I will be the first to admit that it’s hard to get excited for these reboot Spider-Man movies. No, I’m not some Tobey Maguire nut-hugger or Sam Raimi fanatic who feels betrayed that Sony overhauled the series too fast. My beef with the Amazing Spider-Man movies is that I feel that there is nothing they can show me that I haven’t seen i.e. Peter Parker gets bitten, Uncle Ben dies, Aunt May stresses, Oscorp being shady… With Great Power Comes Blah Blah Blah! I was over that. However, there was one thing that as a fan of film that I really loved about the first Amazing Spider-Man and that was Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy and the chemistry that was exploding between her and Andrew Garfield. Unlike Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunts sleepwalking through the Mary-Jane/Peter Parker love story, this actually felt real. That reason mixed with knowing the history of these characters in the comics made me curious about The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Non-spoiler plot rundown: Peter Parker is established as Spider-Man and NYC has gotten so used to him that the debate is “hero” or “menace” a staple of the comic book series. We find Peter at a crossroads as the death Captain Stacy literally haunts him and the abandonment of his parents begins to surface. Emo Peter is on the fence, and it’s not long before Gwen has to put her foot down and say, “enough of this p**y footing, I break up with you!” In short, Peter Parker has a lot of stress. The big villain, of course, is Jamie Foxx’s Electro, one of the legendary b-list Marvel characters finally getting the big screen treatment. Foxx’s Electro is a geeky electrical engineer, outcast and abused at work, with nothing to live for until Spider-Man saves his life, creating an obsessive connection that turns psychotic and deadly after Electro’s accident (which is eerily similar to The Joker’s transformation in 1989’s Batman). If an electrically charged Stan wasn’t enough, Peter finds out that his best friend Harry Osborne has returned to take over Oscorp after the death of his father Norman Osborne.
Norman Osborne is dead? Norman Osborne never becomes the Green Goblin? Whaaaaaaa! Before you get your panties in a bunch, this is one of the things I actually enjoyed. How many F**king times do we need to see Norman Vs Peter? The Raimi trilogy gave us enough Green Goblin, and let’s be honest; the Green Goblin doesn’t translate well to the big screen, which is why Dr. Octopus in Spider-Man 2 remains the only good Spidey villain translation.
Harry has the same disease his father did, and believes his only cure is Spider-Man’s blood. Of course, Peter can’t allow his best friend to OD on his Radioactive blood, so like Electro, Harry becomes a man scorned by the web slinger. What follows on the villain front isn’t that important. We all know that Electro and Spider-Man are going to engage in an all-out war in the city, and that Harry does indeed transform into the Green Goblin, but again, it’s nothing new. We don't really care about Electro the weird, socially awkward nerd or Harry the weird pouting rich brat. The heart of this movie is Gwen & Peter.
Spider-man is a silly character. His jokes are juvenile and his way of fighting is wild and loose. He’s a walking cartoon, as opposed to Captain America, who’s much more stoic and disciplined. That’s not a knock against the writers of the film; it’s the nature of the character. I’ve never been a fan of most Spidey incarnations because it’s not my kind of super-hero. My bias aside, the movie falls apart when the costumed CGI Spider-Man is on screen, and shines when it’s just Peter interacting with May, Harry, or Gwen. The tone of this movie is inconsistent, and sitting in the movie theater, I felt a sense of boredom during every fight scene with the exception of the last tragic battle.
The only solution would have been to only give Spider-man ten minutes of screen time and put Peter Parker in plain clothes during these dangerous situations. Then we would have Iron Man 3, a movie bashed for the lack of Iron Man suit. In the end Electro is over the top, Harry Osborne’s Green Goblin is over the top, and the entire subplot about Peter’s Parent’s feels like an afterthought. While it’s never goofy like Spider-Man 3’s Venom, the Paul Giamatti’s Rhino does come close to full out camp.
With all of that said, I still liked it. This wasn’t The Amazing Spider-Man; it was the Spectacular Gwen Stacy. Emma Stone was the glue that held this movie together and saved it from being remembered as “The one where Jamie Foxx had a bad wig and Trayvon Martin Hoody.” We got to see all the things that made the character great in the comics and then some. She’s not Mary Jane’s damsel in distress, she’s the genius that makes Peter Parker smarter, the fearless woman that saves the day, and the love interest that breaks all of our hearts.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a tale of two movies: One a goofy cartoon with generic villains and gimmicky fight scenes. The second a poignant love story between two people who shouldn’t be together but need to be together despite the obvious dangers. In the end, we are left with the tease of the Sinister Six and a hopefulness that Spider-Man will go into this next chapter more focused than ever but unlike Bruce Wayne or Logan, his tragedies haven’t darkened his soul. There will undoubtedly be three or four more of these Amazing Spider-Man films, but as the credits rolled and I heard several grown men sitting around me sobbing or holding back tears, I got an eerie feeling that this one will stand the test of time as the best of the bunch because of one powerful character…