Blu-ray Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

In 2012, a lot of people rolled their eyes at Spider-Man’s origin being completely rebooted just five years after the last installment of the previous set of films. When the dust settled, The Amazing Spider-Man turned out to be a somewhat fresh take on the character, with the story and studio focusing on a much larger future for the franchise. With the success Marvel is having with its film universe, Sony wants a piece of the “big picture” pie as well; though with only one superhero to base it off of, that’s a little easier said than done.

First up, they set-up a new backstory about Peter’s parents, and added a lot of karmic drama that all leads to Peter becoming Spider-Man. I remember enjoying the first film well enough when I saw it in theaters. However, I was still smitten with Sam Raimi’s take on the web-slinger, and Tobey Maguire was the Peter Parker I knew and loved.

Fast-forward to 2014, and I watched the first film again in preparation for its sequel, and I found a lot more to enjoy in it. For some reason I always hated the scene where Parker (played by Andrew Garfield) tests out his powers while skateboarding all over an industrial site. I thought they were trying too hard to make him seem cool to this generation. The second time around it wasn’t so bad. He even kind of grew on me.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a much bigger movie than its predecessor, which is usually the case with sequels. There’s less time needed to build on characters, so that time needs to be filled, and in this type of movie, it’s usually filled with action – and that’s where The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn’t disappoint.

Right from the opening scene it’s clear that this is going to be a fun ride. Spider-Man flies through the streets stopping a robbery (saving countless lives in the process) while his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is giving the valedictorian speech for their graduating class. He swore he wouldn’t miss it, but such is the life of Spider-Man – which she should be pretty understanding of by this point.

Of course, those who saw the first film know that Peter was supposed to stay away from Gwen, as per her father’s dying wish. But since those are apparently the best promises to break, here we are. But Parker isn’t getting away with it that easily. No, he’s haunted by visions of Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) around almost every corner.

This forces Peter to make the decision to break up with Gwen once and for all for her safety. It may seem a little redundant, but it works well for the story.

Creating a villain that helps tell the story is essential to superhero films, as it’s just no fun if they’re just “there.” So The Amazing Spider-Man 2 takes the risk of throwing a few villains into the mix. Yes, this isn’t always the best way to do it, as it can water things down too much and each villain can end up taking away from one another; however, the big bad in this movie is still the big bad, and the reasoning for the other villains showing up actually makes sense – well, mostly.

Jamie Foxx plays Matt Dillon, a wallflower of a guy who works at Oscorp and is crazy obsessed with Spider-Man. And when I say crazy obsessed, we’re talking bakes a cake for himself on his birthday, and then has an imaginary conversation with Spider-Man thanking him for it kind of crazy. Of course, his life changes when he’s electrocuted and becomes Electro – a guy who can harness the power of electricity around him and use it as a weapon.

Also on deck this time around are the Green Goblin and Rhino, though both don’t show up until the latter half of the film. One of the bigger issues I had with the movie was how it handled the Green Goblin. Norman Osborne (played by Chris Cooper) has a very small role in the movie where he pretty much just dies. But before he dies, he tells his son Harry (Dane DeHaan) that the disease that killed him is hereditary, and that he got it at about Harry’s age.

That’s all fine and good; however, Harry’s turn happens incredibly quickly in the story. As soon as he finds out about this illness, he pretty much goes on the fast track to his deathbed. Now, Norman lived with this disease for decades longer, trying to find a cure, and yet, Harry almost instantly hits the point that took out his dear old dad. Of course, it’s possible that it moved faster within him, but that just seems like kind of a stretch for the convenience of the story.

And while all these villains do find a place in the story (well, okay Rhino is just a thug thrown in at one point or another), they’re mainly there to set up the bigger picture for the Spider-Man franchise. Already there are plans for a Sinister Six film that would focus on six villains as the main cast, so they have to lay the groundwork somewhere. The problem is, doing so here muddles up this movie off and on over the course of its hefty runtime.

As a whole, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is highly entertaining, with some good gags thrown in throughout, and it’s clear Parker (and Garfield, for that matter) is more comfortable in his duty as Spider-Man. The action is bigger, and it really nails the comic book vibe, while also dabbling in some unique storytelling from time to time.

The CGI used to move Spidey throughout the streets of New York has hit a new high, and it really looks superb. Also, gone is the first movie’s costume, and in is the classic looking suit we’ve all come to know and love.

On the acting front, Foxx is superb both before and after his villainous transformation. He really makes Electro a sympathetic antagonist, and he’s someone I do hope we see more of as the Sinister Six moves forward – though I’m pretty sure that’s not in the cards.

