The entire world groaned back in 2010 when Sony announced an immediate reboot of the “Spider-Man” saga. 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man”, featuring a new cast with a new take on the origin story, was released only five years after “Spider-Man 3”. For me this new take was bland and surprisingly boring, saved only by the soaring visuals. For “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, the studio has electrified the look even more and this time provides a well developed and executed story, delivering a sequel that’s superior to the original.
The opening 10 minutes of the film are a recap of the backstory we’re all very familiar with. But returning director Marc Webb (the guy was literally guaranteed this job on his birth certificate) does give a fresh perspective on what exactly happened to Peter Parker’s parents, using one of Hollywood’s current popular trends: the outrageous plane crash.
The story immediately jumps to present day. Spidey (Andrew Garfield once again) is swinging through the streets of New York trying to take down a whacked-out criminal with explosives in a stolen truck played by Paul Giamatti. Problem is – he’s supposed to be at his High School graduation. And girlfriend Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone in a career-best performance) is about to give her Valedictorian speech. (Yes, I still wish for the sake of realism, because Stone is 25 and Garfield is 30, that they could at least be graduating from college, but the writers really had no choice but to stick to the comics.) Once he shows up, Peter and Gwen’s relationship becomes the central focus of the film, as they both question whether or not they should stay together as they begin this new chapter in their lives.
Meantime, two new characters quickly come into play – an OSCORP employee obsessed with Spider-Man who becomes the attention-seeking, highly-charged nightmare Electro (played by Jamie Foxx) and Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who’s father, the head of OSCORP, just died. Both will become problems for Peter, as he tries to finally figure-out the mystery of his father, save his relationship with Gwen, and of course, keep NYC safe and sound.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a tangled web of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and hope. However, credit goes to the screenwriting team for a script that never gets too complex while being very relatable. Following the opening sequence, there is some early awkwardness, thanks to some goofy Spidey dialogue. But soon the film settles into a nice flow, and we get to experience a Marvel Superhero on a true, emotional edge. The Parker/Spider-Man character cries in at least a half dozen scenes, which has to be more than the superheroes in all other Marvel movies combined.
And it’s this unexpectedly strong relationship storyline between Peter and Gwen that makes “TASM2” work so well. Each individual scene has its own unique magic. The natural chemistry between Garfield and Stone is so much better than in the first film. It’s as if they’re entirely different actors.
Those expecting “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” to be action-packed may be disappointed. But this is clearly as case of quality over quantity when it comes to the action scenes. There may only be a handful, but they are quite impressive. One, the destruction of Times Square by the juiced-up Electro, is incredibly authentic. But it’s Webb’s decision to have his stunning visual effects supplement the story instead of dominate it that will have fans either cheering or moaning. I cheered.
All three villains work (though Giamatti’s “Rhino” is little more than a glorified cameo). And if you’re not a diehard fan of the comics there are few surprises.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” gets a B. I can’t call it “Amazing”, but it’s certainly a major improvement from its predecessor and is the latest success in the new line of “non-traditional” action films.