Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” only got made as a means for Sony to maintain the film rights to everyone’s favorite non-Avenger Marvel superhero. For a film that didn’t have to exist, though, Webb and company still delivered an inspired take on Spidey that improved upon Sam Raimi’s 2002 blockbuster. Now that the familiar origin story is out of the way, Webb is allowed to tell a fresher tale that’s even darker and more riveting than his predecessor. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” still doesn’t quite top Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2,” which got just about everything right. However, it does definitely have some of the best moments of any Spider-Man film to date.
Andrew Garfield continues to shine as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, who manages to be wittier than Tobey Maguire’s while also being more emotionally complex. The real unsung hero of this franchise, though, is Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. Along with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, she completely transcends the stock love interest role. Rather, Gwen’s a fully fleshed out woman who proves to be just as brave and resourceful as the title character. The chemistry between Stone and Garfield is unmatched, creating a genuine relationship that’s cute, humorous, romantic, and meaningful all at once.
Where the film sparks whenever Garfield and Stone are on screen, the same ironically can’t be said about Jamie Foxx’s Max Dillon. He’s a pathetic nobody who becomes obsessed with Spider-Man after he saves his life, pinning newspaper clippings to his wall and even talking to a photo of Spidey. This approach could have made for a disturbing, tortured figure, but Max is mostly just played for laughs. As a result, we don’t feel as much sympathy for Max when he falls into a pool of electric eels and becomes the walking plasma globe known as Electro. Comic book science, you’ve got to love it. Even if the character isn’t the strongest, the filmmakers do at least give Electro a cool voice and an even cooler design, looking like a supercharged Doctor Manhattan.
Fortunately, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has a second baddie to makeup for Electro’s shortcomings. Dane DeHaan plays Peter’s childhood best pal, Harry Osborn, who is dying from a genetic disease. The only thing that can cure Harry is Spider-Man’s blood, although some of the side effects include paranoia, schizophrenia, and being turned into the Green Goblin. Again, you got to love the convenience and irony of comic book science. DeHaan is given a lot of notes to play, from caring friend, to neglected son, to ruthless businessman, to desperate beggar, to crazed maniac, and he hits all of them out of the park.
Webb packs the film with more than enough colorful action, including several thrilling areal sequences that actually benefit from the use of 3-D. More importantly, his screenwriting team also delivers an involving story concerning the death and conspiracy surrounding Peter’s late parents. While “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” attempts to juggle a number of characters and subplots, the filmmakers do a solid job at keeping everything balanced. In other words, it’s far from the mess that the story in “Spider-Man 3” was.
That being said, there are times when “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” can feel a little rushed. While it’s full of terrific moments, one can’t help but feel some of these scenes would have a greater impact with more buildup. Then again, movies are tough to pull off. Where an ongoing comic series or TV show has the time and freedom to let characters breathe, there’s only so much you can squeeze into a 142-minute film. Given the scope of the story and time restraint, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” does its best to produce an often heart-pounding blockbuster. Seriously, though, we need Sony, Disney, and Marvel to work out their differences so Spidey can finally join up with Iron Man and Captain America.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.