The last time we got to see the web-slinger with a strong sense of humor, albeit annoying for his opponents, was back in 2012 in The Amazing Spider-Man. In the last film, we followed Peter Parker, an orphaned teenage boy, as he was bitten by a genetically-altered spider and changed forever when the bite bestowed him with—well—amazing powers.
However, what would be a gift for most—including to Peter himself at moments—seems to turn into a curse for Parker.
After the murder of his Uncle Benjamin “Ben” Parker (Martin Sheen), Peter devotes himself to following his Uncle’s lesson that “with great power comes great responsibility” and decides to use his powers to fight crime as Spider-Man.
In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter (Andrew Garfield) continues his crime-fighting career which has gotten quite busy. Having to balance his life as being both a love-to-hate or hate-to-love vigilante and a recent high-school graduate and an off-and-on again boyfriend to the love of his life Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), Peter has found that his alter-ego as a hero has earned him both good and not-so-good attention.
Attention that subsequently affects his personal life underneath the mask.
Still haunted by the death of Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary)—who died at the end of the first film, Peter suffers from guilt that is caused by his continuing to be in Gwen’s life despite promising her dying father that he would leave her because the danger he attracts. However, Peter’s need for Gwen in his life keeps him from keeping that promise.
Things will drastically change for Peter after he meets his two new, unsuspecting, villains.
After avid fan turned villain, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) endures a traumatic accident that transforms him into the living embodiment of electricity. With his newfound powers and feeling snubbed by Spider-Man, Dillon now calling himself Electro seeks revenge on the enemy-dubbed-nickname, web-head.
But Electro is not alone.
After a long absence from New York City, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) an old friend of Peter’s returns. But the happy reunion turns sour after Harry discovers something about himself which leaves him in dire need of Spider-Man’s help. The result eventually pushes Harry into becoming Peter’s ultimate foe.
The movie also follows Peter’s journey as he tries to uncover new clues about his and his parent’s past.
As the web-slinger himself Andrew Garfield delivers. Once again Garfield manages to truly deliver in the title role. Much like his portrayal in The Amazing Spider-Man, Garfield is not only able to play the socially awkward and amusingly witty Peter Parker/Spider-Man but he does so without seeming to even try. While his predecessor Tobey Maguire may have been a good Spider-Man in the early 2000 films, Garfield IS Spider-Man.
While Maguire did succeed in somewhat bringing to life Peter Parker and Spider-Man there was something missing there. And what was missing in Maguire’s portrayal is made up in Garfield’s. In the latter’s interpretation we don’t see Garfield merely acting as the web-slinger who has these amazing abilities, but we see the heart behind the mask. We can see the pain Peter/Spider-Man is enduring as he is being electrocuted or pummeled within a clock tower. We can feel the agony of broken hope when…sorry, won’t spoil it for you.
Garfield’s Spider-Man was truly realized. The young actor didn’t just take on a role but he seemed to wear it as a second layer of skin, mask included, and did his very best to become Peter Parker.
One particular scene in the film that embodies the feel of the comic book version Peter/Spider-Man is when the hero is shopping for cold medicine. While in a local bodega, completely bundled up and suffering from a cold, Peter must put aside his quest to stop an armed robber who just so happens to be robbing the very store he is within. With a quick firing of his web, Peter now donning the Spider-Man suit—with the same wool cap, bubble vest, and scarf to keep him—manages to subdue the culprit while retaining a sneeze, barely.
The comedic display of Spider-Man is up to par with the computer graphics and the stunt work of Spider-Man as he swings through the city and engages in truly mind-blowing battles. But the action and the wit of Spider-Man alone is not what makes Garfield a strong representation of the comic book hero.
Funny, socially awkward, and just plain dorky Garfield is able to give life to the comic book version of Peter as if he’s been studying the character as much as a fan would. While moody at some points, and reminiscent of an 80s heartthrob you would probably see in a John Hughes movie, remember Garfield is portraying a teenager who has this awesome life as a hero that is sadly impacting what he really wants: to be with his love, Gwen Stacy.
