Written by David Holland
The first time I watched this movie I went in already biased against it. I wanted Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where I believed he belonged. As far as I could tell, Sony (and by extension this movie) was preventing that from happening. From my perspective, the only thing keeping Spider-Man from joining the Avengers was sheer corporate greed. Nevermind that the only thing creating more Avengers movies was… sheer corporate greed.
I shouldn’t have been so harsh on “Amazing Spider-Man 2”. In my head I remembered a film overcrowded with villains and so intent on setting up a Spider-Man based cinematic universe, that it failed to deliver on its own plot. But on rewatch, I found myself… actually sort of bummed that we apparently won’t get to see that universe come to fruition.
First off, if you like your heroes to get the girl, you probably shouldn’t watch this movie. Just pretend that the “Amazing Spider-Man” series ended with the first one. But I love the fact that this movie followed the classic “Death of Gwen Stacy” story arc, which is the Spider-Man story where Gwen Stacy…….well, you get it. Part of what makes Gwen’s death so tragic is that she was on her way out of Peter’s life when it happens – she had the Oxford fellowship and they had ended their relationship when she was pulled back in by Electro. “Endgame” may have had the courage to kill Iron Man, thus preventing his happy ending with Pepper, but in “ASM 2” it’s not the hero who nobly sacrifices himself, but his love interest who takes the fall (in this case literally). Too soon for “fall” puns?
Like I said above, as I watched this movie I found myself missing the ASM-universe that never was. This film teases the “Sinister Six”, which was apparently already in development. “Venom” would ultimately be salvaged into its own standalone film, but I would love to have seen another attempt at pitting Spider-Man and Venom against each other on the big screen. That seems unlikely, as Sony apparently wants to retain the rights to continue making “Venom” movies without the Webhead. Peter also solves some of the mystery regarding his father’s work and his parents’ disappearance in this movie, but there is probably more to uncover there as well.
Everyone feels more comfortable in their roles and, not to beat a dead horse, but I love when a superhero film goes beyond the origin story to really make the overall arc its own. Jaime Foxx kills it as Electro, a villain who highlights the danger (mostly in men) of becoming obsessed with being seen, noticed, or in the spotlight. Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man keeps up his cocky smack talk, and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is less “damsel-in-distress” and more “scientist at the top of her field with a vital role in saving the city”.
Most of what doesn’t work here revolves around the failure of the ASM-verse to get off the ground. This movie is lore-heavy as a set up for planned future sequels and spin-offs that we will apparently never see. That makes Paul Giamatti’s precious few minutes of screentime as Rhino and the inclusion of Felicity Jones as Felicia all the more confusing. These are pretty big names for what end up being relatively minor characters in this movie, and the film hints heavily that they will be important – just not yet. There’s only so much foreshadowing you can do before you lose the thread on the story you’re currently trying to tell. At least they decided to cut Mary Jane Watson’s introduction after already filming it, with Shailene Woodley in the role of Spider-Man’s other love interest.
I also think Harry Osborn feels a bit shoehorned into this movie. I love that we actually saw Harry and Peter as friends before Harry’s descent into Goblinhood in the Raimi trilogy. In the ASM films, Harry is completely absent in the first installment. Unless I missed something, Peter never even mentions that at one point in his life his best friend was heir to Oscorp, despite the massive role the company plays in the movie. Then in this movie Harry gets dropped into the plot, the friendship starts up again, and minutes later Harry morphs into the Green Goblin. It all felt a bit rushed.
If forced to choose, having Spider-Man in the MCU is a price I am willing to pay for the early death of the ASM-verse, but on rewatch of this movie that price feels heavier than it did before.