The Amazing Spider-Man 2

In the pre-production phase of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 they made all these casting announcements: Paul Giamatti as the Rhino, Jamie Foxx as Electro and Dane DeHaan as the Green Goblin, and I started to worry. Those are three great actors to be sure, but having three villains from Spidey’s rogues’ gallery in one movie is suspiciously reminiscent of the villain creep that helped kill the first run of Batman movies. I suspect the reason for this is because Spider-Man is such a popular character that every movie has to be huge in scope with the fate of the city or even the world at stake. The problem with this is that Spider-Man was designed to fight street-level crime, not to save the world on a regular basis. He leaves that to the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and the Avengers. However, his position as one of the most popular and profitable superheroes of all time, demands that his movies be big in every way.
So we get three villains.
At the beginning of the movie Peter Parker, played by Andrew Garfield, is dealing with life as Spider-Man the best he can. He’s stopping crime and saving people and that’s fun. But keeping his secret and balancing his regular life with his nightly activities is getting to be stressful. Plus he’s not doing a very good job of keeping his promise to Captain Stacy and staying away from Gwen, played by Emma Stone, and this bothers him. And Gwen is getting tired of his indecision.
The stakes rise as three powerful supervillains, Electro, the Rhino, and the Green Goblin appear. Peter investigates and discovers that they are all linked to Oscorp and that this is connected to the mysterious deaths of his parents. It seems he was not the only accidental subject of his father’s research.
Somehow Marc Webb, the director, has made a pretty good film despite the overabundance of villainy. It starts with a smart script by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Jeff Pinker. The story works because the supervillains are bundled up into one conspiracy, which is also connected to Spider-Man’s origins and power. It also works because this conspiracy is really a subplot. The main story is Peter and Gwen’s relationship which is played out over the backdrop of his battles with mega powered crime. And that relationship works because the chemistry between the two leads is so good.
Webb excels at this kind of story and he brings out these two terrific performances. The action part of it is OK, although he does this thing where he pauses the action in mid-flight, giving us a tableau to admire, usually of Spidey in mid leap, which is very annoying. But otherwise the fights are pretty good.
The performances are uniformly excellent. Garfield brings a sort or soulful smart aleck vibe to the role that is very appealing. He doesn’t just save people; he interacts with them. When he chases some bullies away from a little kid, he takes the time to talk to him, repairs the wind turbine he built for a science fair project, and makes sure he gets home. Spider-Man is one of the sunnier superheroes and Garfield captures that.
Emma Stone is funny and charming as Gwen. I thought that Jamie Foxx’s performance as Max Dillon was a little broad and the director should have reined him. Dane Dehaan’s haughty and desperate Harry Osborn was pretty good.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 falls short of greatness but it is better than the first one and is actually a very entertaining movie.

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