While it may lack some of the quality and charm of the first movie, The Amazing Spiderman 2, which played at Cole Cinema this past weekend, is a solid edition to what Sony intends to be the ongoing Spiderman franchise, that will hopefully serve as the build up to slightly better movies.
Amazing Spiderman 2 continues the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) as he graduates high school, and deals with the increasingly demanding pressures of being Spiderman, while at the same time attempting to solve the mystery of his parent’s departure from his life, reconnecting with childhood friend and poor little rich kid Harry Osborn (played by famed anemic, Victorian schoolboy Dane Dehaan) and having more back-and-forths than a ping pong match about his breakup with his ever-chill scientist girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).
While Peter is busy juggling his great powers and even greater responsibilities, Oscorp Industries once again proves that for a billion-dollar multinational corporation, it’s shockingly under-qualified to have a genetics lab. This is made abundantly clear when shy and lonely electrical engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) makes a shocking discovery (ie. He falls into a vat of genetically modified electrical eels and dies, because his coworkers would rather have a laugh at his expense than obey serious safety protocol. (What the heaping spoonful of hell, Oscorp?). When Dillon wakes up alone and afraid in the morgue, he has become the electrically charged super being Electro, capable of leeching power from nearby sources of electricity to charge his own devastating attacks.
As stated in the opener, Spiderman 2 really is a solid movie. Andrew Garfield delivers big as Spiderman in and out of costume, and the highlights of the movie come from seeing him in action sassing the bad guys and building up the disenfranchised. It’s a wonderful marriage of wit and warmth, with just a little twist of angsty teen frustration, that makes Garfield’s Spiderman truly worthy of the giant reboot it has received (sorry, Tobey Maguire). Another big winner for the movie is the pretty dazzling chemistry of Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker. In a genre where romance can be, ironically enough, such a mood killer, Stone and Garfield’s moments together not only don’t detract from the action, but instead add enormous character and light-heartedness to the movie. It’s cute, not too melodramatic or gross. Boo hoo hoo… (If you don’t know why I included that last part, you may want to take a break from this article.)
In spite of this, while advancing the ongoing story of Spiderman for what is obviously going to be future movies, I have to admit I thought that as far as stand-alone plot, it had very little meat on its bones. Like so many superhero movies in the post-Avengers world, I think Spiderman suffers from just-wait-for-it syndrome, a debilitating illness where a studio makes a butt-ton of average hero movies under the pretense that they’re important build-up to one incredible film that will give you everything you wanted when you came to the theater and spent $12.50. There’s surprisingly sparse action in Spiderman 2, as the bulk of the film chooses to center on Peter’s confusion over his parent’s secrets and his torch for his ex-girlfriend. Remember how I said Peter and Gwen are great together? Well, that’s really only when they’re physically together, which they aren’t for a huge chunk of the movie. This is all fine, except that the things Peter accomplishes in pursuing these things really don’t matter at all to the ongoing story.
The other huge loss in terms of plot comes in the lackluster part given to Electro. Much of Jamie Foxx’s performance is great, but initial screen time is used to establish the earnest desire of Max Dillon/Electro to be noticed and liked, and the obsession with Spiderman he develops after the Web-Swinger treats him with kindness. Dillon’s insecurity and loneliness makes for a very sad and interesting backstory, but after Dillon becomes Electro, this aspect of him takes a backseat to his newfound hatred of Spiderman in terms of his motivation, which is a shame. On top of that, despite Electro’s seemingly impressive powers, Spiderman defeats him super quickly. Twice. Electro had the potential to be both a sympathetic and sinister villain, but he just falls short.
Besides the discovery of his father’s work at Oscorp revealing why Peter survived the radioactive spider-bite that turned him into Spiderman (which, I’m sorry, who cares?), and the break in friendship between Peter and Harry, in two and a half hours Spiderman 2, which has devoted so much of the movie to advancing the overarching story at the cost of action and the primary plot, really only contributes with one major event to the life of Peter Parker. I won’t say what it is outright, but after endless hinting throughout the first and second movie, The Amazing Spiderman 2 depicts one of the most famous and tragic moments in comic book history. Even if you see it coming, it’s pretty nail-bitingly tense and upsetting. It’s a really great moment in an otherwise fun but mediocre fare, though it’ll be hard to fill a particular pair of shoes in the upcoming movies.
To conclude, Spiderman 2 is worth the watch if you’re invested in the Spiderman series. If you’re looking for some stand-alone superhero movie on a Saturday night, I might pick the first one instead. It does whatever Spiderman 2 can.