This review is a funny one, I’ll warn you now. It’ll sound incredibly ambivalent, but it’s actually not. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is just fine, but I wasn’t wild about it. And though I found it vaguely grating, I enjoyed it quite well indeed.
Here we meet Peter Parker as he and sweetheart Gwen Stacy graduate high school and face the inevitable struggle that occurs when embarking upon life’s path steers one away from one’s beloved. It’s compounded, ironically enough, when one has made a promise to stay away from one’s beloved, as Peter promised Gwen’s father.
As the two wrangle these issues (and wrangle… and wrangle…), Peter renews a childhood friendship with one Harry Osborn, now the big kahuna at OsCorp, the powerful organization for whom Peter’s father was working when he was killed. Come to find out also that Harry has some artificially-induced issues of his own, and looks to Peter to help him undo some of OsCorp’s customarily nefarious goings-on. Peter would very much like to undo that, as well as another that OsCorp has undertaken with one of its unfortunate engineers, but things are just so, well, complicated…
Spider-Man in any iteration has just never been my cuppa tea. Nothing against him per se, and I understand why people adore him, but the mythos in general and the realities afforded by his superpower don’t entice me. It’s not even a particular distaste for spiders that’s in the way (okay, may it is a little bit – the colleague who enjoyed watching me during Smaug can attest to that).
No, having seen enough iterations now to be minimally informed on the subject as a matter of cinematic pride, we can conclude I just don’t vibe with the Spidey world. I prefer my strength from Thor and my flight from Falcon (or even Captain America for that matter). Just as the campy Batman world bored and annoyed until Christopher Nolan came along, I require something grittier at minimum and something planetary at best. Put them together, and I’m all in (hello Loki).
Alternatingly droll and soapy, this entry into the Spider-Man annals brings us what in lesser performance hands would be nothing more than one-dimensional pabulum. Penned by no fewer than seven writers across two teams, the tone reels between depth of what emotion and near goofiness. The heft of this cast camouflages this nicely, however, and keeps things on a generally believable, if arguably "Afterschool Special", keel. Andrew Garfield and Sally Field keep a tight rein on their perilously soupy exchanges, and Jamie Foxx in particular puts some real hurt into lines made of cardboard. Emma Stone and Dane DeHaan accompany Garfield’s tone, and in so doing never let the conflicts they present become caricature. Without this cast, I rather shudder as to what this story could have become.
So I why did I enjoy it? Because as a piece of filmmaking, it’s quite excellent indeed.
The aforementioned cast of steel hold things together in a well-balanced web (pardon the pun), and all elements play out against a backdrop of dazzling special effects. Do be sure to see "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" on the biggest screen you can manage; I had the pleasure of seeing it in the Edwards’ RPX theater and almost entirely forgot how contrived things became on occasion. For sheer scope and speed "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" offers a thrilling sensory feast, and the extra jingle for 3D will be well rewarded.
Composer Hans Zimmer helms the score which is always a boon for any film, continuing his recent expansion into nurturing protégés a la novelist James Patterson. It’s a brilliant move, as it grooms a modern new cadre of younger musicians who speak equally beautifully to the ear of their younger audience. It’s very exciting to see what these folks will do as their futures unfold, and how they’ll bring us the enduring Zimmerian power with their own special flavors.
I can’t say that director Mark Webb’s Spidey conceptualization grabs me as did Zack Snyder’s with "Man of Steel", but I know what I anticipate from the Spider-Man world, and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" hit every mark. I’m still surprised not to see more distinction between the Garfield and Maguire contingents and do wonder why the reboot so soon and so similarly, but that’s for comic minds far more informed than mine.
I’m just tagging along here, and happily enough at that. Franchise fans and the kiddo-through-tween set will love it, and the rest of us will a great time at the movies with them.
Story: Continuing franchise reboot in which Peter Parker uncovers the truth behind his parents’ departure, and wrestles both various villains and his conflict between being with Gwen honoring a promise to her late father.
Genre: Action/adventure, fantasy
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Felicity Jones, Marton Csokas,Paul Giamatti, Chris Cooper (uncredited - ??)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Running time: 142 minutes
Houston release date: May 2, 2014
Tickets: Check Fandango, IMDb, or your local listings
Screened April 28th 2014 at the Edwards Grand Palace theater in Houston TX