The Amazing Spider-Man 2: The Rise of Electro


Does The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro suffer from too many villains? People would have a right to be concerned. After all, comic book movies have a habit of escalating matters with each successive instalment. You only need to look at Batman & Robin, X-Men: The Last Stand and Spider-Man 3 to see how negative an outcome this can have. Then again, others have managed admirably (Batman Begins included not only an origin story for the hero but also featured Victor Zsasz, Carmine Falcone, Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul, and knocked the ball out of the park anyway.)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of ElectroThe most impressive aspect of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is that its script somehow does manage to balance a multiplicity of villains. Electro (Jamie Foxx) may be the one featured in the title, but rest assured there are at least two more, with various other villains seeded for future films. And, for the most part, it works. Rise of Electro is a long film that may teeter on the edge of becoming bloated, but it narrowly avoids such a fate.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) are graduating from high school and Peter’s still umming and ahhing about continuing their relationship. With the memory of what Gwen’s father said ringing in his ears, he keeps falling back on the old ‘I can’t be Spider-Man and be with you too’ schtick. This could get tiresome – after all we saw it with MJ in Raimi’s films – but again, the script comes to the rescue, with some knock out scenes and sharp dialogue that really impresses.

Once more, this is the Garfield and Stone show. Seriously, I could watch these two go all doe eyed over each other forever. Gwen in particular gets some brilliant lines that effectively make up for the terrible characterisation of MJ in the previous trilogy (who was effectively a whiny damsel who needed rescuing. A lot). The Peter/Gwen relationship was what really sold the first Amazing Spider-Man, and it’s the same situation here. There are so many moments perfectly directed by Mark Webb. It’s clear that his flair for drama hasn’t been subsumed by the big budget action scenes.

And the action beats are pretty cool too. Aside from the opening scene, which features the most horrendous shaky cam you’ve ever seen, the film isn’t afraid to employ long, drawn out takes to capture the super-powered folks in action. The visual effects are impressive but they really push CGI to the limit – I wouldn’t be surprised if it all looks terribly fake in five years’ time.

My main problem with the film, however, is the same problem I’ve had with all of the Spider-Man films to date. The villains are simply too cartoonish. Jamie Foxx hams it up as Electro, seemingly having a great time. The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of ElectroHis main super-power seems to be dubsteb, and is bizarrely accompanied by stream of consciousness vocals courtesy of Pharrell Williams. The end result sounds a bit like ‘The Residents’, to be honest, and I’m still undecided as to whether it works. Dane DeHaan plays the bitter Harry Osborn with very little nuance. In fact, he seems to be stuck in ‘evil Keanu Reeves’ mode. Finally, Paul Giamatti goes absolutely apesh*t as Aleksei Sytsevich, yelling unintelligibly through all of his scenes.

I don’t know why the villains of Spider-Man always rub me the wrong way, but the problem persists with Rise of Electro even if their screentime feels well-balanced. I’m not expecting a Christopher Nolan-type realism/darkness, but someone’s turned the pantomime dial all the way up to 11. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has shown us how to balance comic book fun with realism, but the Spider-Man films seem unable to.

As such, I genuinely enjoyed 65-70 per cent of this film. But it’s the performances of Stone and Garfield, and the dramatic direction of Webb that kept me enthralled, not the cackling evilness of the villains.

Rating: 3 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 8th May 2014
Hoopla Factor: 3 stars

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