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Movie review: 'The Amazing Spider-man 2' delves into the life of Peter Parker

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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The Amazing Spider-man 2” is the first “Spider-man” movie, not just of this new franchise but of the previous Sam Raimi series too, that has some real, actual emotion.

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-man
Columbia TriStar

Don’t get me wrong—watching Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben die as part of Spidey’s origin story is pretty heavy stuff. But Raimi failed to deal with Peter’s trouble balancing his personal life and superhero life in a compelling way. However, in “The Amazing Spider-man 2”, director Marc Webb continues to bring more depth to Peter Parker that hasn’t really been seen before, and the result is often thrilling.

You also might cry.

The film opens on Peter’s (Andrew Garfield) high school graduation. Things appear to be going well for him: he’s taking down bad guys left and right, restoring hope in the people of New York City, and is in love with his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). But Peter is constantly plagued by images of Gwen’s late father, who, with his dying breath, made Peter promise to stay away from Gwen in order to protect her—a promise that he is breaking, and feels horrible about.

Meanwhile, Norman Osborn, head of Oscorp and the mutated villain in the previous film, passes away, leaving the company in the hands of his son, Harry (Dane DeHaan), who, as it happens, used to be Peter’s best friend before his father sent him away. Harry is sick with the same disease his father had, and seeks Peter’s help in tracking down Spider-man so he can use his blood as a cure. But that’s not the only problem Oscorp is producing for Peter. Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), an Oscorp employee no one cares about and who only wants to be paid attention to, suffers a work-related accident that transforms him into Electro, granting him the power to control electricity and essentially shut the entire city down.

It sounds like there’s a lot going on in this movie, and there is. On top of everything else, more is revealed about Peter’s father as he investigates his parents’ mysterious disappearance and his father’s work at Oscorp. However, the story never falls into the same trap that Raimi’s “Spider-man 3” did by balancing everything out more. Electro is the main villain in this film, but as he wreaks havoc, Harry slowly emerges as a new bad guy, with one more villain introduced as a teaser at the end. The fact that all these happenings are related to Oscorp helps tie everything together, although I hope that in future films this is not the case—you’d think people would start noticing that every supervillain ever to plague New York came out of the same institution. It also helps that the "Spider-man" films are not produced by Marvel, so they have their own contained story and don't have to suffer getting sucked up into Avengers Land.

There is a decent amount of action in this movie, but it rarely takes precedence over Peter’s personal life, which is examined rather closely as he struggles with Gwen, Harry, and his parents. It helps that Garfield is so perfectly cast as the aloof, funny, and good-hearted Peter Parker, who genuinely wants to help anyone who needs it and makes them realize that they matter—even if that sentiment backfires in the case of Max Dillon. There are some wonderful scenes that come out of all this, particularly one involving Peter and his Aunt May (Sally Field), who is upset that Peter is so determined to learn more about his parents, who left him when he was young, when she has cared for him almost his whole life. Garfield also has great chemistry with real-life girlfriend Emma Stone, who is so much more appealing a character than Mary Jane Watson; Gwen Stacy is smart, funny, and brave, just the kind of female protagonist this series needed. All of these moments lead up to a heart-pounding, heart-breaking climax.

However, Electro is not that interesting a villain, and all his scenes, particularly the final fight, are so congested with CGI effects that they’re not as fun to watch as the simpler scenes—even the opening chase was more thrilling. He is also really just there for filler, to help lead up to who the next big villain is going to be. There are also some conveniences involving Peter and his father’s work with Oscorp that aren’t fleshed out a lot. But despite some flaws, “The Amazing Spider-man 2” really lives up to that word, “amazing”, and even improves itself over its predecessor. It could be the best “Spider-man” movie yet, not because it is funny and action-packed—even though it is both of those things—but because it delves into the life and feelings of Peter Parker in a way that isn’t corny or contrived, but realistic and true.

Runtime: 142 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.

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