Like clockwork, you can count on superhero movies hitting the theaters in May. Newly released is The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a movie that offers some emotional moments and cool visual effects even as the plot tends to meander towards the climax.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 largely focuses on the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) after the death of her father in the first movie. Peter feels guilty about Captain Stacy's death and about his failure to comply with his request that he stay away from Gwen to keep her out of danger. Gwen, however, is determined to make the most of her life, brushing off fear of danger and pursuing the chance to go to Oxford to study. While Peter deals with his conflicted feelings about his relationship with Gwen, a new monster is unleashed on New York City as an engineer at Oscorp, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), is transformed into Electro. To make matters worse, Max's obsessive love of Spider-Man turns into a need for vengeance after a destructive first encounter between Spider-Man and Electro. Meanwhile, Peter also tries to figure out why his parents left him. And while that's happening, Peter's childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan—the love child of Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio) takes over Oscorp and faces his own mortality as he starts to show symptoms of the degenerative disease that killed his father. After going through his father's extensive research, he makes the connection between Oscorp and Spider-Man and concludes that he needs Spider-Man's blood to cure him of his disease. When this web of storylines meets, it can only spell trouble for Peter and his alter-ego.
I have a pretty strict rule that if a movie exceeds two hours, it had better have a good reason to. At 142 minutes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 did not feel exceedingly long. There were enough threads to the story that built together toward the climax that I felt continually engaged by the journey. On the flip side, as you may have noticed by the string of meanwhiles above, the plot is overly complicated. There are four different plots of basically equal importance operating at once. The strength of this complexity is how the film deals with the more human elements of Spider-Man and his teen angst while also delivering plenty of action. The downside, however, is that the plot sort of meanders through the middle of the story.
I was impressed, however, by the use of the special effects in the film. I saw the movie in 2D, but even without the extra effects, the fight sequences and acrobatics added extra tension to the already building suspense around the relationships in the film. In this respect, the effects were driven by the story, rather than the other way around. The first battle between Spider-Man and Electro takes place in Times Square, in the general vicinity of where you stand in line for Broadway tickets. Maybe I'm imagining things, but it seemed to me that the scene kind of riffed off of Broadway as the music was markedly more dramatic than in other scenes and Electro's conflicted internal monologue was sung, blending into the score. Purposely operatic or not, I was really entertained by the scene as a whole.
The acting in the movie was also strong. Real-life couple Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have adorable chemistry and their fun, nerdy sense of humor made the quippy nature of their conversations and their individual characters really pop. Dane DeHaan is at once relatable and creepy, which is not an easy feat. Jamie Foxx was the weakest link in the cast, possibly because his character, both as Max and as Electro was pretty cartoonish.
For a really entertaining and well-acted film that kind of tried to do too much at once, I rate The Amazing Spider-Man 2 3.5/5 stars.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was directed by Marc Webb and written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinker based on the comic books by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It runs 142 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.