When I went to see the Spider-Man reboot two years ago, I was curious to see what direction the film would go in. I loved Sam Raimi’s trilogy, and was surprised when I had found out it was being rebooted only a couple of years after Spider-Man 3. I enjoyed Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, but I had mixed feelings about it. I had hoped that things would be better with the sequel, which looked very promising. I’ve seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on the big screen twice, and I have even more mixed feelings than I did with the previous film. Like The Amazing Spider-Man, the source of my frustration and mixed feelings come from Sony itself (which produced the film).
2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 begins with Dr. Richard Parker (Campbell Scott) in a sequence that expands on the circumstances that led to him leaving young Peter with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben, as well as how he and his wife Mary (Embeth Davidtz) met their ultimate demise. The film then shifts to the present, where Peter/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) is taking down a Russian mobster (Paul Giamatti) while en route to his high school graduation. Peter is still dating Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), but he is haunted by Gwen’s father for breaking the promise he made to him before his death. Meanwhile, Oscorp engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), who became a Spider-Man fanatic after being saved by him, has an accident at Oscorp involving electric cables and mutated eels. This turns him into an electrical being (eventually dubbing himself Electro), and he becomes a threat to New York City. Peter not only has to deal with Electro but also with the return of his old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) and his questionable future with Gwen.
Sony has seen how successful Marvel Studios has been with its shared universe of heroes and villains on the big screen and wants to get the same financial success with Spider-Man. Unfortunately, this has had a more negative effect on its rebooted Spider-Man franchise. Although I liked the film a lot, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does suffer from an unfocused narrative (which is most likely due to a lot of scenes being heavily trimmed/completely cut out in order to reduce the running time, which still clocked in at 143 minutes). A lot of character development scenes were lost, especially for Electro, Harry Osborn, and Felicia Hardy (Felicity Jones). Sony is rushing to get to its Sinister Six spin-off; there are already two more Spider-Man sequels confirmed and there’s even a Venom spin-off in the works. Some have made comparisons with this film to Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 2, which is a little unfair because Iron Man 2 was at least able to maintain its focus despite all that was going on. Among this film’s problems are Harry Osborn becoming the Green Goblin, which could’ve waited until the next film (or at least served as this film’s last scene). The last sequence with Rhino was completely unnecessary (at least for this film; it could’ve made for a great opening for The Amazing Spider-Man 3). I had some mixed feelings about Max Dillon prior to becoming Electro. Dillon comes off as a mentally unstable scientist, and in his early scenes I kept thinking of Edward Nigma from 1995’s Batman Forever (right before he comes the Riddler). As for the Electro special effects, at times they were too reminiscent of Dr. Manhattan from 2009’s Watchmen (a much better film that cost at least half of what The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had cost). If there had been less things going on, Sony wouldn’t have needed to cut so much out just to reduce the running time.
My biggest complaint is Hans Zimmer’s score. I wasn’t thrilled when it was announced that the producers weren’t bringing back James Horner (who provided an outstanding score for the previous film). I was even more upset when Zimmer was announced as his replacement, but I was hopeful that he would provide one of his occasional, surprisingly good scores. Sadly, that was not the case here. The score he provided was okay at best (I did buy the 2-disc soundtrack release). Zimmer collaborated with several pop artists (including Pharrell Williams) and dubbed themselves Hans Zimmer and the Magnificent Six. Zimmer believed that the artists who were jamming were more important than the instrumentation being used in the score, resulting in an overhyped score with a simplistic Spidey theme. I offer them kudos for experimenting with the music for Electro, but it would’ve been helpful had the experiment actually been a success (at times it was just distracting). Zimmer tried to capture Spidey’s coolness in the music, but in the process ignored/forgot who Peter Parker /Spider-Man really was internally (both Danny Elfman and James Horner successfully represented the dual identity in their scores whereas Zimmer fails, further proof that Zimmer makes his films, particularly the comic book-based ones, adapt to his own musical sensibilities rather than him adapting to the musical needs of the hero).
I’m deeply troubled about the future of the Spider-Man franchise in the hands of Sony. Don’t get me wrong; there’s still a lot to enjoy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and I’m still hoping that The Amazing Spider-Man 3 will turn out better. I’d also like to see an extended/director’s cut of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (even if it’s over three hours long), which should be much better than the theatrically-released version. The sequels will need more of the heart of the Spider-Man films, which is the journey of Peter Parker (something that the Raimi-directed Spider-Man films got right). I’m not giving up on this rebooted franchise just yet, and neither should anyone else.