Garfield and Stone work incredibly well together once more, and their chemistry is stronger this time around (likely because they’re a couple in real life.) Cooper’s brief appearance is so good that it makes you wish he found a cure during the conversation and stuck around. DeHaan could be a solid Goblin, though future films will tell that story. His work here as Peter’s childhood friend returned home comes off genuine, and the chemistry the two share makes it unfortunate they won’t share anymore screen time together outside of their costumes.

There are definitely some clunky moments in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that keep it from being a franchise that fans are clamoring for more of. That’s not to say it won’t keep making hundreds of millions, it’s just that there’s little anticipation for another installment. There’s a, “I’ll see it when it shows up, but if it takes a few years, well, no biggie,” vibe to it – which is probably a good thing, as the next one isn’t slated until 2018.

The desire to branch the franchise out so quickly seems to be hurting it more than helping it. Of course, it’s a bit harder when Sony only owns the rights to Spider-Man, so they can’t very well create a universe as vast as Marvel’s through separate films without first setting up those films in the main series. It’s a double-edged sword, as it could work, or it could fall completely flat.

I suppose that whichever way the spinoff lands, they always have Venom Vs. Spider-Man to fall back on as a way to print money. Well, so long as it’s not a repeat of Spider-Man 3; though, Andrew Garfield dancing down the streets of New York dressed in black couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Sony usually doesn’t disappoint in this area, and this time is no different. The video quality of the Blu-ray is fantastic. It’s crisp, colourful and all around gorgeous. The sound mix is also spot on, really delivering the goods in terms of quality. This is the type of movie you want to experience, and the Blu-ray transfer is definitely the way to do that. Great job here Sony.

Speaking of a great job, this is how extras for blockbusters should be done. We can’t always be treated this kindly, but for those who love to get behind the scenes, then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 really brings it home for you on that front.

I’ll start with the best first:

The Wages of Heroism: Making The Amazing Spider-Man 2This feature is broken up into six parts (though you can always choose to Play All) and has a full runtime of 1 hour 45 minutes; which, needless to say, covers a lot of ground. When broken down, that ground is as follows:

Lessons Learned: Development and Direction – The first part runs at 19 minutes in length and talks about the characters in the film, things they learned from the first movie and how they built off the structure that began there. They also touch on the villains in this film, the themes, as well as using the classic suit over the first film’s design, and quite a bit more.

Heart of the City: Shooting in New York – This second part comes in at just under 13 minutes in length and talks about the ups and downs of shooting in New York. It’s just really great stuff to watch that makes you feel like you’re on set at times.

Triple Threat: Attack of the Villains – This piece comes in at 21 minutes in length, and just as it sounds like, it focuses on the film’s villains, the battles throughout the movie, and how certain scenes were put together.

A More Dangerous World: Transforming Goblin and Electro – This fourth part comes in at 10 minutes in length, and focuses mainly on Electro’s make-up and design, as well as Goblin’s design for both his look and his weapons.

Bolt From the Blue: Visual Effects – This part comes in at just under 18 minutes in length and focuses on the huge amount of visual effects found within the blockbuster. Some things are redundant, as it’s hard to not already touch on certain aspects earlier; however, it’s still interesting to see.

Spidey Gets his Groove Back: Music and Editing – This final segment comes in at 25 minutes in length, and focuses on the set design. Just kidding, it’s all about the music and editing! For those interested in post-production, there’s quite a bit of fun stuff to see and learn here.

With that giant feature out of the way, let’s get to the rest of the goodies:

Audio Commentary – The commentary is given by writers Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinkner, as well as Producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad. They go in-depth on quite a few aspects of the film, the story process, the themes, characters, casting and such, so for those who love commentaries, it’s worth a listen.

Deleted and Alternate Scenes – There are 23 minutes worth of scenes here, and if you’re a fan of seeing what hit the cutting room floor, then be sure to check these out. There are some interesting moments, but overall, they didn’t make the cut for a reason. To find out that reason, be sure to turn on the audio commentary by director Marc Webb!

The Music of Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Director Marc Webb – Here’s an eight minute featurette where Webb talks about what he wanted from Hans Zimmer and the score, and how it all ties into the movie.

And finally, Alicia Key’s music video for It’s On Again.

Sony Pictures Presents The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Directed by: Marc Webb. Written by: Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinkner. Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Chris Cooper, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field. Running time: 140 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released: August 19, 2014.

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