By Scott Tibbs, May 8, 2014
Warning: There are spoilers in this review.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a very cluttered movie, and would have been better if it was split into two movies so the story could be given more time. The ending was very gutsy, even if it mirrored a comic book story from decades ago. The final scene was wasted, and Harry Osborn's last scene should have been an after-credits scene. The actual after-credits scene was terrible, and was an unfair tease of the audience.
We open with Spider-Man taking on some Russian thugs stealing radioactive material. This scene goes on way too long, and while it is both action-packed and humorous it does not capture the Spider-Man character well. Spider-Man has always been about using his powers to protect others, and he allows way too much destruction of property (and almost certainly loss of life.) With the power he has already displayed in the first movie, he could have taken these thugs down before they did so much damage.
This scene sets up Electro, who is thrilled that Spider-Man knows his name - even if it is on his name badge. While some have complained about the origin being silly, it is actually better than his origin in the comics. There, he was a lineman who was struck by lightning. The movie makes his origin similar to Spider-Man's origin - he was bitten by genetically enhanced electric eels. Given Oscorp's genetic engineering, it makes more sense (once you suspend disbelief) than someone getting a shock and developing super-powers from that.
Electro's heel turn, though, could have been stretched out a little more, making his mental imbalance more obvious. Oscorp's determination to cover up the accident could have been more nefarious, giving him a reason to hate them, and jumping to the conclusion that Spider-Man set him up to be shot by police was way too convenient. It was a very rushed way of giving Spider-Man a new villain.
The storyline with Parker's parents was a virtual mirror image of the "Venom" arc in Ultimate Spider-Man #33 to #39, with Richard Parker and his wife running away rather than allowing his life's work to be turned into a biological weapon. However, that should have been handled in the first movie. It feels like the two movies are out of order, because the Parker parents story was teased and dropped in the first movie, only to be finally explained two years later.
The final battle with Electro was well done, minimizing the incredibly annoying shaky-cam effect that has become a staple of action movies. The shaky-cam was so bad in Captain America 2 that I had to look away as I was getting a headache. I imagine it would have been more painful (literally!) in 3-D.
Harry Osborn's heel turn should have been set up more, ideally paying off in the next movie. I do not have a huge problem with not following the comics (or the previous movie) in making Osborn turn heel only after his father dies in battle with Spider-Man. This is a new franchise, after all, and some creative license keeps things interesting.
The death of Gwen Stacy was a surprise. I figured that since Parker and Mary Jane's marriage had been nullified by Satan that they might keep the Parker/Stacy romance going. His grief after her death, and giving up being Spider-Man, was a powerful ending scene - or would have been, had the movie ended there.
Instead, we get the battle with the Rhino that was teased in the trailer, but we only get the beginning of it. It was cheap to end on a cliffhanger, and Osborn preparing to assemble the Sinister Six should have been the after credits scene. Amazing Spider-Man 3 could have opened with Spider-Man fighting Rhino. (Which is a battle-suit, like in the Ultimate universe, instead of a radiation-powered thug.)
Speaking of after-credits scenes, I initially thought the scene (featuring villains from the X-Men) was incredible. I was shocked to see those characters, since the movie rights to the X-Men are owned by a different studio. I was excited at the possibility of a crossover... but this was just one big tease. In all of Marvel's other movies, the after-credits scenes set up the next movie, but this one was just an advertisement for Days of Future Past later this month. Not cool.
Overall, this was a good movie. The actors playing Peter and Gwen have great on-screen chemistry, and Gwen's death strikes a major emotional chord. It did not waste time on the origin story like the last one did, and the fact that so many of these characters' origins are connected makes things interesting, if just a little too convenient.
Final Grade: B+