The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Directed By: Marc Webb

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Paul Giamatti, and Sally Field

The summer blockbuster season has arrived!  With it, we can now say goodbye to horrendous flicks like Devil's Due, A Haunted House 2, and Brick Mansions while saying hello to the likes of Godzilla, Maleficent, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  As I noted in my review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014 is a particularly busy year for comic book movies.  As such, we have the likes of X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy arriving later in the summer.  On this first weekend of May, however, we return to the franchise that turned this weekend into a time exclusive to superheroes.  This weekend, we return to the world of Spider-Man.  In Marc Webb's follow-up to The Amazing Spider-Man, the villains take center stage, but they lack a cohesive narrative.

Years ago, Richard Parker (Campbell Scott) recorded a video documenting the essence of his work and why he went on the run.  This happens to be the very night he and his wife Mary (Embeth Davidtz) leave Peter (Andrew Garfield) with Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen).  Soon thereafter, Richard and Mary are killed in a fiery plane crash, but not before he uploads the video discussing his biogenetics research known only as "Roosevelt".  In the present, Peter still struggles with the abandonment by his parents, but he has a larger struggle with love.  Peter made a promise to Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) to stay away from his daughter Gwen (Emma Stone), but love is making him break his word.  Troubled by the prospect of harm coming Gwen’s way, he begins seeing her father everywhere in everything that he does as Spider-Man.  This, however, doesn't stop him from taking down Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich / Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and missing his on-again, off-again girlfriend’s valedictory address at their high school graduation.  Little does he know that his parents' past is about to rear its ugly head in the midst of all of this.

On his deathbed, Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper) hands over the keys of Oscorp to his 20 year-old son Harry (Dane DeHaan) and also reveals the Osborn curse to Harry, a terminal illness that will slowly kill him.  After his death, Harry takes the reigns of the company and makes it clear that everyone now works for him.  He builds a strong relationship with his father's former assistant Felicia (Felicity Jones).  Like Norman before him, Harry becomes obsessed with finding a cure to his illness and becomes fixated on getting some of Spider-Man's blood.  He believes the web slinger is the product of Richard Parker's research and a living testament to the fact that it was successful.  For this blood, Harry turns to his old friend Peter Parker.

Meanwhile, an electrical engineer at Oscorp by the name of Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is not having a happy birthday.  Obsessed with the fact that Spider-Man saved his life the other day and proud that he developed the very power grid on which the city runs, this lonely loser gets saddled with doing maintenance when he should be enjoying a slice of birthday cake.  When he accidentally falls into a tank of genetically modified eels, Max mutates into a living conduit of electricity.  Though he just wants to figure out what's wrong with himself, Max unintentionally causes a blackout in Times Square and gets the attention of everyone, including Spider-Man and Harry Osborn.  After the situation goes horribly wrong, Max begins to call himself Electro.  His mission is to give New York a world without mercy, a world without power, a world without Spider-Man.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has all the web-slinging action any Spider-Man fan could ever crave.  It has a powerhouse cast that brings a slew of solid performances to the screen.  It has some extremely rich source material from which director Marc Webb is pulling.  What The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lacks, however, is a cohesive narrative that pulls all of this together.  There's also some miscasting in some of our villains, but I'll get to that later.  On the whole, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an ambitious film that sets the stage for the Sinister Six and a cinema littered with Spider-Man films and spinoffs over the next decade.  The flip side of that coin is that it takes a little while for the film to really get going because of the loose narrative.

I have to give Marc Webb credit for really knowing how to bring the world of Spider-Man to life on the big screen.  Using the best of 3D technology, he creates an immersive cinematic experience that puts viewers in Spidey’s world.  Web slinging never looked so majestic as it does in this film.  Beyond just our hero, however, Webb gives each of his villains a distinctive look and feel that fits a film setting but honors the legacy of the characters in the comics.  The Green Goblin for instance has a sleek but hauntingly sinister look.  A fully stylized Electro looks smooth and imposing, like a conduit out of the Infamous video games.  Lastly, Rhino is one realistic beast.  Altogether, Webb envisions a colorful yet modernized world of Spider-Man, and it shows throughout the movie.

Webb's returning cast members all do a wonderful job.  A little cockier but far more comfortable in the red and blue spandex now, Andrew Garfield makes one entertaining Spidey.  In the film's more potent emotional scenes, he even rises to the occasion and reminds us that he's an actor, not just a movie star.  Sharing the screen with Garfield, Emma Stone is equally as entertaining as his on-screen (and off-screen) girlfriend Gwen Stacy.  Once again, she has great chemistry with Garfield, which I'm sure is aided by the fact they're dating in real life.  What I respect about Stone's performance is that she gets far more involved in the action than your typical leading lady in a superhero movie.  As Aunt May, Sally Field gives the film a moral center.  As the clueless yet wise aunt, she brings plenty of amusing banter in her interactions with Garfield's Peter about laundry, chimney cleaning, and all sorts of other nonsense.  More importantly, however, Field steals a scene or two with some really potent acting that reminds us why we all love the veteran actress.

Where Webb's casting goes wrong, however, is in the villain department.  For his part as Harry Osborn, Dane DeHaan is nothing but superb.  Fighting for his life, DeHaan's Osborn turns into a sick, sadistic monster who will send chills down your spine.  He's one fierce Green Goblin.  Much like in Chronicle, DeHaan once again proves that he has the potential to make villainy his specialty on screen with a commanding performance as the young Oscorp CEO.  For his part as Electro/Max Dillon, Jamie Foxx is not quite right for the role.  It's clear from the very start with Dillon bumbling on the streets dropping blueprints that Foxx is not a fit.  He's better playing strong, confident characters, not pathetic losers.  After all, this is Django we're talking about.  This is Ray.  This miscasting is only worsened by the fact that this higher-billed cast member really plays second fiddle to DeHaan's Green Goblin.  Lastly, I am no fan of Paul Giamatti's take on Rhino.  He's just cartoonish and silly.  If he continues in this direction with the character in future installments, Giamatti is walking down the path of another great actor in Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever).

I have my misgivings about The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but it is one entertaining and ambitious comic book flick.  By no means does this film rise to the heights of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.  However, Webb’s film dares to do something that only one other comic book movie has dared to do before, The Dark Knight.  I won't spoil what that is, but I will say that it sets an interesting landscape for future Spider-Man films.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.  Don't miss the mid-credits sneak peek of X-Men: Days of Future Past either.