Genre – Action, Comic Book, Superhero
Director – Marc Webb (Amazing Spider-Man, (500) Days of Summer)
Cast – Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan
Alluring element – The return of the Amazing Spider-Man!Scorecard: Plot – 9 Acting – 8 Representation of genre/Identity – 10 Cinematography – 10 Effects/Environment – 10 Captivity – 9 Logical consistency – 9 Originality/Creativity – 8 Soundtrack/Ambiance – 7 Overall awesomeness – 10
Since being rebooted just one decade after the historic trilogy (okay, we can forget about Spider-Man 3) changed the way comic book adaptations were viewed by the world, The Amazing Spider-Man destroyed all doubt in fans that this was just a cash grab, but instead a legitimately sustainable universe. It was a risky move rebooting so soon, especially when many fans considered the third installment of the Raimi films to be a complete deal-breaker, but the two films have easily become a juggernaut, earning a place among the likes of the Nolan Batmans, Iron Mans, and Kick Asses. This has been well-deserved, as Peter Parker is one of the most beloved character of all-time, and second in popularity to nobody but maybe Superman or Batman. From KRS-One to Barack Obama, everybody loves their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
The Amazing Spider-Man does whatever a Spider-Man can… but better. From the get-go, we’re introduced to a Spider-Man who has been not been taking his two-year hiatus lightly. His skills are honed and the obligatory montage where Parker learns how to do like a spider does is long in the past. Instead, we are treated to spectacular scenes of Spidey chasing bad guys, infuriating them with his hilarious jabs at their incompetence – seriously, I’m convinced Peter Parker’s middle name is sarcasm. Although the end of AS1 left us in emotionally distraught from the death of Captain Stacey and the forced promise to leave Gwen Stacy alone (yeah, right. We’re talking about Emma Freaking Stone here), the tone of this movie is fervently fun and exciting.
We join our hero as he is graduating high school, which jumps years ahead in chronology, missing out on some potentially valuable years of high school chronology for Peter. It could be looked at as a rushed attempted to fit everything in, but I really see it as a clear statement that Webb will be focusing on the growth of Peter Parker, the man. The term “this isn’t high school anymore” is literally applied to Peter’s relationships across the board. It doesn’t take away from the light-hearted nature of the character himself, but the nature of the story and the villains which he faces lets us no right away that he has a monumental task ahead of him.
You know watt they say: with great power, comes villains with even greater power. Electro makes his first film appearance here, and it’s mostly a win. Max Dillon, played by Jamie Foxx, is a sad, lonely, brilliant man who never seems to catch a break. The ability to control electricity was the ultimate gag joke when Electro first broke onto the scene (actually, February 2014 marked his 50th Anniversary) However, in this completely wired society we live in now, the ability to control electricity made Max Dillon nothing short of a god.
Unfortunately, in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Electro is reduced to somewhat of a goon to the real villain of the story. His character is so creepy and weird that you almost can’t feel sorry for him, even though his character is really the victim of unfortunate circumstance. There are also a few mishaps with his ultra-corny lines – you’ll know which ones when the time comes. Aesthetically, though, Electro is one of the coolest bad guys you can find in a movie. His entire body is comprised of electricity, making him look like a conduit. He’s part Dr. Manhattan from The Watchmen – except, thank goodness, he wears pants – and part conduit from the inFamous video game. I think it looks phenomenal; you can argue one way or the other, but you have to admit, it looks much better than, ya know, this:
Electro isn’t just used as physical muscle; he was worked over to introduce the real bad guy, Harry Osbourne. Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) plays a perfect Harry; he’s smart, emotional perturbed from being neglected by his rich dad (#richpeopleproblems), but finds solace in his one friend in this world, Peter Parker. DeHaan might not be the stud-muffin that James Franco was, but he does have this very DiCaprio vibe going on, even down to the patented hair flip thing. Due to Norman Osborn’s sickness, Harry finds himself thrust into power. Curt Connors failed to replicate the lizard serum in the film film – that thing that made everybody turn into giant lizards, remember? This has direct consequences in the sequel, and viewers might not even notice the connection if they aren’t looking for it.
The topic of Peter’s parents is also revisited, something that I felt was sorely lacking in the first film. Have patience though, friends; it was all done on purpose, showing just enough in the first film to give enough context for the “aha!” moments in this one. It’s nice to see a little foresight, and that is something the franchise definitely has. There are numerous foreshadowings to a Sinister Six/Venom movie to be found (most of it was unfortunately spoiled by the internet weeks before the movie even came out), but they were more-so Easter Egg rewards for comic book fans than distractions from the main events.
Clocking in at two and a half hours of run-time, AS2 flew by. The film is cut into enough transitions that I didn’t feel like the movie needed to end, nor did it feel too sporadic to keep up with the fast pace. There were a few scenes that felt bipolar, ie – Parker’s inevitable guilt trip about hooking up with Gwen in lieu of the promise to her dad, even though he had just laid on some hardcore PDA earlier that day. There are also several montages with music that doesn’t really fit the ambiance of the situation. They’re all forgivable and minor missteps, as Spider-Man almost gets a bit of a pass because Peter Parker is such an awkward character already.
I wouldn’t say that the heroism takes a back seat, but to call AS2 anything but a love story first and foremost would be a disservice to the dynamic performance that Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield give. This feels like you wish your first love story was. Arguably, Gwen means more for Peter’s character development than being Spider-Man does. What makes Gwen so important to Spider-Man’s journey is her ride-or-die attitude. She has no great power, but still feels the responsibility to do the right things – a value surely instilled in her by her late father.
What I really love about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the ability to keep the spirit of the Web Slinger intact while still trying to evolve the story to make it fit in a 21st century setting. The evolution of OsCorp into genetic manipulation – as well as “The Vault” and its contents – is a lunge in the right direction. It makes OsCorp directly responsible for the origins of The Lizard, Spider-Man, Electro, Rhino with his mechanized suit and more to come (Sinister Six and Venom, presumably). Furthermore, making the “Goblin” trait into a degenerative disease is a brilliant way to tie everybody back together, especially Peter’s parents. At the heart of it, though, is still your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. From the incredible slow-mo Spider-Sense sequences and the ludicrously awesome lack of effort when facing impending doom to the heart-to-heart that he has with Aunt May and even as subtle as the replacement of dark eyes on the costume with white ones, I fell in love with Spider-Man all over again. Ultimately, with director Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield as lead Peter Parker on board for a third movie as well, there’s just as much to be excited for going forward as this is to enjoy in Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Thanks to Aurora Rise, a non-profit organization that funnels donations to the rehabilitation of victims in the Aurora theater shooting, we were able to see Amazing Spider-Man 2 a few days early AND support a good cause. Thanks to Aurora Rise and Aurora Movie Tavern for hooking it up!
All media credited to Marvel Comics and Sony/Columbia Pictures