A little while ago, I tried to attempt the impossible – defend Spider-Man 3; by far the weakest of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. But in the middle of writing it I noticed certain similarities with that other misbegotten Spider-sequel, 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Plagued by similar problems such as producers trying to cram in more villains that the script could comfortably handle, an influx of supporting characters that tumble over each other in order to make an impact and some highly questionable decisions (Electro is a balding Spider-stalker? Aunt May is a nurse? Parker’s dad has a retractable train as a secret lab?) – there’s some genuine gold in them thar hills.
So once again I roll up my sleeves and go to bat for a lame sequel in order to prove that despite Paul Giamatti’s russian accent and possibly the worst Goblin design to date, it’s not anywhere near as awful as some would have you believe.
Let’s just hope that with it’s parade of villains and super complicated plot, I’m also not writing one of these out for Spider-Man: No Way Home in a couple of weeks…
5) The Ultimate Spin
Admittedly, there’s a lot of issues with ASM2, but one of them certainly isn’t with Spidey’s swinging scenes as it boasts the greatest CGI web swinging of the Spidey’s entire film career thus far. Not to crap on previous movies; but while Raimi’s swinging sometimes looks a wee bit awkward due to technical restraints and Watts relies too much on the MCU’s techy spider-suit to considered “pure”, Marc Webb’s second crack at visualising Spidey utilising his trademark form of transport is practically perfect.
Starting with the logo on Parker’s back fading in to reveal our hero hurtling towards the ground from an impossible height (was his starting point the international space station or something?) he thwips a web and catapults off after a car chase with the camera barely able to catch his digital form. Moving with grace, speed and pulling all those impossible, mid-air contortions artists like Todd Mcfarlane and Mark Bagley were so fond of sketching for Peter’s super limber anatomy, things are also helped by a sense of grandeur. Not exactly an easy to do when you’re the fifth Spidey-movie in twelve years…
4) Power And Responsibility
In the wake of 2013’s DC’s Superman reboot, Man Of Steel, a common complaint was the sheer amount of casual collateral damage Kal-El caused during his various superhuman smackdowns. Whether you agree with that opinion or not, you have to admit that the sight of Superman snogging Lois Lane over the flattened remains of the hundreds killed by an alien death was kinda odd… Regardless of your stance of Zack Snyder’s superhero ethics, one unified trend the spandex wearing community is that they should be seen helping people as much as they can and this is something in which ASM 2 really excels. Be it tirelessly saving people from Electro’s initial zappy rampage to thwarting a robbery while fighting a cold, or even comforting a bullied child, Garfield’s Spider-Man is by far the most benevolent one of all – and mahoosive Aleksei Sytsevich caused multi-car pile up aside (that had to have killed someone, right?), rarely fails to look out for the little guy. He is a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, after all…
3) Back In The Swing Of Things
After ASM2’s brutal ending (which we’ll get to in a moment), we find a mourning Peter Parker understandingly despondent having discarded his web swinging alter ego in his grief. Months pass, but after a trademark pep talk from Sally Field’s underused Aunt May and the promise of a jacked up new supervillain on the horizon in the form of Sytsevich’s Rhino-themed, battlesuit glow up, Peter puts the suit back on, regains his smile and dives back into the fray with a pun and a knockout blow. It’s a truly uplifting moment which was admittedly defused somewhat by having the final shot of the movie feature very prominently in the trailers (jesus, Sony…), but subsequent complaints that we got cheated out of a Spidey/Rhino brawl are missing the point. The focus isn’t on a fifteen foot tall mechanical Rhino suit (believe it or not), the focus is on an emotionally healed Peter, cracking wise and selflessly saving the day despite all he’s lost.
2) Electro Boogaloo
Possibly the hardest sell on this list, bar none – no film before ASM2 had managed to catch the essence of who the character of Spider-Man truly is before this scene. Think that’s an overstatement? Then try this on for size: encountering a confused Max Dillion who’s run in with a freak accident has left him looking like a homeless fourth member of the blue man group, Spider-Man uses his usual wit and charm to try and talk the future Electro down before he either a) accidently hurts members of the public or b) gets hurt by the SWAT team assembling around them. Obviously things go sour and with all the screens in Times Square highlighting the stand off and the large crowd getting increasingly verbal, things start to obtain a distinct Wrestlemania vibe as Hans Zimmer’s eccentric score goes completely batshit. Showing a huge regard for pubic safety (he stops a car from crushing a beat cop by catching it) while trying not to exacerbate the situation until it truly calls for it, he tries to do right by everyone – including the angry electric guy. And when that fails? Spidey even takes him down with science by blasting him with a firehose straight out of a panel from Ultimate Spider-Man without resorting to a lengthy and dangerous brawl.
If that’s not pure uncut, 100% Spider-Man, I literally don’t know what is.
1) Stacy’s Sudden Stop
Choosing to adapt what is undoubtedly the most important story in Spider-Man’s history, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had to tread a thin line when trying to realize the iconic issue, The Night Gwen Stacy Died. Sure, there’s some differences – the iconic altercation doesn’t take place on top of either the Brooklyn Bridge (as depicted in the art) or the George Washington bridge as it’s mistakenly named in the comic and the perpetrator happens to be the wrong Green Goblin (a mutated Harry Osborn standing in for papa Norman), but when it comes to emotional punch, Marc Webb mercifully gets things right. Drawing out the peril to an absurd degree, he draws out time, employs some tried and true visuals (falling girlfriend reflected in his eye lens? Classic!) and even uses some impressively unsubtle visual metaphors to highlight the desperation of the moment as the end of a web line unfurls to become a grasping hand.
And then she hits anyway… with the cruel punchline being that the web is enough to stop her body from hitting concrete – but is a fraction too late to stop the whiplash cracking her head off the ground.
True Spider-Man fans knew what was coming (hell, Emma Stone is even dressed in the same outfit the character does wearing in the comic) but even that isn’t enough to prepare you for the grief of Andrew Garfield and the fact that yet another Spider-Man movie will end with a damn funeral. Seriously, between Raimi and Webb, Peter Parker has been to more funerals than Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers…
While overcrowded, tonally unsure and frequently a little silly (no seriously, what is up with Max Dillon’s hairline?), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 may not be perfect, but with a little fine tuning of the old spider-sense it’s not that hard to spot what the filmmakers actually got right.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is in cinemas 15th December in the UK and the 17th in the US.