Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Marc Webb
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx, Emma Stone, Dane De Haan, Sally Field, Marton Csokas, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Cooper, Denis Leary, Colm Feore, Stan Lee, Max Charles, Sarah Gadson, B J Novak.
Sony’s reboot of the Spiderman franchise a couple of years ago essentially gave us a rather
redundant reminder of the superhero’s backstory, again telling us how a mild mannered teenager
was bitten by a radioactive spider and given superpowers. But with the superb Sam Raimi trilogy
still fresh in our minds, this decision got this reboot off to a shaky start. Raimi’s Spiderman series
set the standard for comic book adaptations, and was only recently bettered by Marvel’s excellent
The Amazing Spiderman 2: Rise Of Electro has been written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci,
who have been responsible for the reboot of the Star Trek franchise for J J Abrams and they are
also behind the reboot of television series Hawaii Five-O. The pair have written the film in
conjunction with Jeff Parker and James Vanderbilt, their colleagues on tv series like Alias, Lost
and Fringe, etc, who also wrote the first film in this series. The film is littered with lots of
Spiderman lore, which fans will undoubtedly recognise, and there are numerous narrative threads
here that seem to be paving the way for the arrival of a villain centric spinoff film featuring The
Although the film is subtitled Rise Of Electro, there are three villains here, who are deftly
interlaced into the script. However, the backstory of a couple of them seems rushed, and there is
a sense that the filmmakers are in a hurry to set the scene for instalment three of the rebooted
Spiderman series. Thus The Amazing Spiderman 2 seems more like a cynical exercise in
franchise building rather than a standalone movie.
The Amazing Spiderman reboot briefly glossed over the backstory of Parker’s parents (played by
Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz), but here the film opens with a more detail backstory that
reveals what befell them. Peter is dealing with a lot of unresolved father issues here, which gives
him a common bond with his childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who returns
following the death of his father (Chris Cooper), the founder of Oscorp, a powerful conglomerate.
But Harry suffers from the same genetic disorder that killed his father. He believes that the only
thing that can reverse the effects of the disease and save his life is a sample of Spiderman’s
blood. But when Spiderman refuses because of the unknown risks, young Harry takes it upon
himself to experiment with his father’s supposedly lost research, which has devastating
consequences. Harry is transformed into the supervillain known as The Green Goblin. And fans of
the comic book series knows how the bitter rivalry between Spiderman and Osborn ends in
As Electro Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained, etc) is almost unrecogniseable beneath layers of
makeup. Foxx plays Max Dillon, a nondescript electrical engineer whom noone seems to notice
or remember. Given a combover and prominent front teeth, Dillon is a nerdish type. During a high
speed chase through New York, Spiderman saves Dillon from being crushed by an out of control
car. Dillon works at Oscorp, and one evening while trying to repair a damaged cable in a
laboratory he falls into a tank full of electric eels, who continually bite him. Initially thought to be
dead, Dillon eventually recovers but finds himself gifted with the power of harnessing electricity
and able to tap into the power grid of the city. Dillon is a huge fan of Spiderman at the start so we
needed more of a motivation to explain why he suddenly hates Spiderman and sets out to destroy
him. This is one of the weaker elements of Electro’s characterisation that doesn’t quite work.
The third villain is the heavily tattooed Russian gangster Aleksei Sytsevick, who eventually
becomes Rhino, another of Spiderman’s nemesis, although Paul Giamatti seems to be slumming
it in a small role here. However, it is likely that his role will be beefed up in Spiderman 3.
Peter Parker is wrestling with both the guilt and responsibility of having superpowers, and
knowing that when he fights crime, saves the city from destruction or rescues people from danger
he often does so at great cost and sometimes even hurts the one he loves in the process. This
conflict between power and responsibility seems to drive many comic book superhero adaptations
in the 21st century as they deal with increasingly darker themes in a morally conflicted world.
Parker is also conflicted over his onagainoffagain relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone),
whose police captain father died during the first film. Peter keeps seeing visions of Captain Stacy,
which seems an ominous portent of things to come. For her part though Gwen is offered a
scholarship to Oxford in England.
Director Marc Webb returns to helm this sequel, and what a great name for a director of
Spiderman films. One of my colleagues joked that he must have got the gig purely on his name
alone! Webb is better known for (500) Days Of Summer a quirky but one of the smartest romantic
comedies of recent years rather than big budget special effects driven action films. It was a bit
surprising when the powers behind the Marvel franchise charged him with rebooting the franchise.
And with the first film his direction was a bit tentative, and lacked the panache and flair that Raimi,
a true fan of the material, brought to the series with his Spiderman trilogy. But here Webb seems
to have more confidence with the material and his direction is a lot more assured. There is also a
good deal more humour in this film that adds to the comic book flavour of the material.
There are some great special effects and digital effects which are seamlessly incorporated into
the live action. The highlight is the fight between Electro and Spiderman in Times Square, the
glittering, neonlit heart of New York where Electro can feed off the pulsing electricity that feeds
this vibrant hub.
Webb’s strength though lies in exploring the personal elements of the story, especially the
troubled relationship between Peter and Gwen. Garfield and Stone are a couple in real life, and
they bring a real chemistry to their shared scenes. Some of their shared exchanges seem
improvised as well, adding a certain freshness and honesty to those scenes that tease out their
troubled relationship. For many fans though Toby McGuire is the ultimate Spiderman. Garfield
does have a youthful exhuberance that suits the part though and he handles the physical
demands of the role well.
James Franco in the Raimi series, and he makes for a more twisted, complex and vengeful
Osborn/Green Goblin. Marton Csokas plays a sadistic doctor in a mental institution, but his camp
performance and strange accent reminded me more of Peter Sellers playing Dr Strangelove than
The ensemble supporting cast includes some big names, although they are given little to do.
Oscar winner Sally Field again plays Peter’s loving and sympathetic Aunt Mary, but she spends
most of her time worrying about why her laundry keeps turning our red and blue. There is one
touching exchange between the pair though when she reveals why she is reluctant to talk about
what happened to Peter’s parents for fear that she will drive him away. Oscar winner Cooper is
wasted in a small role as Osborn senior. Felicity Jones (currently playing Charles Dickens’ secret
younger lover in The Invisible Woman) is wasted in a small and thankless role as Harry’s pretty
But at 145 minutes, this Spiderman seems a little overlong. There are a couple of moments about
ten minutes before the credits roll that would have provided a perfect ending for the film and set
up expectations for the inevitable sequel. But the producers have obviously decided to give
audiences more bang for their buck and have added an over the top action sequence involving
the villain Rhino that will obviously be expanded in the next film.