Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is back and I’m happy to say that he’s the best he’s been in a while. It’s funny how both sets of Spider-Man films find their best film (so far) to be the second. I’m not sure what it is about most superhero sequels these days, but they’re doing something right. This film is one that’s got critics divided on both ends of the spectrum and it’s a very different film from what you may think it is. If there’s anything that I ask of you, it’s that you don’t go into this movie thinking that it’ll be bad or anything like Spider-Man 3. Can you do that for me, please?… Thank you!
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is back in all his web-slinging glory and he’s about to graduate high school. His days are spent helping fight crime in New York and are spent with his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Though time has passed, Peter can’t stop seeing Gwen’s dead father whenever he’s with her and the promise he made to avoid her is killing him inside. This extra stress doesn’t help, especially when villains and terror are right around the corner. Max Dillon (Jaime Foxx), an Oscorp electrical employee, is a nobody who idolizes Spider-Man, who once saved him. When Max incurs a terrible electrical accident, he’s turned into an electric, blue being that can absorb and manipulate electricity. He and his powers are misunderstood, but when not even Spider-Man can help him, Dillon becomes Electro and is bent on killing Spider-Man.
Around the same time, Oscorp head Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper) passes away and the entire company is left to his son, Harry (Dane DeHaan). Harry, who was sent away to boarding school by his father, is also dying of a disease that killed his father. When he and Peter rekindle their friendship, it’s clear that Harry is in need of help and he demands that Peter (who photographs Spider-Man) get Spider-Man to give him some of his blood, in order for his cells to repair themselves. When the two butt heads, Harry opts to find a cure on his own and has an adverse reaction to the supposed cure that his father and Peter’s father worked on. All the while, Peter is searching for the truth about his parents and his Aunt May (Sally Field) is reluctant to tell him the truth that may end up hurting him. This is truly Spider-Man’s greatest battle yet.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is everything that it needed to be and that some would want it to be. I wasn’t head-over-heels for The Amazing Spider-Man, but there were some great elements to it that I really admired. Andrew Garfield is a perfect Spider-Man and that only becomes more apparent in this new film. He seems like the high schooler that he should be and his on-screen chemistry with Emma Stone is a beauty. This film doesn’t leave everything up to big action sequences and unnecessary boss fights, because it actually takes the time to explore its characters and build relationships. That’s why, in my opinion, this film is such a success.
Let me tell you something about Andrew Garfield. This guy is going to make it very far in life if he keeps up his incredible acting. As Peter Parker, he’s a vulnerable teenager who struggles with balancing a normal life and protecting the people he loves. As Spider-Man, he’s wisecracking, heroic, and conflicted with his decisions as well. Garfield plays both parts masterfully and a lot of that is due to Stone, his lover on and off-screen. Stone doesn’t quite grasp all that’s going on in Peter’s mind, but she’s there for him and the pair’s interactions are naturally beautiful. They offer up some humor, but also a lot of real emotion that sets a tone for the film. At times, you may think you’re in a romantic film because the two are just phenomenal together.
With a slew of villains and supporting characters, this film bears some resemblance to the god-awful Spider-Man 3. Fortunately, this film is able to give its villains time to grow as characters and we get a better understanding of who they are and what their motives are. Jaime Foxx is incredible as Electro, as you see the humanity in his character when everyone else views him as a freak. He was invisible and had no one in his life, but people only notice the bad now and that motivates him to destroy. Dane DeHaan plays a much better Harry Osborn than James Franco did, as DeHaan’s character is broken by the lack of love from his father and the disease that plagues his family. When Spider-Man can’t even save him, we get why he lashes out and transforms into the Green Goblin. Of course, this film wouldn’t be complete with Sally Field, who honestly made me tear up a little. She’s all kinds of perfect in this film and she plays her character extraordinarily well, evoking the right emotions at all the right times.
Director Mark Webb has greatly improved his characters and this Spider-Man universe since the first Amazing Spider-Man. Webb, who also directed the spectacular (500) Days of Summer, understands human emotion and reality and effortlessly incorporates the two into this film. He hits all the right notes with sentimentality, but can then switch into intense action like it’s nothing. There are many tonal shifts throughout the movie, but they work well and the film’s editing helps splice together opposing sequences that paint a bigger picture. Webb also does a great job of turning a superhero film into something more than that. It feels (for the most part) grounded in reality and most of the best moments in the film don’t even have Peter Parker as Spider-Man in them. However, there are still many great superhero influenced scenes that will please the fanboy in all of us.
As a whole, the film is pretty solid. It does feel somewhat long and there were about five different ways that this film could have ended, but it kept going anyways. There were some scenes that could have been much shorter, tightened up, or cut completely (just like how they cut out Mary Jane Watson… but that’s a different story). The score for this film is very standout, as it’s a multitude of all sorts of sounds. I was somewhat baffled when I was listening to the score, as the songs range from light-hearted, to ominous, or even upbeat hip-hop. Some of it worked, but a lot of it felt out-of-place for a Spider-Man film. Even though it may sound a lot like a news channel intro, I absolutely love the new Spider-Man theme and Hans Zimmer.
I was more than pleasantly surprised by this film, as critics have either loved most of it, or hated most of it. For me, I lie in the former group, as there’s far more to enjoy in this film than there is to despise. It’s a movie about real characters and real people whom you understand and care about, which is something that a lot of superhero movies have been nailing on the head lately. We’re heading into a great time for comic book films, as a lot of them are becoming better than you average film. You almost forget that you’re watching a superhero movie at times and I really love that. This film gives us a younger and more complex Spider-Man and that’s absolutely the best direction this film could have taken the character. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, for me, is right up behind Spider-Man 2 in my books and I’d recommend it to anyone without a moment’s hesitation.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Trailer