The Amazing Spider-Man 2: A surprisingly good change to the superhero genre!
I was dreading the worst when I heard there was an extra ticket available for the May 1 show of the latest instalment in The Amazing Spiderman series. I was hoping to have a lie-in on the public holiday but against my expectations, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, was much more than the usual summer blockbuster.
The stereotypical action film is much like a bad cake – an incoherent mess of jarring action scenes with a powder-thin plot, a half-baked romance and a hackneyed terrorism climax involving an Arab or Pakistani.
But unlike most superhero movies, the filmmakers have taken the effort to build a plot with believable characters around.
The movie has characters with engaging flaws and motives. Rather than some contrived ‘gudda’ (hero) versus ‘gunda’ (villain) drama, the interaction between them drives the plot forward. Moreover, since there’s a plausible back story for everyone, this makes the conflict between good and evil believable, rather than predictable.
The end product is a film that is continuously engaging even in the everyday scenes where there are no aerial shots, car chases or the customary Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) created chaos that characterise the superhero genre.
Unlike previous parts of the Spiderman series, Peter Parker is more than just the geek who fits through impossible gaps and helps keep window cleaners employed through his cobweb slinging antics.
Like the 2002 reboot, Spider-Man, which saw Tobey Maguire show the human side of Spiderman as he comes to terms with the demands of the public eye, this film also sees Andrew Garfield lend a unique touch to Parker’s secret. Unlike Maguire’s role, this Spiderman film’s central theme is the personal and emotional consequences that arise from Spiderman’s duty to protect others.
The movie begins with Parker being abandoned in dramatic circumstances tied to his parents’ need to protect him. Angered by the rejection, Parker interestingly finds himself doing the same act years later to his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, who is played by Emma Stone. He distances himself from her but keeps reaching out to her throughout the film. The chemistry between the male and female leads is superb. Even though the film does have its schmaltzy moments, you’re still rooting for the adorable couple.
Coming to the main characters, Andrew Garfield brings a charming confidence and a wonderful sense of humour to the role that contrasts well with Maguire’s adorable version of Parker.
Stone’s role is largely an accessory to the plot but there is an assertiveness to Gwen that is refreshing. Plus, there’s a jarring twist that means she’s necessary to the movie. She’s much more than the damsel in distress and a flashback to a speech of hers earlier in the film is crucial to understanding the change in Spiderman.
After the characters, the next best thing about the movie are the villains whose powers are engaging enough to make you wonder if Spiderman will be able to defeat them.
The first of three villains, Electro, is easily the best with Jamie Foxx delivering a superb performance. He morphs brilliantly from the harmless, undervalued corporate serf who idolises Spiderman to a hate-filled ‘freak’ searing with vengeance against the man in red and blue.
There is a brilliant scene which sees Electro, who gathers the ability to channel electricity after an accident involving electric eels, discover his powers and the ensuing interaction with Spiderman is enthralling.
The second villain is The Green Goblin. His story is familiar to anyone who has seen a Spiderman film before. But what makes this one different is that the two childhood friends do not just clash over a girl. It would have been easy to do the usual love triangle but this film has more. I don’t want to give away too much, but there are interesting elements of sacrifice and an instinct to protect that sees the ties between the two broken.
The character flaws of the two main villains tie together seamlessly but it must be said that Dane DeHaan was very poor as the Green Goblin and vastly inferior to Willem Defoe’s terrifying 2002 character. That said, the dialogues between DeHaan and Foxx which reveal the shared sense of betrayal and Electro’s insecurity is a big step up from the usual superhero formula of a batch of villains hammering away at the hero in isolation.
The climax of the film is breath-taking and interesting for other reasons as well. If you’re an action fan or a physics geek, you’re sure to enjoy the final faceoff. There is some real intelligence to the action and while it would be too much to describe it as a chess battle, you are more than just a passive witness as your mind is whirring with possibilities about who will outsmart the other. This is a very refreshing change from the everyday action flick where you know the hero is eventually going to win.
On the negatives, the story does stretch a bit as there is a third villain who is completely unnecessary to the plot. He flits in and out of the movie too often and editing him out would have made a better story. If you’re not the sentimental type, you may find a lot of the dialogues cheesy, this is an emotional film. But a word of warning to the sensitive ones – bring along a handkerchief as one of the scenes is tough to watch. Similar to the upside down kiss in the 2002 version, you’ll definitely be talking about it later.
All in all, the movie has a lot of heart for an action film and it’s creditably doesn’t fall into the trap that most multi-villain action films fall into. Even though the fight scenes are memorable, there is enough substance in the movie to keep you hanging in there throughout.
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