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The Best & The Worst Of 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'

Features
by The Playlist Staff
May 5, 2014 2:21 PM
38 Comments
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As you're probably aware at this point from the inescapable marketing onslaught (damn that Evian Spider-baby to the darkest depths of hell), "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," Sony's sequel to the reboot of the series based on a comic book, hit theaters in the U.S. on Friday, after opening in much of the rest of the world in mid-April. Seeing Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man take on Jamie Foxx's Electro and Dane DeHaan's Green Goblin (plus, in a cameo, Paul Giamatti's Rhino) while continuing to woo Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy, it had a strong box office weekend, although falling short of the total of both the first and third Sam Raimi Spider-pictures, and last month's Marvel entry "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."


Perhaps more importantly, the film fell short critically, with lower Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores than any of the previous films in the franchise, while our official review pretty much straight-up loathed it. Not many members of the Playlist team are fond of the movie, so with the film now out for everyone to see, we've dug into it with more depth and laid out what we found good, bad and just plain ugly in the movie. Spoilers abound, obviously. And if you're someone who loved the movie, or if you hated things about it that we didn't mention, you can have your say in the comments section below.

The Good

The Romantic Leads And Their Chemistry
Let’s look at “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” in the most positive light, shall we? The lead cast is pretty terrific, and note when we say the lead cast we are not talking about: Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti or Colm Feore. However, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have awesome chemistry together and you can’t help but smile and lean forward when the two characters are flirting, riffing or trying to play coy together. Obviously, the actors are dating off-screen too, and this helps. There’s palpable electricity between them that’s authentic and in a few scenes their collective charisma is off the charts. They make for a credible love story in a credulity straining movie (yes, even for a superhero film), and while the movie puts them in some dumb situations—Gwen's appearance during the climactic battle is both silly and unnecessary except for plotting purposes—they at least make every scene together work. Now if only a movie as magnetic and compelling as their romantic alchemy was built around them.

Sally Field
“The Amazing Spider-Man” series has gone the route of most superhero films these days; trying to cast some incredible actors in parts big and small, assuming and hoping their talents will really elevate the movie into something beyond your average comic book movie. Christopher Nolan arguably pulled off this approach best with his ‘Dark Knight’ series. But even great actors like Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan and Paul Giamatti prove that big talent given stupid and poorly written characters can't make them work any better off the page, no matter how hard they try. But one supporting actor in particular is terrific, and that’s Sally Field. In an alternate universe where “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” gets an Oscar nomination, the film’s Oscar clip would be the heart-to-heart between Peter and Aunt May. She reveals to Peter what she believes to be the truth about his parents, all while insisting she is Peter’s real parent and she fights for him to believe that. It’s a wonderfully awesome emotional moment full of honesty, truth and vulnerability on the part of both actors. You can almost see Andrew Garfield’s impressed “wow” as he steps up to match Sally Field’s heart-wrenching performance. And again, how fantastic would this movie had been if it could have bottled up the emotion in that scene and sprinkled it over the rest of the picture?

Marc Webb Knows His Emotional Beats
Much muck has been slung at Marc Webb for his messy direction and far be it from us to defend him fully. But credit where credit is due—the aforementioned scene and all the scenes with Peter and Gwen are genuine, honest and authentic. Coming from the indie world and the mature romantic comedy “(500) Days of Summer,” Webb knows how to really maximize the potential of any emotional scene and he nails almost all of them out of the park. Alas, the unfocused screenplay with several different and conflicting agendas—world building, villain arcs, and sowing seeds for future villains—eventually just dilute the emotional legitimacy of the film. And it’s almost remarkable how much these scenes pop in opposition of other “superhero” scenes where the movie drags so painfully. Taken on their own, maybe these aforementioned scenes could be used in a masterclass teaching demo on how to direct a love story. But within the context of the film they are good sequences that live beside the rest of the noise.

