men franchise. The scene teases the possibility of  a crossover but sources inform me that this crossover won’t ever occur as long as the Spider-Man and X-Men film rights are owned by two different studios. So on second thought, don’t wait for that post-credit sequence.

(Boy do I suspect that this one won’t exactly grow on me.)

3/5 whatever