The first issue is that rather than telling one focused story over a traditional 3 act structure, the film-makers end up telling 3 or 4 stories in bits and pieces and as a result all feel slightly rushed. It’s rare to see a film that’s almost 2 ½ hours and have it feel like an abridged version of a much longer story! There’s definitely no lack of ambition from the film-makers – they've crammed a lot into the movie and I have no idea how the originally planned (but later cut) Mary-Jane scenes would have fit in as well! I really don’t want to bring up the terrible Spider-Man 3 (as ASM2 is definitely a better film) but I get the impression the producers bit off more than they could chew to a certain extent again.
The second issue is the constant tonal shifts of the film – my main critique with the first installment was that the tone was too realistic for a character like Spider-Man. This has been addressed to a certain extent for part 2, however there seems to be a different tone for each type of sequence which can be a bit jarring. The majority of action scenes with Spider-Man are now much more light-hearted, comedic and for lack of a better word “comic-bookey”, however the scenes featuring Peter & Gwen are quite dramatic filled with emotional turmoil, whereas the scenes with Max Dillion / Electro feel like they’d be better placed in a 90s superhero movie (ala Batman Forever and not just because of the Mr Freeze resemblance) and most of Harry Osborne’s scene are extremely sinister. With this all considered, the fact that the emotional gut-punch towards the films climax hits is quite remarkable.
Let also talk about the marketing of this movie – there really has been a lot and it has included so much footage from the film that if you've seen the trailers there are going to be very few surprises for you when you watch the film (except a major one – but if you know you’re Spider-Man lore you’ll probably have already guessed that one by now anyway). Seriously, I wish the marketing of this film had focused solely on Electro and then the inclusion of Green Goblin and Rhino would have been legitimate surprises and probably added to the enjoyment of the film.
I also have to take offence with the inclusion of some key shots in the marketing/trailers. Most franchise films will have a few epilogue scenes at the end of the film once the main story is over that aim to set-up and tease what could happen in future installments. Yet I've never seen these type of scenes used actively to promote the current film – this is very misleading marketing.
As with the first movie there are shots and parts of dialogue used in the trailers that aren't included in the final film… Both films seemed to have suffered from some last minute editing that conflicts with the marketing leading up to the film. The first film was heavily marketed on the “untold story” aspect which never materialised in that film (it sort of gets answered in part 2) and there’s more missing story threads again here. The trailers have been heavily marketed on Harry telling Peter that Oscorp have had their eye on him for some time… Why? Who knows, that scene is not in the final film…
Okay I think that covers my negative thoughts towards the film, now onto the positive!
Firstly Andrew Garfield again delivers a stand-out performance as Spider-Man / Peter Parker solidifying himself as the best movie version in my opinion. Likewise Emma Stone is adorable as Gwen Stacy and the chemistry between both of them leads to some of the strongest scenes in the movie. Dane Dehann is an incredible modernised version of Harry Osborne / The Green Goblin and his acting is stellar. I honestly think the acting from these 3 is so good that it carries the film.
The action / special effects are incredible! Spider-Man swinging through the city has never looked so good and the suit itself even flaps in the wind. There is a more light-hearted nature to these sequence which I think works extremely well for the type of powers Spider-Man has. Electro looks pretty cool when in full on “sparkles” mode (Spidey’s words – not mine) and Spider-Sense bullet-time effect also looks awesome! Green Goblin looks miles better than the Raimi version. I think this is also the first Spider-Man movie, where spidey actually keeps his masked on for duration of the final sequence (hoo-ray!).
It’s really hard to review this film or even give it a score – if you look at the individual elements on their own, the acting, the character relationships, the action, the special effects, everything is really great, yet because of the two main issues; too many narratives and shifting tone it stops it all gluing together into a cohesive whole that you could describe as a great movie! Therefore I’m going to hold off giving a final score until I’ve seen it a few more times and I've let it all sink in.
I'll update my Amazing Spider-Man 2 review with a score and maybe some more opinions in the coming weeks.
NB - I actually had the same trouble after seeing the first Amazing Spider-Man, see my thoughts on the first installment here.
--- UPDATED IMPRESSIONS ---
Well what a difference a couple of weeks, a second viewing and re-adjusted expectations can make.
In my review for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 I wrote how although all the individual elements were great I was unsure whether I would describe the film as a whole as good. I think this was a result of the marketing for the movie and my own imagination. With all big blockbuster movies that I’m really excited for I generally need to see them twice before I can give my final opinion, as the first time I see the film I think I review it against my own expectations rather than viewing the film on its own merits.
So with that in mind, I’ve got to say I absolutely loved The Amazing Spider-Man 2 the second time round! So much so that I’d actually say it’s my favourite of all 5 movies (don’t get me wrong the Sam Raimi Spider-Man 2 is still the strongest movie overall but I’ve never been a huge fan of Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker). Everything just seem to fit the second time, the tonal shifts didn’t fill as drastic, the action still looks spectacular and the acting from the three leads is still top-notch.
Though I’ve got to say the relationship between Peter and Gwen really makes the film, which without going in to spoilers concerns me for future instalments as this isnt likely to be a part of them… Read into that what you will.
Anyway most of my thoughts from the original review still stand, so I wont write much more just that I really enjoyed it and it’s recommended to any Spidey fan.