Web-slinging isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The struggles of being a teenager (played by 30-year-old Andrew Garfield) are bad enough without evil villains turning up to mess with your on again, off again relationship.
Spider-Man isn’t having an easy time of it either, with many in New York City, including the conspicuously absent J. Jonah Jameson, Editor of the Daily Bugle, calling for his arrest as a vigilante.
Swinging into action
The thing which sets this series of films apart from the memorable Toby Maguire trilogy, has always been depth of character, and every big-hitter here takes things up a notch from the previous film.
Garfield is excellent at playing a teen, and puts across Peter Parker’s internal conflicts about right and wrong expertly – though possibly the run time didn’t quite give him a chance to really develop things due to the sheer amount going on in the film as a whole.
Therein lies the first issue with the film: it is full to bursting. Whether it’s villains (technically three-ish, but really only two a bother), subplots (numerous) or supporting cast (who all do a great job), you have to stay on your toes not to miss anything.
A big part of the plot is Peter’s quest to find out what happened to his parents, as hinted in the trailer, but sadly it feels too rushed to feel genuinely resolved. Those expecting a long voyage through Richard Parker’s mysterious research and fantastical revelations will be left disappointed.
The trailer was borderline misleading in some areas as a number of lines you’ll remember from it didn’t make the final cut of the film, causing you to question where they would have fitted and it really begins to take you out of the film.
That said, the casting makes the more surreal aspects of the film, such as the creation of Jamie Foxx’s Electro, believeable, and Dane DeHaan (of Chronicle fame) in particular is an outstanding portrayal of Harry Osborn.
Harry isn’t having a great time of it either, since he is suffering from a degenerative, fatal, hereditary disease and is convinced only Spider-Man’s blood can help him overcome it. As you might expect, things quickly escalate.
Fight the power
In fact, Electro is the big bad for the most part of the film, and Foxx makes you really identify with him as a misunderstood victim (up to a point anyway) which really gives gravitas to what could easily have just been a CGI showoff piece.
The story begins with us meeting Electro when he is just an electrical engineer at Oscorp, unappreciated and unnoticed, until his life is saved by our favourite swinging hero and he quickly develops an obsession.
When he gets into an accident, which anyone could see coming a mile off, he becomes Electro, a being seemingly made of energy with a strangely familiar to look to those who’ve seen Watchmen.
Emma Stone as Gwen does well with the comparatively little screen time she has, and even moves the character on, but the romance feels sidelined in favor of action. In fact the action even has it’s own tiny-version-of-hero-fights-evil á la Iron Man, but it’s slightly less cheesy.
The film then, is altogether a good superhero flick. There’s lots of action and excitement and strong characters, but in the end the frantic nature of the films plot and trying to do too much means there is no slow build for the characters, no time for the villains to grow naturally before they are just destroying everything in sight just because.
The final coda is a thinly veiled trailer for the next film rather than something designed to wrap things up which is also a shame as it cheapens the film slightly as a result. That said there is undoubtedly some exciting and interesting things on the horizon, whether that’s in Spider-Man films themselves of spin-offs.
It’s an enjoyable film to occupy for the Easter break, and probably will sit nicely between parts one and three, but on its own it dangles slightly and doesn’t quite go as deep as you might have hoped.
James Michael Parry
For a slightly different, and altogether more disappointed take on the film, see Andy Hemphill’s review