The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Director: Marc Webb
Screenwriter(s): Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field
Rated PG-13 | 142 Minutes
Release Date: May 2, 2014
“His greatest battle begins…”
When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spider-Man in 1962, they introduced something new to the world of comics: the flawed superhero with everyday problems. The insecurities and anxieties of nerdy high school student Peter Parker changed the public’s perception of comic book superheroes – it made them relatable.
When Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man swung onto screens in 2002, it was a massive success and a cultural phenomenon. For its time, Spider-Man was the only film to reach $100 million in its first weekend, had the largest opening weekend gross of all time, and was the most successful film based on a comic book. It was the The New Millennium’s equivalent to Richard Donner’s Superman or Tim Burton’s Batman.
In 2004, Spider-Man 2 grossed $783 million worldwide and received universal acclaim from critics. A decade later, Raimi’s follow-up is still considered one of the best superhero films ever made. 2007’s Spider-Man 3, however, completely ruined Marvel’s most popular (and profitable) superhero series beyond repair. For Sony, the only way to move forward with the Spider-Man franchise was to reboot it.
Enter Marc Webb‘s 2012 film, The Amazing Spider-Man – an origin story that focuses on the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and his high school sweetheart, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). With an excellent cast and dazzling special effects, Webb’s first film impressed, despite revisiting many of the same plot points from Raimi’s trilogy.
With The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Webb sets out to make a film that expands the Spider-Man universe, a world-building sequel that will create multiple spin-offs in the vein of Marvel’s The Avengers. We begin with further exploring the disappearance of Pete’s parents, Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz). In Raimi’s trilogy, Pete isn’t affected by the loss of his parents – but here, he is defined by it. When he isn’t saving the citizens of Manhattan, Pete is consumed with discovering the truth behind why his parents abandoned him.
The answers lie at OsCorp, where his father worked alongside Dr. Curt Connors and Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper). It’s all a big conspiracy, but here’s the problem – the mystery isn’t nearly as compelling as writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Star Trek Into Darkness) think.
Everyone knows that Peter Parker is driven by Uncle Ben’s death and the idea that, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Spider-Man doesn’t need to unravel some big mystery about his parents – he only needs to value life and use his gifts for good. This “Secret Origins” backstory, however, provides an opportunity to establish OsCorp as a monolith of evil, responsible for every tragedy in Pete’s life.
Likewise, OsCorp is responsible for the creation of Electro, the film’s lead villain. Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is an OsCorp electrical engineer who falls into tank of genetically-modified electric eels. He’s bitten – like Peter – and becomes Electro, who can generate massive quantities of electricity and shoot lighting from his fingertips like a Sith Lord.
It’s hard not to notice the similarities between Dillon and Edward Nigma (Jim Carrey) from Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever – both are brilliant-but-hopeless dweebs who are entirely obsessed with their personal heroes. Of course, the same could be said for Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) in Iron Man 3. It’s worth nothing that – in each of these films – there’s a super villain team-up: Riddler and Two-Face, Killian and Mandarain, and Electro and Green Goblin.
Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines) stars as Harry Osborn who, like Spider-Man and Electro, has OsCorp to blame for his troubles. After transforming into the Goblin, Osborn strikes a deal with Electro to bring down Spider-Man – throw in a cameo by Paul Giamatti as Rhino and you’ve got the beginnings of the Sinister Six – Marvel’s premiere social club for villains.
The multitude of villains in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lead to several impressive action sequences that truly capture the movement, speed, and kinetic energy of Spider-Man. The camera swoops along with Spidey as he swings through the skyscraper maze that is New York City, creating a vertiginous effect that is exhilarating in IMAX 3D.
Beyond the cartoonish fun and excitement of watching Spider-Man in action, however, is the incredible chemistry between Garfield and Stone (who are a real-life couple). While Webb’s film rushes the motivations of its villains (who will be fleshed out more in subsequent spin-offs) – it takes time in really making you invest in Pete and Gwen’s relationship, providing an emotional core to the story.
Most comic book movies use relationships as a way of segueing from one action sequence to another, but in Webb’s films there is real weight and reverence given to Parker’s interactions with those around him. Emma Stone provides a strong female lead who makes her own decisions and follows her own path, pursuing her own ambitions instead of playing just “Peter Parker’s girlfriend.”
Despite its issues with flimsy mysteries and an unfocused narrative, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 soars on the performances of Garfield and Stone, with plenty of spectacle, humor, and heartfelt moments to make Webb’s sophomore effort resonate with fans of Marvel’s web-slinging wallcrawler.
Follow Me on Twitter!