For the record, I’ve always been a big fan of superheroes. I read a lot of Marvel comic books when I was a kid, and the newspaper funny pages every day. Since my local paper ran Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s continuing adventures of Spider-Man, I felt a particular affinity for Peter Parker, a regular kid who becomes a superhero after he is bitten by a radioactive spider.
Parker’s exploits hit the big screen in 2002, when Tobey Maquire starred in the hugely successful “Spider-Man”, followed by “Spider-Man 2” and “Spider-Man 3” in 2004 and 2007, respectively. When “Spider-Man 4” stalled in 2011, plans for a re-boot, “The Amazing Spider-Man” got under way, and British actor, Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) was cast as the new webbed wonder.
Fanboys and girls will continue to debate who makes the better “Spidey”, but my clear choice is Garfield, who brings a genuine vulnerability and awkward angst to the young man who must struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of Spider-Man. In my opinion, 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” is the best superhero re-boot to date, and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a solid sequel.
In “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″, Parker finds that his greatest battle is about to begin. It’s great to be Spider-Man, and there’s no feeling quite like swinging between NYC skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with his girlfriend Gwen (the delightful Emma Stone – “The Help”). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro, formerly nerdy scientist Max Dillon, (Academy Award® winner, Jamie Foxx – “Django Unchained”), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, HBO’s “Treatment”), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: Oscorp Industries, home to the radioactive arachnids that started the whole saga.
One of the issues I had with the earlier “Spider-Man” films was the obvious delineation between the live actor playing Parker/Spider-Man becoming an obviously GCI character for the flying scenes. I felt like I was suddenly watching a cartoon, and it took me out of the moment. This time the animation wizards at Sony Pictures Imageworks make the transition fluid (perhaps by adding sly commentary from Garfield under the Spidey suit), and the smooth CGI is flawless.
If I have one negative observation about “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, it’s an over-abundance of villains. In addition to Electro, and the Green Goblin (I’ll save the spoiler on that one), the movie briefly introduces Aleksei Sytsevich /Rhino, a demented Russian terrorist, gleefully played by Academy Award® nominee, Paul Giamatti, (“Saving Mr. Banks”), who I’m guessing will have a bigger role in the next film. It’s just a bit much.
Director Mark Webb, and scribes, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Jeff Pinkner, and James Vanderbilt do a fine job of creating a fully satisfying action movie, while also setting the screen for the next iteration, 2016’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 3”. It can’t come soon enough for me.
The Bottom Line: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a web slinging blast for audiences of all ages, and I highly recommend viewing it at an IMAX theater. The 3D action on the huge screen is definitely worth a few extra bucks. Though it’s not essential that you see “The Amazing Spider-Man” before viewing the sequel, the prequel is well worth a rental.
PG-13, for sequences of Sci-fi action/violence. 2 hr. 22 min.