Far from the comic book portrayal of Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone does a pretty good job herself in interpreting the character for the film. Smart, sweet, and deeply caring for Peter, Stone is able resonate who Gwen was in the comics. From her concern for Peter—in and outside of the mask—and her willing to put herself in danger to ensure he is safe, Stone doesn’t just portray the love interest of a hero but shows how a hero can have an equal when it comes to who he or she loves.
In fact, both Garfield and Stone were able to do something that Sam Raimi’s films missed the mark on. Both Garfield and Stone appeared more invested into their characters and showing their relationship as young lovers versus the portrayal of Maguire’s Peter and Kristen Dunst’s Mary-Jane Watson coupling. Whether their real life romance may have added to the belief that they were a couple, Garfield and Stone on-screen chemistry made Peter and Gwen’s relationship seem real and the dangers it would face even moreso.
And now for the villains…
The main villains of the film are Electro and The Green Goblin, and both are quite interesting characters.
For Foxx’s portrayal of Max Dillon who eventually becomes Electro after he endures an accident, there was a slight remembrance to two villains from a different franchise. Before becoming eel food, Foxx’s Dillon seems eerily similar to Jim Carrey’s The Riddler from the film Batman Forever directed by Joel Schumacher. After he’s met a tank of eels and comes back to life all “electrified” up, Foxx reminds us of another Batman film villain, Mr. Freeze played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. However, it isn’t that bad.
While there are some points in the film where Dillon is quite annoying, Foxx manages to entertain by making his annoyance quite subtly funny. Unlike Carrey, Foxx didn’t overact or make the character far too annoy that he was unlikable. In fact, you almost felt sorry for his character even after he blew out his birthday candles with a dip into a tank of electric eels. Now, as for Foxx’s Electro while the effects of Electro and the fight scenes were impressive there was a missing excitement when you meet a villain on screen. There was nothing significantly scary about Electro, nor worrisome considering his powers.
It wasn’t until the next villain showed up that had you feeling concerned for Spider-Man.
Unlike James Franco’s Harry Osborn, Dane DeHaan is able to bring forth an edger, stoic, and slightly sinister (pre-Goblin) Harry which seems to go farther than both comic book and past film portrayals. Maybe it is due to the fact that both Norman Osborn and Harry Osborn personalities seemed to be blended together for this film—despite the former having a cameo and played by Chris Cooper—Dane’s portrayal of Harry really pushed Franco’s interpretation into the dark. And as the Green Goblin, DeHaan truly embodied a man pushed to the edge and completely engulfed by madness. In his scenes with both Peter and Gwen, not only could you see the danger but you could feel it as all three entered a fight for their…lives.
While there was more time to see the bond between Peter and Harry in Raimi’s films, the short time we got to see Garfield and Dehaan try to capture the bond between brotherly squabbling friends seen in both the comic books and the prior film wasn’t shown or given as much attention. However, both Garfield and Dehaan did manage to portray friends reconnecting after being separated for quite some time and being at different intervals in their lives. While it would have been nice to see their friendship more, what was shown was not disappointing.
For many the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise seemed uncalled for, and as someone who has said the same thing that opinion is quickly muted when you sit down to watch The Amazing Spider-Man or its sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2. While Raimi’s Spider-Man films are commented as being the best, and in their own way they are, the comment is too hyperbolic to quickly dismiss Marc Webb Spider-Man contribution.
Webb’s Spider-Man films do take liberty with the canon and story of Spider-Man, however it works in the sense of the film because whether you are comic book reader or not you can see the connection, the sense of characters, and the weight of the world seen on the colored pages upon the silver screen. The cast of The Amazing Spider-Man seemed to put their all into bringing to life a well-respected comic book, far more than it seems the cast of Raimi’s did. Apart from Maguire sustaining body injuries and Dunst being adamant that she was done after the third film, there seemed to be no heart in trying to bring the story to life.
But I will say both Raimi’s and Webb’s movies are enjoyable if you have grown up reading the adventures of Spider-Man as he swings through Manhattan fighting his enemies. Cannot pick one over the other…but only one has a fitting adjective ascribed to their title.
If you’re a fan of the comic books, you’ll love to appreciate the movie. If you’re a fan of action, drama, darkish comedy, and insane computer effects you’ll love The Amazing Spider-Man 2 when it hits theaters today: May 2nd, 2014.