Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 spins a complex web of plots

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Spider-Man fights for his life. (Columbia Pictures)
Spider-Man fights for his life. (Columbia Pictures)

Marcus Goh is a former Singapore television scriptwriter. He's also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. Tweets at @Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com.

Running time: 142 minutes (~ 2.5 hours)

Secret ending? Yes (but it's not what you'd expect)

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is a superhero movie that follows the adventures of the eponymous Spider-Man as he faces Electro (his latest foe) and reunites with his old friend Harry Osborn, all while navigating his complicated relationship with Gwen Stacy and unravelling the mystery of his parents. It stars Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man/Peter Parker), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Jamie Foxx (Electro/Max Dillon), Dane DeHaan (Harry Osborn), and Sally Field (Aunt May).

So what were the highlights of the movie?

Spider-Man saves Max Dillon. (Columbia Pictures)
Spider-Man saves Max Dillon. (Columbia Pictures)

Andrew Garfield's performance as Peter Parker

I liked how Andrew Garfield maintained his sincerity and eagerness as Peter Parker. Although some may say that he's a bit hyperactive, I think that his performance when he's not in costume captured the snarkiness of a teenager but the maturity of a man who's been through more than his fair share of tragedies in life. His performance in costume, however, is a different story.

Peter Parker & Harry Osborn's scenes

Though the set-up for their past friendship is kind of artificial, they play off each other pretty well and give a pretty convincing portrayal of old friends. Their initial awkwardness and ensuing familiarity gives you a sense of comfort and familiarity, and you learn about them even as they learn more about each other. It's a pity they didn't get more interaction in the movie.

Spider-Man as a symbol of hope

One of the strong themes of the movie was hope — both Spider-Man as a symbol of it, and how Spider-Man derives his own hope. As with the previous movie, this symbolism is anchored by how much Spider-Man impacts the life of an innocent child.

The climax and resolution

I won't say the climax was pleasant, but I was quite surprised (in a good way) at how certain plot threads were tied up and how seemingly random events earlier were actually paid off in the ending.

Electro. (Columbia Pictures)
Electro. (Columbia Pictures)

As much as I liked the movie, there were some glaring flaws in it as well.

Andrew Garfield's performance as Spider-Man

I understand how Peter Parker is supposed to release his inhibitions when he's in his Spider-Man mask — but it's disappointing that in costume, Spider-Man is hammy, over-the-top and cliche. As Spider-Man, his wisecracking attitude went into overdrive, and it was saved only by the amount of butt-kicking in the movie.

The plot is disjointed

The movie feels like a collection of scenes, rather than a whole coherent story. You get a sense that this was possibly a 3 hour movie that was pared down for time. As a result, the scenes don't mesh well with each other — they feel like a sequence of events rather than a continuous narrative.

Conflicts are too melodramatic

Whenever someone gets angry, it feels artificial, like their anger comes out of nowhere. If you stop and think a while, yes it does make sense. But there's no emotional resonance to their conflict, which makes their anger seem more manufactured than organic.

Peter Parker & Gwen Stacy's rocky relationship

The movie opens into a rocky patch of Peter Parker & Gwen Stacy's relationship. Yet this rocky patch, as with the conflicts that come after it, feels like it was shoehorned in so that there could be some room to develop the relationship later. It feels forced because there's no real reason for either of them to feel this way, and it makes their characters look fickle-minded rather than complex.

Peter Parker & Gwen Stacy. (Columbia Pictures)
Peter Parker & Gwen Stacy. (Columbia Pictures)

I liked the movie. Disclaimer here — I'm a Spider-Man fan, and I like Marvel movies in general. But I can't help feeling that the extended DVD edition would be a much more satisfying experience with a more fulfilling story, since this movie feels like it was cut down to the bare minimum. It's not that there was too much plot, but more that the characters weren't given enough time to react to their situations before more obstacles came flying their way.

It's definitely an enjoyable film though, but compared to the Amazing Spider-Man, I'd say the Amazing Spider-Man 2 falls short. So down to the big question.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes, if you're a Marvel/Spider-Man/Emma Stone/Andrew Garfield fan.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Definitely!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in cinemas May 1, 2014 (Thursday).

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