Early Action Scenes Are Good
Before “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” devolves into the noisy, incoherent mess that it is, it does have some flair (so do some of the set-pieces in the second and third act, but by then it’s almost too late). The early action scene with the Rhino is breathlessly shot, really maximizing the 360 agility and impossible physical abilities of Spider-Man. The camera pirouettes through New York City as Peter Parker spins his way towards the Rhino in a getaway truck full of plutonium. All of it is well-staged and well-framed, and while the movie’s attempt to make Spider-Man as quippy and fun as the comics tends to get a little contrived and forced, this scene is otherwise cinematically thrilling. And even later on, some of the action scenes are rather inventive. The slow-motion sequence where Spider-Man saves innocents from an electrified Times Square sightseeing bleacher is conceptually ambitious as is the set-piece where a bus is struck, flies through the air and the people inside ping-pong around to their would-be doom before Spider-Man arrives and saves the day. Unfortunately, both those scenes arrive deeper into the movie when you’re struggling to care and thus we are numbed and many of these sequences, ambitious as they may be, feel like hollow video game gestures in a movie that feels filled with hollow video gamey-like gestures. Taken on their own, again, they're visually kind of impressive. But by then, you just may not care, which is further reason why a movie has to work collectively on all fronts.

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38 Comments

  • shaun | May 14, 2014 7:46 AMReply

    3. the sinister 6 hints in the credit where not so helpful, and didnt really give me anything i felt i took away from it
    4. what was with the zoom music app thing at the end, an obsolete format for giving hints away at a cinema
    it wasnt terrible, i just left SUPER confused that it had ended where it had and that i didnt feel fullfilled

  • shaun | May 14, 2014 7:45 AMReply

    overall the action was non existant for me, a few short small fight scenes none of which tied into the story very well and just seemed like a mish mash of scenes and not very well put together

    the end though, confused the hell out of me for a few reasons

    1. it ends JUST as you think spiderman is about to start getting into the last portion of the movie, the action scenes the big build up to a fantastic end was just... nothing, he picks up a sewer plate and throws it and it ends... id seen that scene already so many times that it was too familiar

    2. why was there an xmen trailer at the end of it and not something to do with spiderman?? if spiderman was gona pop up unexpectedly in xmen then fine that would be amazing.. no pun instead, but it wont happen, so the boring new scene with mystique and toad at the army camp didnt excite me at all in anyway

  • shaun | May 14, 2014 7:44 AMReply

    gwen and peters scenes where too much, too repetative and id felt like id watched the same scene atleast 20 times before the film ended, but the death scene was so perfectly done to the comic that i have no complaints, it did have me on the edge of my seat as soon as you hear her neck snap, even then its kinda hard to believe she is dead, but i loved that bit, only thing i didnt like was the rushed green goblin

  • shaun | May 14, 2014 7:43 AMReply

    another 50/50 review, i think you are right on some things, like the train car, ok his dad likely used it alot so already set it up thats not far fetched, server would have been setup by him if he already had this all planned out and was worried about working with oscorp, but yes why show it for about 50 seconds and never again? felt like a huge waste of time

  • John Murray | May 13, 2014 10:12 PMReply

    Ok, I didn't particularly love this movie, but Gwens death was beautifully done. I can't get it out of my mind.

  • Raul Pernas | May 13, 2014 6:16 PMReply

    Wow this article is terrible my experiance watching the movie was like no other the chemistry between Gwen and Peter, the spectacular fight scenes, funniest moments, and the story Line got me attached to the whole movie idk why critics look towards the most annoying details they should just stop cuz they are annoying well most of them anyways this movie was the most exciting movie I have seen since the first one

  • Essa pizza | June 6, 2014 7:34 PM

    THANK U MAN

  • Evelyn Mulwray | May 13, 2014 12:45 PMReply

    Stay mad, posters. For people who are getting on you for taking the film too seriously, they sure are taking your article seriously. I actually agree with your criticisms. In my opinion, Electro's "theme song" was one of the worst things about the film followed by Paul Giamatti's Rhino performance. Also, I thought I was watching a Zack Synder film for a second with all that slow motion.

  • jibi jacob | May 11, 2014 7:47 AMReply

    Lol horrible article. Gwens death was handled spectacularly btw. Stayed true to the comics and hans' score as well as stone and Garfields chemistry gradually peaking right before supported one of the best emotional scenes in superhero film history. Get off your high horse and actually enjoy the positive aspects of a film rather than focusing on every flaw your pessimistic mind can notice. Boo sir, boo.

