If you don’t want to know the nitty-gritty plot details from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, close this tab now because this article is chock full of spoilers, but if you’ve seen the movie and want a spot to discuss the good and the bad and the weirdly campy, this is the place for you. Let’s get down to it.
I generally liked the movie, but there was a LOT going on in this sequel, and the movie suffered for it. The overabundance of villains was a problem, and they ended up detracting from the narrative. It ultimately felt like the movie existed solely to put the pieces in place for Sinister Six, and that really annoys me. Jamie Foxx’s Electro had a promising start, but was dispatched with pretty quickly and shunted off to the horrible Ravencroft Institute, which was the worst. (What movie did Martin Csokas, playing Dr. Kafka, think he was in?) I really think the movie would have been stronger had his storyline been allowed to unspool slowly. You have a The King of Comedy-level superfan turn into a super villain hell-bent on Spider-Man’s destruction, and you use him as, basically, the warm-up act?
A tighter focus on Max/Electro would have better served the story the movie seemed to start out telling, which was how much Peter Parker loves being Spider-Man and the choices and sacrifices he has to make for it. That montage of Spider-Man’s heroics and Peter’s increasing exhaustion was one of my favorite parts of the movie. No, really. It was. And Max’s obsessive fandom/disillusionment/thirst for revenge would have been all of a piece with that. His scene with Gwen on the elevator, when he is talking about how special Spider-Man made him feel and she is thinking of how much Spider-Man has cost her, was a lovely bit of storytelling, and I wish they had explored that more.
Instead, we spent too much time with Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborne/Green Goblin. I liked DeHaan in the is role a lot, actually. On the “Bad Baby” episode of This American Life, a child psychologist says that the worst person in the world is a two-year-old who never grew up and learned to accommodate others, and this iteration of Harry Osborne was that to a T. He is a spoiled kid with a chip on his shoulder who is used to always getting everything he wants when he wants it (except his father’s love.) The problem is we pushed through his story too quickly. I liked meeting him and seeing his relationship with Peter, but everything progressed at the expense of other story lines. And this was echoed in one of my nitpicks about the plot: if Norman Osborne died of the same disease with an onset of symptoms at the same age, and lived for another 20 years, why is Harry dying right now? Let the disease progress more slowly, and let Harry become the Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 3.
Trying to rush through Harry’s story line also had the consequence of robbing the film of a third act. Gwen’s death should have come at the end of the second act, leading to a bigger fight with Green Goblin, but instead it wasn’t the end of anything, and we move from her funeral to Osborne’s plan to build a group of super villains. It was incredibly dissatisfying, and that’s coming from someone who liked the finale of Lost. It was pretty fun when Spider-Man finally returned and went after Rhino, but why was Rhino even in the movie? Just so that he can be in the next one. It might have been more emotionally resonant if Peter had finally suited back up to fight his old friend. That probably would have made the movie interminably long, though, so maybe Gwen's death at the hand of Green Goblin could have been the plot of… The Amazing Spider-Man 3.
I didn’t hate everything about the movie, though. Remember, I said I liked it on the whole. So what was the best part? Every scene with Peter and Gwen. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are magic together. They enjoy each other so much that it is impossible to be unhappy when they are sharing the screen. Their scenes are the best parts of the movie, and frankly, I wish they had given Gwen more to do. She works best when she is helping Peter — by magnetizing his web-shooters, for example — rather than making things so “complicated” for him. But girlfriend was right to dump him. Make a choice, Peter. Either be with her or honor her dad’s wishes, but don’t stand outside the dim sum place sad-sacking it up when she should be celebrating. Just kiss her and give her a token present and be nice to her mom. But that’s a bit of a digression.
I basically loved most of the scenes that weren’t focused on a super villain, plus the initial Times Square showdown with Electro. And visually, I have no complaints. Marc Webb and the CG artists do such a great job with Peter’s balletic web-slinging around New York that watching it is joyful. It really makes you understand why Peter loves being Spider-Man so much.
In the end, I thought the movie was entertaining, but I’m not convinced they knew what story they were trying to tell when they made it, and my proof is this: They shot a Mary Jane Watson storyline. How would that have fit in with anything else in the movie? It wouldn’t have, and they were smart to cut it. They would have been smarter if they had cut more.