The Amazing Spider-Man may have been a film that many scoffed at when it was first announced, but it ended up being somewhat of a pleasant surprise upon its premiere, thanks to Marc Webb’s ability to bring a delicate romantic and comedic tone and an emphasis on character to the proceedings.
As entertaining as the action sequences were, there was a general feeling that its character development was where the film functioned at its best. Unfortunately, the wrong lessons can frequently be learned in Hollywood. Premiering in 2012, the first in the rebooted Spider-Man series felt as if Sony and producer Avi Arad had been looking to Christopher Nolan’s work on Batman as a means to find a grounded emotional tone to relaunching the famous Webslinger.
However, released the same year, Avengers Assemble, produced by Marvel’s own movie studio and overseen by Kevin Feige, was the biggest box office draw of 2012 and it was the success of that film that would prove to have massive repercussions not only on comic book cinema in Hollywood from 2012 onwards but in how Hollywood would approach movie franchises in general.
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Where the first in the rebooted Spider-Man series told a similar story to 2002’s Spider-Man, (albeit with a new cast and a more understated tone, all backed by a wonderful central pairing between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield and a lovely music score courtesy of James Horner), everything about its sequel screams more, more and more in increasingly unsubtle ways as the film heads towards its devastating conclusion.
One is left feeling that they are not merely watching a film but a set up for other films. Sony had announced spin-offs for Venom and The Sinister Six, the latter being hinted at during various points of this movie, while Felicity Jones shows up as Felicia Hardy aka The Black Cat, and Shailene Woodley was cast as Mary Jane Watson, with her scenes eventually ending up on the cutting room floor.
It’s not every day that a box office gross of $709 million worldwide is considered a disappointment, but that would end up being the case when all was said and done with Sony’s attempt to utilise their Spider-Man rights to kickstart a shared cinematic universe in the style of Marvel’s.
While the box office gross was far from terrible, it also showed a considerable downturn from the previous film, while lacklustre reviews didn’t help. In truth, as is always the case with comic book films that are usually declared to be the worst thing ever, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is far from a disaster, but its attempts at trying to turn what had started as a bittersweet and emotionally handled reboot of the character and his life had turned, in the space of a single movie, into a goofier, sillier and somewhat ghastlier series.
The late, great James Horner, whose score was a highlight of the previous film, didn’t return as he didn’t feel this film was as strong as the first. He was replaced by Hans Zimmer, who does a decent enough job but it probably indicated the intention here to make the film into something it really wasn’t trying to be the first time around.
The previous iteration of Spider-Man came undone in its third film, with most of it down to studio interference and a ‘too many cooks’ approach, which was exactly the same thing that happened here.
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Director Marc Webb tries to hold it together, but his attempts to continue the romantic character drama that made the first film so good is at war with Sony’s attempts to create its own uber-franchise. It really says something that despite the issues that the film has throughout its 142 minute run time, its climax still packs a powerful sting, most of which is down to the superb performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, whose chemistry and ability to make the script work despite itself should be commended.
Taking inspiration from The Night Gwen Stacy Died, the incredible work that made the central romance flourish in the first film and the manner in which it continues to be the best thing within its sequel, means that when the film pays tribute to this most famous of comic book stories, it packs a mighty punch.
Yes, it’s also indicative of some of the problems inherent within the film, coming as it does during an extended coda that sees the film throw in another villain just when central villain Electro (Jamie Foxx) is defeated, but it’s a brilliantly filmed moment that hints that under better circumstances, Webb could have delivered something special if given the chance.
With The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failing to outgross its predecessor and showing a clear downturn on box office receipts even lower than the Raimi/Maguire films, it was clear a fresh approach was needed from someone outside the Sony stable.
Spider-Man was set for another new face and another reboot a mere two years later, but this time, he would be coming home.