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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 | reviews, news & interviews

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Superhero almost saves the day, again, in well-made, redundant sequel

Spider-senses will be buzzing alarmingly before the end, as deadly danger approaches Peter Parker and his loved ones - just the sort of danger, in fact, that some viewers may remember from the distant days of 2004, and Spider-Man 2, Sam Raimi’s superhero movie high-water mark. It’s the problem that won’t go away for the series reboot Sony’s budget and creative conflicts with Raimi required, when the series had only just begun. Everyone has done an excellent job on director Marc Webb’s exciting, well-crafted sequel to his first Spider-Man film. But it’s impossible to reboot audiences’ brains, and forget the same job was done even better, only the other day.

Webb’s style is at least distinct, right from the opening, desperate action flashback, in which Parker’s late dad Richard (Campbell Scott) grapples for control of a computer in a skyjacked plane. Everything that happens feels cleanly muscular and slightly hyper-real, digital and 3D effects in a harmony unavailable to Raimi. Webb also dips into different elements of early Spider-Man comics than those Raimi chose - focusing on the fairly obscure revelation of Peter’s dad’s secret agent past, and the death of Gwen Stacy’s dad in the first film, a reminder that getting close to Parker can be fatal.

Webb then lets his long film unfold at a leisurely pace, observing the romance between Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen (Emma Stone, pictured, above right). Just as the comic-book Spider-Man’s particular strength was always the tragic soap opera of Parker’s life, so Webb relishes his actors’ chemistry. Kirsten Dunst breathed perky life into Mary Jane Watson for Raimi, but Stone is an uniquely convincing, strong female character for a superhero film. Her relationship with Garfield’s Parker as they spar, break up, flirt and get back together feels real, and between equals. Essentially, the strange, surreal world of original Spider-Man artist Steve Ditko, so suited to Raimi, has been replaced by the one enjoyed by his late Sixties successor, former romance comic artist John Romita. The sense of Peter Parker as a genuine oddball and underdog is gone, too, though, along with Tobey Maguire. Garfield is good, but he and Stone are beautiful, regular young people: born winners.

When the super-villain sub-plots finally kick in, the time spent on our heroes ramps up their jeopardy. Jamie Foxx, first seen as a geek with missing teeth and a Jack Charlton comb-over, transforms into Electro, a minor villain in the comics here intelligently rethought for the digital age, as his ability to absorb electricity shuts Manhattan down, leaving planes hurtling blindly towards each other. Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, pictured above right, with Garfield) is a slyer presence, a troubled old friend of Peter, genetically cursed by his late father as Peter was gifted heroic attributes by his. DeHaan, an actor rapidly on the rise, catches Osborn’s Ivy League indolence, and the incipient malevolence which will burst forth when he inevitably becomes the Green Goblin.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels convincing and finally moving while it’s on. One of several things it misplaces is the New York Jewish hipster wit the comics’ writer Stan Lee injected into every panel. Lee, now 91, gets his usual cameo, and the satisfaction that his co-creation is still commercially thriving. But Spider-Man’s freshness, back on Lee or Raimi’s watch, is wilting.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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