  • New Movies Trailers | May 9, 2014 8:32 AMReply

    Overall, the movie is immense definitely much better than the first one but the reviews I have been reading on do not align with my experience watching the movie. In my opinion, Peter and Gwen's chemistry is the best of the best when it comes to love angles in Superhero movies. I must say that this is the utmost spider-man movie to DATE.

    litbloc. com

  • Thom | May 9, 2014 1:00 AMReply

    I'm a life-long fan of the character, and defended the first ASM quite a lot because I thought they nailed a lot of the tone of the character (not without its flaws, mind) but my excitement for this dissipated pretty quickly while I was watching it - great action sequences, good lead chemistry, intriguing takes on the villains and a bigger world-building scope couldn't override an uneasy feeling that there was a much tighter, better film lurking amongst the mess. You could almost actually see the fingerprints of The Money on the whole affair, producers saying "we need more this! we need less that! more villains!" and so the tone bounced from incredibly slow emotional scenes to incredibly rushed action/exposition scenes without there being much of a through-line or cohesive theme to the whole thing. I guess I was just disappointed that I could see a good film sitting there but it was trapped amongst a mess of clutter.
    I've soured on the Raimi films a lot lately, but it looks like Spider-Man 2 still tops the pile.

  • Jeff G | May 8, 2014 10:44 PMReply

    The movie was good, but this was the most boring article ever. Lost myself after the first sentence of each section. Could've just made it plain and simple rather than trying to make it sound all smart.

  • Jacob | May 8, 2014 9:43 PMReply

    I loved the movie.

  • Mallory P. | May 8, 2014 2:46 PMReply

    I think people take movies too seriously anymore... I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I'm a huge Spidey comic fan, too. BUT I think if you go to see a movie based on any comic, especially your favorite, you should go in without what happens in the comics in your mind at all. This allows you to walk into something with a sense of wonder, rather than a sense of "how close did they make this to the source material?" and you'll have an easier time enjoying it. I liked everything about the movie. Yes, some parts were a little rushed, and maybe kiddish, and Harry seemed maybe a little over the top, but for crying out loud, cannot anyone be entertained anymore? It was a fun movie. I laughed, I shook, I cried... I was able to love each character, and feel sorry for some of them. I loved how it ended, what with him just going all out at Rhino, and making you think, "Did he win? But OF COURSE he's going to win! He's Spider-Man!" THAT is entertainment. But in the critic's world, EVERYTHING has to set some kind of bar. It must suck to be incapable of completely enjoying a movie.

  • EM | May 8, 2014 3:18 AMReply

    Man.. you've got a lot of issues with spidey huh? i liked the score, like the twist with the father's DNA, hated the subway and electro, nothing else... i got bored reading this article...

  • Rob Kelly | May 7, 2014 11:39 PMReply

    Whoever wrote this was too busy trying to be a **** and not watching the movie. If you actually go in with the mindset to possibly enjoy he movie then the witty Parker banter, Gwen/Peter romance, and hope that Spider-Man brings to NYC is outstanding. This person had to really reach to make "The Bad"section, half the things he says there aren't true. The emotional scenes in this movie break up the great large scale action scenes and really get to the essence of the Spider-Man character. This movie gets a 10/10 in my book and the cast will win plenty of awards.

  • debra lewis | May 7, 2014 1:46 PMReply

    I actually liked the amazing Spiderman 2! I
    I just Love a hero/love story plot.

  • Tobey | May 7, 2014 12:35 PMReply

    My opinion only -- Overall, I really liked the movie and disagree on 2 things:

  • Tobey | May 7, 2014 12:51 PM

    (Sorry, new keyboard.)

    1. Sally Field - I love Sally Field and think she does a great job every time. But her scenes didn't add anything to the story. And the scene with the laundry was just dumb. (plus what was this whole nursing school thing??) Peter still would have found the subway tokens and there was no angst or further mention about the FBI looking into his father.
    2. Opening scene w/parents - I liked it and thought it had purpose (unlike Sally Field's scenes). It showed them as loving and not people who would easily give up their child. They left him because there he was safe and Oscorp had no reason to go after him and with them he would be in danger and could have (would have) died.
    Oh and 3) I thought the fact that his father used his own DNA with the spiders and THAT's why it worked on Peter and no one else (so far) was very clever. It didn't make him "The Chosen One". How could his father POSSIBLY know Peter would EVER be bitten? Unless you're saying he intended it, which I really don't think is the story.

    Overall, I thought the plot was pretty tight. But I thought the villains turned from nice to vindictive way too fast. The subway car...SOMEONE would have found before Peter. And it would have been more of an impact if they only showed Gwen starting her speak, but leaving the "meat" until Peter heard it.

  • Brad | May 6, 2014 4:44 PMReply

    How could you not include the added mess of Rhino at the end of the movie in the BAD section?

