Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire made Spider-Man a box-office phenomenon with a trilogy that brought in more than $2 billion, but their take on the Peter Parker and his web-crawling alter ego never fully captured the spirit of Marvel Comics’ franchise character. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 finally brings the comic book version to the big screen.
In The Amazing Spider-Man, Director Marc Webb and star Andrew Garfield showed how the character should have been handled in the first place.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 addresses many of the smaller issues with its predecessor — a costume that more accurately reflects the comic book version, a plot that isn’t a retread origin story and a greater variety of action.
Following a somewhat underwhelming opening act about Richard and Mary Parker and a secret that led to their death, it’s time for Spider-Man hi-jinks in a well-staged ripped from the comics inspired encounter with Spidey (Garfield) chasing some crooks.
Beyond small time hoods, Peter/Spidey has to deal with Electro (Jamie Foxx), a social outcast who gains control of electricity in a freak accident. Another complication is the return of his best friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, Chronicle), who desperately needs Spider-Man’s help. And just like the comic, Peter’s love-life is in flux as he’s trying to determine if his super heroic actions are putting his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in harm’s way. But if anything is consistent in Peter’s life, no decision is ever easy … or without consequence.
The film features some of the most exceptional 3D in a comic book film. While in most cases, 3D is a nice bonus if the cost isn’t an issue to you, paying for 3D is essential to get the best presentation of the movie.
Webb really gets that in Spider-Man he has a superhero with a unique gymnastic-like sense of movement. Webb conveys that uninhibited range of motion so well that you’ll feel like you’re gliding along the air with him. Webb may be a bit over-reliant on slow-motion. It’s somewhat forgivable as it tends to lead to some spectacular showcase of Spider-Man’s abilities so you can forgive his exuberance.
Still, no matter how spectacular the action, what raises a good comic book movie to ‘must-see status’ is the performances. This cast features one of the best.
It was evident in the first film, but Garfield is absolutely flawless as Peter and perfectly embodies his bashful, easily likable persona. Were it not for Robert Downey Jr., Garfield would be one of the best takes on a comic book character. He makes Peter a really good guy that truly means well and as Spider-Man, he offers an honest to goodness hero just trying to help others.
Stone’s Gwen is such a refreshing love interest. She knows Peter’s secret identity, doesn’t care, but isn’t going to wait around pining for him if he’s too stubborn and determined to keep her ‘safe.’
Stone again has outstanding chemistry with Garfield and they seem the most natural of the various comic book movie pairings we’ve seen. That could be a happy side effect of their off-screen romance, but it’s definitely to the film’s benefit.
DeHaan really impresses and his story arc is the most compelling of the main four characters as it takes some interesting and surprising turns.
I was worried with the news that the film would feature three villains. Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman & Robert Orci and Jeff Pinker never get overwhelmed with the new cast additions. They juggle them like regular comic book writers while still giving everyone, like Sally Field’s Aunt May, ample screen time.
The dialogue is spot-on and again they grasp that Spider-Man is an inherently fun superhero. They don’t shy away from having him crack jokes and enjoy being a hero even just in the simplest of actions. This isn’t another superhero trying to be Batman. This is the genuine Spider-Man and the film is all the better for it.
Peter’s subplot to learn more of what became of his parents is the only mild misstep. They’re the only parts that make you realize the film’s two-hour plus length.
The final act covers the gamut of all the best story-elements of a great Spider-Man story. For Spidey, that goes beyond simple punching and web-slinging. One moment will leave you speechless while another is truly inspiring. That’s oddly rare for a genre that’s all about inspiring characters.
If your Spider-Man experience is limited to the Raimi/Maguire trilogy, this film may seem too light and fun. For longtime Spidey fans, Amazing Spider-Man 2 finally feels like a Spider-Man movie.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise/Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.