In a summer packed to the gills with superhero blockbusters, one that landed with less grace than a rampaging man in a rhino suit was The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Critics tore into the flick, deriding it for a muddled story, inconsistent character development and, most pressingly, too many damn villains.
And you know what? All of those complaints are reasonable. The movie isn’t perfect – it definitely isn’t amazing. However, after watching it, I have to say, all the Spidey hate seems a little bit overkill. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t up there with The Dark Knight as one of the great superhero sequels, but it’s also not trying to be. This installment is all about setting up the Spider-Man universe for future adventures and setting Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) on a path towards becoming the hero he’s destined to be. And in that respect, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a messy success. What it is additionally and often, though, is a great deal of fun.
The plot, as you’ve all heard before, is overstuffed. Peter faces down graduation, Electro (Jamie Foxx), the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan), OsCorp, his own absent parents and relationship issues with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and all those obstacles are delivered in such short succession that it all becomes more than a little overwhelming. Still, director Marc Webb makes time for crucial details – Peter’s anguish over how his path is diverging from Gwen’s is fully felt and never overplayed, while Harry Osborn gets surprising depth, courtesy of DeHaan’s impressively sympathetic work in the role.
Garfield and Stone were what propelled The Amazing Spider-Man forward, and their performances are the highlight of this sequel, too. The chemistry between Peter and Gwen is immediate and charming – and in a superhero movieverse filled with truly grating romantic pairings, that’s something to be grateful for.
In fact, the actors are strong all around in this installment. Foxx is hobbled by inconsistent use of his tragic antagonist, who starts out as an odd but still lovable goof and at one point completely flips into megalomaniacal villainy, but he still delivers a great, dynamic performance. Colm Feore, Felicity Jones and Paul Giamatti all chew the scenery with zeal, and Sally Field is predictably enjoyable to watch as Aunt May.
The effects are also stupendous. Spider-Man’s web-swinging over New York City is more heart-in-mouth thrilling to watch than ever, and the fight sequences are as involving as they are inventive. Commendably, the visuals rarely detract from the story or characters – Webb stages each scene with intelligence and grace.
Again, it’s not perfect and at times its jumbled nature can be off-putting. But at its best, this is a tremendously exciting and accomplished Spider-Man movie that didn’t deserve the paltry reception it received. If the next installment’s script can correct this one’s blunders, I’m still optimistic about where this franchise is headed.
Technically, it doesn’t get much better than The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Blu-Ray. As a big blockbuster from Sony, the film got a 1080p transfer “mastered in 4K,” which looks absolutely stunning. Everything looks absolutely top-notch here, and in a very visually busy film, that’s a relieving find. Details are immaculate throughout, from the slightest hairs on Gwen Stacy’s head to the reflection of light off skyscrapers – watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an immersive experience. I have no doubt that this transfer will rank among 2014’s best – that director Marc Webb chose to shoot on film lends the picture a refreshing life and vibrancy. This is reference-quality stuff – amazing indeed.
In terms of its audio, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Blu-Ray is also a force to be reckoned with. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Track provides the depth of sound that you always hope to see from a Blu-Ray but only really get on big studio releases. It’s dynamic, absorbing and perfectly balanced from start to finish, with dialogue always remaining crisp and clear (kudos in particular to the rendering of Electro’s voice, which is jarring in its deepness and raspiness but fascinating to listen to) and sound effects stealing the show. During the many action sequences, Sony pulls out all the stops to deliver an absolute hurricane of sound – to give one example, you’ll get crackling electricity, screaming civilians, transfixing explosions, slight footsteps, the buzz of the city, dialogue and much, much more during Electro’s battle with the webhead in Times Square. I can’t extoll the strengths of this track enough.
Special features also really deliver. We’ve got:
- Filmmakers’ Commentary
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes (Optional Commentary by Marc Webb on some)
- Peter Meets His Father (5:10)
- Cockpit Discovery (1:31)
- Flash Forward (1:09)
- Max’s Mother (1:41)
- Mayhem in the Morgue (1:26)
- Missing Each Other (2:15)
- Peter Visits Harry (4:21)
- Oxford Acceptance (1:04)
- Is Peter Home? (0:49)
- Chasing Gwen (1:48)
- Birth of the Goblin (1:27)
- Felicia Sees Her Boss (0:46)
- Goblin Kills Menken (0:30)
- The Wages of Heroism: Making The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- Lessons Learned: Development and Direction (18:59)
- Heart of the City: Shooting in New York (12:34)
- Triple Threat: Attack of the Villains (20:56)
- A More Dangerous World: Transforming Goblin and Electro (10:10)
- Bolt from the Blue: Visual Effects (17:42)
- Spidey Gets His Groove Back: Music and Editing (24:09)
- The Music of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Director Marc Webb (8:09)
- Alicia Keys “It’s On Again” Music Video (3:49)
Quite the collection of bonus features, and though not all of them are fantastic, the gems here are plentiful. The filmmakers’ commentary, which includes writers Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinkner and producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad, is an enjoyable, wide-reaching listen. The four hash out the details of special effects, story details, themes of the Spider-Man franchise as a whole, the idea of change for Peter Parker in this installment, introducing elements of the bigger Spidey universe and working with the all-star cast.
Lots of boring stuff in the deleted scenes, unfortunately, though the sheer amount of them means that of course there are some moments that will deepen your understanding of certain characters – it appears that DeHaan’s Goblin got the short shrift here, which was to be expected seeing as he played second fiddle to Electro right up until the finale. “Peter Meets His Father,” though, is a fascinating deleted scene that I simply don’t get not making the final cut. It changes the franchise’s set-up in a pretty major way, and the scene makes me wonder whether Richard Parker will factor into future installments (that it got cut puts that in serious doubt).
“The Wages of Heroism: Making The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is, when taken as a whole, like another movie, clocking in at a sprawling 103 minutes. Luckily for viewers, though, this is great stuff, incorporating a boatload of behind-the-scenes footage that reveals how the filmmakers approached all kinds of scenes, from action sequences to lighter moments. The visual effects in this film are so essential that the parts of this bonus feature talking about them feel extraordinarily exciting, and the sections that focus on music will certain interest soundtrack lovers.
An extra featurette with Webb adds more to understanding the soundtrack on a thematic level and is also worth a watch. The music video for “It’s On Again,” sadly, is quite dull (but then again, the song’s no diamond either).
In conclusion, this is a stellar release from Sony, with stunning video and audio in addition to a vast array of special features, and though The Amazing Spider-Man 2 itself has some problems, the sequel has enough redeeming qualities to make picking up this Blu-Ray a no-brainer for Spidey fans. Garfield and Stone are two of the best actors working in superhero cinema today, and when they’re together, the movie soars just as high as it does during its transfixing action sequences.
It's not amazing by any stretch, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a fast-paced, thrilling and occasionally impactful superhero adventure.