  • gerard kennelly | May 6, 2014 2:22 PMReply

    Felicity Jones might get it worst of all: one of the most promising actresses of her generation reduced to playing, essentially, a receptionist.

    thought she was the black cat ??

  • ADV | May 6, 2014 7:31 AMReply

    These countless articles giving us nothing more than over analyzed fluff by the contemptuous people who can't seem to enjoy a fictitious story without ripping it apart. Everyones a bloody expert right.
    You're like a bunch of spoiled children.
    This was a very entertaining and well made film on all accounts. Best spidey so far.

  • Josh | May 8, 2014 10:12 AM

    They stated their opinion and supported it with reasons and examples. Rather than bitterly insult and dismiss them maybe you could follow their example.

  • MGR | May 7, 2014 10:19 AM

    Andrew did a perfect Peter Parker especially when he deal his enemy in a clever way except green goblin haha btw best spidey movie!

  • Rob | May 6, 2014 3:43 PM

    What made it the best Spidey?

  • Alex Delarge | May 6, 2014 11:47 AM

    I compleltly agree with you. This was an awesome Spider-Man movie and is getting way too much hate. Critics are just over analyzing the crap out of it. They cant just sit back and enjoy and superhero film

  • DougW | May 6, 2014 4:19 AMReply

    If Richard Parker left because he didn't want Oscorp using his blood, why leave Peter behind, as he's the only other person whose blood works, too?
    As for Chris Cooper, it looks like he will be back...at least part of him.

  • Sebastian | May 5, 2014 10:26 PMReply

    Hans Zimmer's score was the best thing about this film! Once cementing the fact he is the MOZART of the 21'st century and one of the greatest musicians of all time!

  • Emperor Zerg Rush | May 7, 2014 4:07 PM

    2/10

    Obvious trollbait is obvious.

  • Brian | May 6, 2014 1:52 PM

    The reviewer is not very good at his job.

  • Jeff | May 5, 2014 7:59 PMReply

    Both of the ASMs feel like they were the ultimate byproduct of too much studio interference. Both feel too choppy and tonally inconsistent to be what a talented director like Marc Webb would truly have wanted. I can just imagine a group of execs at Sony submitting notes like " you have to have this many villains and also put that thread in, we need to set up our franchise."

  • v. | May 5, 2014 4:17 PMReply

    A nail on the head, Playlist. Good article

  • Stef | May 5, 2014 4:03 PMReply

    What about the "isty bitsy spider" bit? "Uhhh I hate that song."
    That was painful. Like something out of Batman & Robin. This movie reminded me a lot about that terrible Schumacher trash.

  • Jamie | May 5, 2014 3:53 PMReply

    Thanks Kurtzman & Orci for ruining another franchise. I don't care if they don't listen to the pop culture geeks but everyone, from critics to the mainstream audience, agreed that the best part of Amazing S-M was Gwen and Peter's relationship. If they had taken the time to understand what made the first film barely work and what the audience wanted more of they would have made a story highlighting Spider-Man and Gwen's love for each other and then the ending would have been earned and heart felt. They were more interested in putting in as many villains as possible (to sell more toys) and to "expand" the Spidey universe (but as you correctly point out de Oscorp thing just made the Spider-Man universe seem so small and local). Just as the Dark Knight brought a tendency to make comic book characters dark and moody, Avengers made executives think that the way to go was to fit in a whole roster of characters in 2 hours and interconnect a bunch of films.

  • Rich | May 5, 2014 2:58 PMReply

    ''this is the dramatic equivalent of Han Solo being frozen in carbonite, then being freed before the credits roll''

    See: Star Trek Into Darkness

  • Chris | May 5, 2014 2:50 PMReply

    "...although falling short of the total of both the first and third Sam Raimi Spider-pictures..." Uh, why mention just the first and third? It also fell short of the second Sam Raimi Spider-picture.

  • Ervin | May 6, 2014 4:04 PM

    They were talking about money the film made on its opening weekend ... which did surpass raimi's Spiderman 2

  • ADifferentChris | May 5, 2014 8:13 PM

    "Uh, why mention just the first and third? It also fell short of the second Sam Raimi Spider-picture."

    Uh, simple - because Spider-man 2 is almost universally known as the best one, so there's obviously no need to mention it if ASM2 doesn't even surpass 1 or 3.

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