The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Peter Parker has a lot on his plate. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is more of a continuation of the character’s life than it is a sequel with a clear thesis, as director Marc Webb juggles numerous plotlines entertaining to watch alone, but muddled when played side-by-side. Which is why the movie reaches its Amazing potential in its second half, when the plot lines finally start weaving together.
There’s the thing with Peter and Gwen; there’s the thing with Electro; there’s that one thing with Harry Osborn, and then there’s that other thing with him. Last and definitely least, there’s the story with Peter’s parents, which began as an attempt to justify the reboot series’ existence, but is now unnecessary as the series has beyond proved its worth five short years after Sam Raimi’s trilogy.
Nowhere in this mess of story, however, is the movie anything less than entertaining, flashy, and sometimes outright heroic. My main gripe with Marvel’s other series (particularly Thor and Captain America) is their lack focus on the lead characters. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man is as realistic, vulnerable, entertaining, and human as a superhero should be. At the end of the day, if I were getting mugged by some gang in the street, I’d want Spidey to be the hero who saves me, so we can make jokes about it then go get some pizza on the way home.
I guess we can attempt an actual plot summary. Peter and Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) reach the end of high school and their complicated relationship, as Peter promised Gwen’s late father he would back off to protect her from whatever would follow the giant lizard in terrorizing New York City. It turns out that would be Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), a probably schizophrenic janitor at Oscorp who becomes obsessed with Spider-Man after being saved by him from another rampaging super villain. On his birthday, Dillon falls into a completely unexplained tank of electric eels at Oscorp. A common office mishap, but instead of charring his skin, it turns it into a layered, transparent blue and grants him the power to control electricity. With great eels comes great responsibility.
Electro’s whole villain shtick is really hammered to the audience as the majority of his dialogue somehow always rounds back to him just wanting to be seen and recognized. Indeed, Spidey goes from his best friend to mortal enemy early in the film when he distracts the Times Square news cameras from Electro, taking the attention away from him in his public debut. Foxx does what he can with some truly awful dialogue (made slightly better by the cool static effect his voice has), but Electro is a completely visual villain anyway. Pulsing, more fluid plasma than sharp electric, he’s a CGI triumph with some incredible action sequences.
Meanwhile, Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) moves back into town. His father Norman (Chris Cooper) is dying from a hereditary disease that Harry himself will soon contract, and he passes to him the CEO position of Oscorp. Between rekindling his friendship with Peter (DeHaan and Garfield have great chemistry, just like Garfield does with apparently everyone), Harry discovers the only cure to the disease is Spider-Man’s blood. (Another long story, but I promise it at least vaguely makes sense.) DeHaan is a fantastic addition to an already solid cast, especially in the final act of the film that I won’t spoil.
Of all the excellent acting, including Sally Field as Aunt May (who gets saddled with her own subplot involving nursing school), the best is easily the chemistry between real-life couple Garfield and Stone. Completely believable in every line of dialogue, the audience will sympathize with their relationship. Garfield brings every scene to life with comic book zaniness but also an intense vulnerability that makes him, unlike almost every other superhero out there right now, seem just like a normal person in extraordinary circumstances.
Luckily for the audience, these circumstances are absolutely thrilling to watch. The film’s action sequences range from visually stunning to emotionally devastating, with the exception of the film’s misplaced opening sequence focusing on Parker’s parents in a crashing plane. Easily the best scene is the film’s climax, which, spoilers aside, features some of the best acting and battle sequences of all of live action Spider-Man. The film’s main flaws lie in its pacing, taking until the second half to find a proper balance. Maybe it was all worth it to set up the emotional punch of the final 45 minutes, though. Somewhere in this tangled web of a movie, Peter Parker teaches us something about being a hero no other superhero has shown us yet.