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Movies Review

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 review: Andrew Garfield leads uneven sequel

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Director: Marc Webb; Screenwriters: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner; Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Chris Cooper Running time: 142 mins; Certificate: 12A

If The Amazing Spider-Man was a canny reintroduction to the beloved webslinger, then Sony's quickfire sequel is its bid to do a Marvel Studios and lay the groundwork for a shared film universe. Plans are already afoot for instalments 3, 4 and Venom and Sinister Six spinoff movies, and that feels like a big a part of the problem here - Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems more like an exercise in calculated franchise architecture than its does a cohesive stand-alone blockbuster.

Still, you can't fault returning director Marc Webb for skimping on entertainment value. Everything and the kitchen sink gets thrown at Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker throughout the course of a hefty 140-minute running time as Spidey gets beaten up - both emotionally and physically - facing down villains Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan).

Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Sidelining the Peter-Gwen Stacy relationship that worked so brilliantly last time around (the pair break up early and are on-off throughout), the sequel initially dives into the protagonist's past to solve the mystery of what happened to his father Richard years previously. The opening, which bears all the hallmarks of co-writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, gives Campbell Scott a chance to throw some punches and set the wheels in motion for a pixel-driven spectacle and soul-searching from Spidey.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's creation has always had a knack for juggling the extraordinary and the ordinary, and Amazing Spider-Man 2 carries on this tradition by having a dash of the soap opera about it.

Peter and Gwen find themselves tangled up in relationship woes (Stone is wonderful again, but doesn't get nearly enough screen time), and running alongside this is a theme of abandonment among its three headline characters. Both Peter and Harry grapple with absent fathers, while Foxx's nerdy Oscorp employee Max Dillon is perennially ignored until an accident turns him into a supervillain. Webb's eye lies mainly on this trio at the expense of Peter and Gwen, but thankfully Garfield and Stone's chemistry is enough to paper over these cracks in the screenplay.

Foxx's bad guy Electro, a fresh introduction to the Spider-Man film series, is a formidable physical foe for our hero but one whose transformation is tonally jarring. His bumbling Max (complete with goofy soundtrack) wouldn't look out of place in a latter Christopher Reeve Superman, which makes his transformation into a badass mass of electrical energy an incongruous one. Amid all this is a bizarrely off-key interlude where he seemingly encounters the sadistic doctor from The Human Centipede (Marton Csokas in full-on ham mode).

Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems more like an exercise in calculated franchise architecture than it does a cohesive stand-alone blockbuster.

DeHaan fares much better, playing a Harry Osborn who's more jittery and complex than playboy smarmy like his predecessor James Franco. The Oscorp heir and Peter manage to rekindle their childhood friendship, but the bromance turns sour as Harry becomes obsessed with vanquishing the genetic disorder that took his father and has taken hold of him.

Other characters are brought into the fold, too, chiefly Paul Giamatti as a criminal with a dubious Russian accent and Felicity Jones as an Oscorp employee whose name will trigger nods of recognition in comic book aficionados. Both are glorified extras, though, saving themselves for another time (or sequel) perhaps.

Despite the uneven nature of the whole endeavour, praise needs to go to Garfield for holding it all together. He's more at ease in the role than Tobey Maguire ever was, and manages to nail the big moments when called upon. He's an absolute revelation as this character.

Peter's past, present and future all intertwine in a sequel that offers bang for your buck. That said you can't help feel the franchise bean counters at work here thanks to all the ominous foreshadowing and unresolved character arcs. Too many cooks and all that...


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