An improvement on the first film, TASM 2's biggest enemy is still its overstuffed narrative

Who would have thought that a group of unlikely heroes (including a talking raccoon and tree) would outperform one of the most popular comic book heroes?

Considering how much of a box-office juggernaut the series was before Marvel Studios bounded onto the stage (along with X-Men and Blade, Spider-man kicked off this current trend of comic-book films), it's surprising to see how it has been left behind; not quite fumbling about aimlessly, but lacking the structure that Marvel's films have benefited from.

The lack of structure results in something that doesn't feel particularly organic or focused; a mesh of ideas, images and characters clashing together in a film that's enjoyable but could really do with a trim.

Continuing the adventures of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), he's now comfortable with being a hero but still feeling conflicted towards his on-off girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) after her father, Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary), warned him to stay away from her (and appears here in 'ghost' form, striking the same disapproving look over and over).

Conflict is two-fold (three-fold, if you include Paul Giamatti's Rhino who bookends the film) with Jamie Foxx's Max Dillon morphing into the super-powered Electro, and Peter's childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) donning a nasty looking rash for his eventual turn into the Green Goblin.

To recount the film's plot would take too long but Peter has to manage his relationship with Gwen, find out why his parents disappeared and deal with two new super-powered threats.

They say it's a good thing to keep your heroes busy. Spider-Man is way too busy in this film. That's not to say that it isn't an enjoyable watch.

Whether it's seeing Spider-Man glide through the (digital) New York skyline, the action scenes feel bigger (including a huge chase that riffs The Blues Brothers) and there's an undeniable sugar rush once the film builds up a head of steam.

And the actors go a long way to making the film tolerable when it indulges itself, whether it's Garfield or Stone's chemistry, Foxx's desperate and pathetic Dillon or Dehaan's Osborn (who sounds menacing even when he's being nice).

But much like the first film there's alot of story to fit in. The script borders on being lazy with characters conveniently meeting in elevators to dole out relevant plot points and the logic of some characters' actions are fuzzy, to say the least.

Add to that the number of redundant characters (Felicity Jones is just wasted), and the film taking a good half-hour to introduce all its characters and there's too much to digest, the film stuttering and getting tangled in a busy, needlessly complicated web of its own making.

The campy tone, while fun, does threaten to take the film to some cringeworthy places (Martin Csokas's German scientist is perhaps overstepping the mark) and it could do with being a little less ambitious – the foundations can't support what the film wants to do.

For a 142 minute film, there still feels like there are moments missing.

More after the break

However, while the story might be lacking, the visuals do not. 'Mastered in 4K', The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does indeed look amazing with a great amount of detail on objects, faces and costumes.

Switching to film after the digital cinematography of the first film, TASM 2 is a more vibrant and confident looking sequel. There's little we can see in terms of problems: blacks are deep and all other colours look rich and vivid (we do like the glow of the blue LEDs in the scene before Dillon's transformation).

Spider-Man's suit doesn't quite pop as much as we'd thought it would (either in day or night scenes), but the deep red and blues still make for a striking appearance. Skin tones appear natural, although they err towards a slightly red complexion.

Visual effects are well incorporated, too. While Spider-Man swinging through the city isn't quite photo-real (there's still a cartoony vibe that feels deliberate), the environments look fantastic and the film's production design is filled with so many different aesthetics and textures that show up incredibly well in HD.

If you're looking for a demo disc, TASM 2 is a great bet.

Audio wise it's a similar verdict. It's a well-balanced sound mix, with no one area dominating the channels.

It never overwhelms, sounds are easily distinguishable and clear, while dialogue is audible, with Spider-Man hidden behind a mask, Electro's lines digitally altered and Dehaan's ... well, his much-too-deep voice for an 18-year-old never becoming unclear or hard to pick up.

Hans Zimmer's score (with his 'Magnificent Six' band including Pharrell and guitarist Johnny Marr) is a distinctive one, with the main theme sounding similar to Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man and Electro's theme a possibly annoying/distracting dubstep score providing plenty of bass.

Whether it's the dialogue, environmental sounds or the score, they all sound great. It's a terrific sound mix.

TASM 2 is film that wants to be everything to everyone. It never verges on being truly great (it simply isn't focused enough) but there's plenty to enjoy with this Blu-ray release.

We gave it three stars during its theatrical release, a higher rating for this Blu-ray presentation seems fairer despite our reservations over the film itself.

 

Bonus features

  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted & Alternate Scenes
  • The Wages of Heroism: Making The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  • The Music of Amazing Spider-Man 2

Picture: 2.40:1, 1080p

Audio:DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Runtime: 142m