When Sony announced its Spider-Man reboot, fans were wary but were also looking for some character redemption after Spider-Man 3. Instead of Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield donned the spider tights. This movie series focused on a high-school age Peter Parker as he wooed his first love Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone). Garfield and Stone had great chemistry, but the movie largely suffered because it was a retread of the original which was released only 10 years previous.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 picks up at the time when Peter and Gwen are graduating from high school. Peter still balances his life as Spider-Man between his relationship with Gwen. However, he’s been seeing visions of Gwen’s departed father and he is haunted by the promise he made to him to stay away from Gwen for her own protection. Peter distances himself from her but cannot help himself from staying away from the love of his life.
Meanwhile, Peter’s childhood friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) is back in town to visit his dying father Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper). Harry finds out that he’s suffering from the same genetic disease that affected his father and he asks Peter if he can ask Spider-Man for a sample of his self-healing blood.
Let’s add another plot into the mix as Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), a introverted socially awkward employee of Oscorp has taken a stalker-type fascination with Spider-Man after he was rescued by the hero. This movie needs a grand villain and that’s when Max falls into a vat of electric eels while holding an electric cable (I’m not kidding). Hence, he becomes living energy and eventually takes his god-like powers out on New York as the villainous Electro.
On top of all of this, we get a glimpse of Richard Parker, Peter’s father. More of his backstory is told and Peter must come to terms that his father was partially responsible for Peter’s current situation.
Basically, there are four interweaving plots and most of them are successful and worthwhile. The character that doesn’t work AT ALL is Jamie Foxx as Electro/Max Dillon. What an entirely poor casting decision. He plays the character as a mentally-handicapped man who will drop everything if someone says that they need him. His entire motivation is to have people notice him and when they don’t, he is willing to kill hundreds of people. For example, when Spider-Man faces him in Times Square and the crowd cheers for Spider-Man to take Electro out, he loses it and destroys Times Square. A friend who came to the screening spoke truthfully when he said that “Jamie Foxx’s electrical accident causing him to become pure energy was a more believable turn, than having us believe Jamie Foxx could be a nerdy guy with a combover.”
Other than Jamie Foxx, everyone shines in Amazing Spider-Man 2. The first movie worked due to the natural chemistry of Garfield and Stone. Even the Spider-Man detractors cannot deny the genuine chemistry and dialogue between these two. Andrew Garfield continues to play a great Spider-Man and Peter Parker. He spends far more time as Peter Parker than he does in costume. However, the moments where he swings through the city streets of New York are absolutely stunning to watch. You feel as if he has a GoPro attached to his chest and he swings from building to building. Emma Stone is the heart of the movie and will have you saying “Mary Jane Who?”
I know there is a large population of people who want Spider-Man under the umbrella of Disney/Marvel studios. I think that would be a huge mistake. He would be just another Tony Stark-type hero following the same vanilla no-risk formula as the rest. The element that separates Marc Webb’s Spider-Man from the rest of the Marvel flicks is emotion. I knew of certain plot points based on the comics and I was still shocked by the storytelling risks they took. This movie has my respect for that.
The one thing I wanted more of was more development of Dane DeHaan. He gets a few critical scenes with Garfield, but I wanted to see his transition fleshed out. I would have been okay with him playing the only villain.
If you’re like me, you’re worried that this movie packs in too many villains. Yes, I think more than one is too many, but the focus is on Electro or Harry, rarely both at the same time. But with a 2 hr 22 min runtime, there’s plenty of time to focus on both. Don’t worry about Paul Giamatti’s appearance as a Russian thug-turned-electric-rhino. He only appears in the opening and closing scenes. He’s a ridiculous character, but is little more than a glorified cameo.
When it all comes down to it, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a fun, funny, exciting and heartbreaking movie. Sadly, its flaws lie in the villains, but Garfield and Stone will win you over. It still doesn’t beat out Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man 2, but it’s worth watching on a very big screen. B+