Saturday, May 3, 2014


I don't really understand critics' distaste toward "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." Not only is it a great superhero flick, it's even better than Marc Webb's first entry. No, I haven't seen last month's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," so just spare me there. But even on its own terms, not compared to other superhero movies out there, this second Spider-Man outing strikes a keen balance of light and frothy fun, genuine humor and high-flying action with ample amounts of romance, depth of emotion and real pathos. Take, for example, the film's first two sequences. The opening in-flight scene is harrowing and heartbreaking, while the opening re-introduction to Spidey swings briskly with grace. The control of tone is impeccable and more than makes up for any pratfalls in juggling plot lines.

Andrew Garfield cements himself further into the role of Peter Parker with great panache. Donning the suit, he slaps crooks across the face with charm and snappy one-liners. They're goofball and cheesy but also loyal to the source material. Spider-Man is a jokester. Here, even his ringtone is his own theme song. There's certainly not a lack of talent involved, with Emma Stone reprising her role as the glowing and independent Gwen Stacy. Not to mention the talented Sally Field as Aunt May who can carry a scene all her own.

It's graduation day while Spider-Man is busy dealing with an escaped convict (Paul Giamatti) trying to hijack precious Oscorp materials. Already wrestling this double-life, Peter is also haunted by the memory of Gwen's dad (Denis Leary) warning him to stay away from his daughter, in order to keep her safe. Must he let her go because he loves her too much to lose her? Meanwhile, the mysterious Oscorp has a new king, and it's Peter's old school friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). What starts off as a friendly reunion soon turns sinister once Harry's life is at stake.

The major threat is the seemingly harmless Oscorp employee with a strange Spider-Man fetish, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) -- that is, until he gets in a catastrophic accident rendering him into the frighteningly powerful and ready-for-revenge Electro. He's a daunting villain who's certainly more threatening and whose motives are more structured than the Lizard, who basically just wanted to turn the city's citizens into a bunch of self-healing green lizards for some reason. Foxx isn't given too much to do, but he works with what he can, while the more personable foe for Peter Parker is rightfully played by Dane DeHaan. They share an uneasy chemistry that is far superior to anything Tobey Maguire and James Franco churned out a decade ago.

For those complaining about the film getting weighed down by too many villain threads, it's safe to say it doesn't feel overstuffed. It's definitely no "Spider-Man 3." A third onscreen villain hardly gets any screen time. Sure, it's all universe-building, and while I was certainly aware of it here, it hasn't become too distracting. Yet. The movie is also visually gorgeous, from the choreography of Spidey's web-slinging through the city to the fine orchestration of the action set pieces. I didn't see it in 3-D because I made that mistake last time -- it darkens everything far too much.

The new "Amazing Spider-Man" franchise still comes back to the chemistry between real-life couple Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, whom Marc Webb directs so eloquently. Remember, folks, this is the guy who did "(500) Days of Summer" before signing on to a Marvel franchise. The scene of Peter crossing the street toward Gwen with that song playing, it's enchanting. There's a clear emphasis on interpersonal relationships, which is something to appreciate within a superhero flick. But, yes, there's a whole lot being set up here for the future films, most notably the villain-focused "Sinister Six" film. In that regard, I'm glad Webb decided to step down when he did because after this, it would be no surprise to see the Spider-Man world take a drastically steep nose dive.

1 comment:

  1. Some people are going to say that this movie is a "tangled web" of villains. And that the love story becomes heavy and saturated to the point of pulling attention away from the Marvel standard of "hero transformation." But those folks are forgetting that cerebral movies, the ones that come filled to the brim, do in fact exist. Sure, they normally come out in December, but that doesn't mean that Marvel can't pack a movie with more than wiz's, pop's, and bangs. They can throw a deep and real love story in if they want. They can toss more than one villain in to the arean with Spidey. They can, and should push you as a movie go-er. Do you want a 6-pack of Iron Man 2's every summer? Or would you like to see a real love story, beautifully intertwined within a quest for purpose, and glazed with glistening action sequences that follow lines around the New York City skyline that only a crafty little hero like a human spider can produce?! The critics like the gentlemen at the Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stone, and The Wrap need to get off their lofty thrones, and stop throwing mud at movies that push cinema. Our time honored summer blockbusters need to keep evolving. Amazing Spiderman 2 has multiple helpings of jokes and self awareness. Get ready people, Marvel's going to keep moving in this direction. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.