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21 April 2014

A Tangled Web

After the disappointment of Man of Steel last summer, I was just about ready for another super-hero film. Enter Marc Webb's sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man named, funnily enough, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Actually, I say that but really, I was just about ready to see Andrew Garfield on the big screen again. In any case, I didn't enjoy TASM 2 quite as much as its predecessor, but it was still good fun.

As TASM 2 opens, we see Richard (Campbell Scott) and Mary (Embeth Davidtz) Parker dropping off their young son Peter with his aunt and uncle and then escaping on a private jet, which is promptly hijacked by an agent hired to kill them both. Richard is desperately trying to upload a file called Roosevelt and just succeeds as the plane goes down. Meanwhile, present-day Peter (Garfield) is about to graduate from high school and is enjoying photography, hanging out with his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and — ya know — keeping the streets of New York safe from crime as his spider-charged alter-ego.

Peter's life isn't quite so simple, however, and his key challenges are established early in the film: finding out what really happened to his parents and trying to be happy with Gwen while knowing that having her in his life puts her in jeopardy, given his double life. In addition, Peter is back in touch with his childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). Harry's father Norman (Chris Cooper), founder of Oscorp — Richard Parker's erstwhile employers — has just died, having informed Harry that the first symptoms of a horrible, fatal genetic disease are likely to start emerging in Harry. Peter wants to help, but may not be able to provide Harry with what he wants.

Those are Peter's missions, but Spider-Man has problems of his own. Not everyone is happy with his brand of vigilante justice, for one thing. And for another, Max Dillon, a lonely and disgruntled Oscorp employee (Jamie Foxx), develops an unhealthy infatuation with everyone's favourite web-slinging super-hero after Spider-Man saves him, which proves problematic after Dillon's accidental encounter with a tank of electric eels leaves him hungrier for power than ever.

As with Webb's first Spider-Man film, TASM 2 is too long, and the sequel also suffers from too many baddies. Maybe I'm slightly biased, because I'm much more interested in Peter Parker and the story of his parents than I am in Spider-Man. There are nice scenes between Peter and Gwen (Garfield and Stone are a real-life couple and the chemistry is definitely there) and a few moments where Peter makes progress in unravelling the mystery of his father, but otherwise the film felt like a game of whack-a-mole. Foxx and especially DeHaan put in good performances, but most of the other cast members, including Sally Field (Aunt May) and Paul Giamatti (identikit Russian baddie), don't have a lot to do.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an entertaining and action-packed film but lacks some of the emotional core of its predecessor. Good, clean Bank Holiday-weekend fun, but nothing outstanding. Oh, and I saw the film in 2D and felt it was visually very impressive, so I'm not sure it would be worth paying extra to see it in 3D — unless it meant that Andrew Garfield came to sit next to you.

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