As a general rule of thumb, the Spider-Man movies are well received by audiences. Critics like Spidey’s exploits, and fans enjoy watching their favourite hero swinging through the streets of New York.
Yet despite the popularity of the Spider-Man movies, there is somewhat of a negative buzz around The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). The film is often cited as a weak entry and many point it out as a misstep for the series.
But why? Why is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 regarded as a poor movie?
In this post, I will answer this question by taking a look at all of the elements of the film which are often seen to be problematic.
Reeling from the reboot
OK, so first up it is important to put this film (and its predecessor) into context when discussing the Spider-Man movie series. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was part of a collection of films which rebooted the Spider-Man story and not everyone was a fan of this.
Let me explain.
In 2002, Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures released Spider-Man – a live-action Spidey movie from director Sam Raimi. The film was well received by audiences and made a lot of money at the box office.
Due to the success of Spider-Man, two sequels followed. The first arrived in 2004 and the second hit cinema screens in 2007.
Moving forward, the original plan was to make a fourth entry in the series, with Sam Raimi back in the director’s chair and the majority of the cast set to return for the next chapter. However, due to some backstage issues between Raimi and the studio, Spider-Man 4 was cancelled.
So, with Spider-Man 4 abandoned, Sony made the decision to reboot the series with a new director and an all-new cast. This was a decision which didn’t sit well with fans of the previous movies.
But regardless of any rumblings of negativity, Sony pressed ahead with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and then The Amazing Spider-Man 2. And while The Amazing Spider-Man was fairly well received, the series as a whole still couldn’t shake off a lukewarm feeling from fans – and this never really went away.
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films opened to excitement and a generally positive buzz. The two Amazing Spider-Man movies did not start off in the exact same place – and some fans still feel the films should not have happened.
Back when Sam Raimi worked on the Spider-Man movies, the films followed the traditional pattern of movie making – i.e. if a film does well it gets a sequel, followed by another sequel, and so on. When The Amazing Spider-Man was released, times were changing.
Instead of just making sequel after sequel, Marvel Studios had proved with its Avengers movies that spin-offs and stand-alone movies could build a connected world. Seeing the potential profitability in this method of movie making, other studios started to take note, including Sony Pictures.
Using this idea of world building, Sony began to include a number of characters and story threads in The Amazing Spider-Man. These little nods here and there suggested that something bigger was on the horizon.
And when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 went into production, Sony was keen to crank things up a notch. Instead of a few hints here and there, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 pressed firmly on world building, introducing characters (Felicia Hardy, Alistair Smythe etc) and situations (Osborn’s ‘Special Projects’ division) that could be developed into new stories.
But world building only works if it is done subtly and if it is too heavy handed then it turns audiences off. One of the biggest negative reactions to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was that it simply contained too much set-up for future use, at the expense of focusing on its own story.
Too many villains
And speaking of too much, when it comes to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 not only did the film have to balance a great deal of story/potential story threads, it also had a lot of villains to contend with too.
The main villain of the movie was Electro – a former Oscorp technician, turned supervillain. Electro was the chief adversary of the picture, and the primary focus for the majority of the story, but he wasn’t alone.
When Electro wasn’t taking up screen time, he was switched out for Spidey villain No.2 – the Green Goblin. The Goblin was introduced late into the movie, as an extra threat to Spider-Man.
Outside of Electro and the Green Goblin, the movie also spent a little bit of time with the Rhino – a villain who bookended the picture. In addition to these three villains, Norman Osborn was introduced, the Gentleman (aka the Man in the Shadows) made a reappearance, Alastair Smythe received a cameo, and Doctor Octopus and Vulture were given a nod.
Trying to put all of these characters into a two-and-a-half-hour movie was not easy to do. As a result, one of the biggest criticisms of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was the sheer amount of villains crammed into the movie.
Dropped plot lines
Continuing the theme of too much in one film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was so tightly packed that the film ultimately had to drop a couple of plot lines during the editing stage. One of these plot lines would have seen the return of Richard Parker, Peter Parker’s thought-to-be-deceased father.
A scene was shot for this plot line, with Richard appearing in Peter’s hour of need, following the death of Gwen Stacy (more about this in a moment). Not only would his appearance have tied into the wider narrative of the Parker family, it would have also given his father the opportunity to deliver the iconic line “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
The other key plot line that was dropped from the movie was the introduction of Mary Jane Watson – an important love interest for Peter Parker. Actress Shailene Woodley filmed scenes for the movie, but the footage was never used in the final edit.
It is debatable as to whether it was a good thing or a bad thing to remove these plot lines, but they demonstrate quite clearly that this Spidey picture had a bit too much going on.
The death of Gwen Stacy
And finally, one of the most talked about moments in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was the death of Gwen Stacy – a character who was killed off during the climax of the film. Gwen’s death was inevitable – she was killed in the comics during the 1970s – but it still came as a shock to those unfamiliar with her comic book history.
But regardless of whether Gwen’s death was necessary or not, her demise at the end of the movie put a huge dampener on the picture. Those going to the cinema for some escapism found themselves feeling a little bummed out as credits rolled.
Spider-Man movies have their moments of tragedy (the death of Uncle Ben being the main one), but Gwen’s death felt misjudged. With barely any running time left, the character was killed off so quickly that Peter was given hardly any time to grieve.
A fair end for Gwen? Arguably not.
Is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a bad film?
Everything I have discussed above are significant factors in why audiences didn’t connect with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and why it has developed a bad reputation. The film also didn’t perform as well as its predecessors, which only added to the negative stories surrounding the movie.
But is it really all that bad?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a lot going for it, with some great performances from lead stars, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. The film also features some fantastic action scenes and some neat ideas.
However, the movie does suffer because of its excesses. Sony Pictures pushed too hard to develop a cinematic universe and this ultimately created a lot of negativity towards this picture.
The film has a loyal fan base, but it also has its fair share of disappointed fans. The fact that the series ended after two movies, rather than continue on to the oft-talked about The Amazing Spider-Man 3, has also not helped to improve its status.
But what do you think? Is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a weak link in the Spider-Man movie series or is it a film that needs a reappraisal? Whatever your thoughts, sound off in the comment section.