Author’s note: This article contains comparison between The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and its comic book predecessor and contains spoilers for the end of the film.
After Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 in 2007, Spidey fans were left disappointed, annoyed, and angry. Five years later, we got a reboot in Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man. It replaced Tobey Maguire with Andrew Garfield, and Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. The movie received mixed reactions, but I personally thought the film to be a huge step up from the Raimi films, particularly after the third installment.
Like Spider-Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffers from trying to do too many things at once. We have two villains with origin stories to tell, a romance, conspiracies surrounding Peter’s father, and build-up to subsequent films. The result is a bit of a mess, especially when it comes to the two villains.
Jaime Foxx plays Max Dillon/Electro, a Spider-Man fanboy-turned-super villain. While Foxx does a fine job portraying the character, the script doesn’t do him any favors. Max’s motivations are extremely thin. He begins to hate Spider-Man suddenly for no easily discernible reason, and after the first act of the story he gets sidelined for the rise of another villain.
Dane DeHaan plays Harry Osbourne, who you may remember was James Franco’s character in the Raimi films. Here, his motivation to get Spidey is that he’s sick, and only Spider-Man’s blood can save him. In the Raimi films, Harry’s motivation was that Spider-Man killed his father, which to me seems a stronger motivation. While DeHaan, like Foxx, does a good job portraying his character, his weak motivations make the character far less interesting than he potentially could have been.
Fortunately we have Garfield and Stone reprising their roles as Peter and Gwen, and they are once again the best part of the movie. Garfield nails it, but Stone gives him a real run for his money. The pair work off each other perfectly, and their romantic chemistry on-screen is undoubtedly aided by their real-life relationship. This is the only superhero movie I’ve ever seen (and probably ever will see) that really got me invested in the romance. I kept thinking, “Enough with Harry, go back to Gwen and Peter!” That’s not something that happens very often, especially in this genre, and I feel like this makes it stand out from its many competitors this summer.
Now, when you have a conversation with someone about this movie, it’s pretty difficult to not talk about the ending. Remember in Raimi’s Spider-Man 1 when the Green Goblin dangled Mary Jane and a car full of children over a bridge and wanted Peter to choose who to save? That scene was based on an issue of Spider-Man titled “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” where Peter’s attempts to save Gwen from falling results in a fatal neck snap.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 aims to recreate the shock and heartbreak most comic readers experienced, but couldn’t simply recreate the scene since Raimi had already done it. Instead we get Gwen falling through a clock tower, and Peter only pulling her up a split-second after she hit the ground. It’s a powerful, sad, and disturbing moment, and the resulting scene of Peter standing over Gwen’s grave as months pass by is heartbreaking. Peter gives up being Spider-Man, and the movie ends.
Instead of a melancholy, pseudo-cliffhanger ending we get a ham-fisted and rushed mini-character arc to get Peter back in costume. The filmmakers tried to end it on a happy note with Peter going around saving people again, but it really just comes off as forced. We see him give up being a hero, then 10 minutes later we see him take it back up again. Why try to cram it in instead of saving that for the next movie? We already know there’s going to be a sequel because of a final scene with Harry. But I know the answer: they want to cram even more villains into the next movie, so they don’t have time for Peter. Peter, who the movies are supposed to be about.
With all that said though, I did still enjoy the movie a lot. Despite the forced ending and the botched villains, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone really do make the movie worth watching. It’s refreshing to see a Peter Parker who isn’t all blubbery and serious all the time, and a female lead who, you know, does things. I can only hope we get an equally good Mary Jane in the future.
3 out of 5 stars
Joel Wallick is currently pursuing a degree in film studies at Bowling Green State University with an undecided minor. He has been gaming since early childhood, beginning with Pokemon Silver.