Initial heckles raised against another string of Spider-Man films so soon after the Sam Raimi series were quickly silenced when Mark Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man hit the screens last year and showed that old arachnids can be taught new tricks. The reboot brought us the familiar origins story – focusing on the orphaned Peter Parker in his teenage years, but developed the mythos by bringing in his pre-Mary Jane love interest, Gwen (Emma Stone) and spinning a little mystery around Mr. and Mrs. Parkers demise.
The sequel follows on the loose threads, and sees a far more confident Peter Parker who has fully embraced his alter-ego. Andrew Garfield proves more than capable for the job as a Spidey with swagger, with all the former creases of hesitance ironed flat. With the soul-searching set aside, we have an edgy, energetic, and upbeat Spider-Man who whistles his own theme tune as he elegantly disarms crooks and isn’t averse to stopping for a selfie with fans afterwards. The action is brash, CGI heavy, and not afraid to appear cartoonish. While there are inevitably darker undertones in this rebooted franchise, it is refreshing to see that Webb has kept a sense of playful lightness, even if that same lightness causes friction when more sombre elements of the story are introduced.
This outing sees Spider-Man contend with two sprouting super-villains, while trying to untangle his relationship with Gwen, who is ditching Manhattan to study at Oxford. Emma Stone is on form again, often acting as the audiences’ main point of reference when Spider-Man is too chirpily impenetrable. Jamie Foxx enters as the mild-mannered Max, an obsessive Spider-Fan and bullied worker at Oscorp. A freak accident has him evolve into Electro – a super-charged villain who alternates between vulnerability and megalomania. Foxx’s exaggerated performance pre-transformation taps into his comedy roots, smoothly complementing Webb’s cartoonish vision. And at the same time Dane DeHaan steps into the story as Peter Parker’s friend from the other side of the tracks, Harry Osborn. Here we are back to a familiar story that was covered in the earlier films – though DeHaan brings along a sickly, desperate intensity that manages to be the real dark spot of the film. The tightrope act of presenting and progressing multiple villains simultaneously is skilfully handled by Webb, who ensures that the story unfolds – for the most part – as smooth as silk.
Spider-Man’s villains may be monsters, but they are also remarkably human – they never resort to being evil for evil’s sake. Moral ambiguity reigns, rather than the black and white days of yore. And it is these shades of grey that can clash awkwardly with the colourful, light-hearted tone of the film. Webb can crank the action and intensity up, just to have it dissipate it in the next scene. This is most evident at the films finale, which feels like it should have ended five minutes sooner. The story of Spider-Man and is a difficult one to weave, and it seems that Peter Parker may not be the only one struggling with balancing two identities. Nonetheless, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a strong, entertaining film that compounds the validity of the rebooted franchise and of sets things up for an interesting third instalment.