Spoiler Alert – this movie is good! Go see it! I will cover the plot, and most of what happens, so if you don’t want to know before you see the movie – see it first, then read this (you should see it).
SpiderMan was created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. He has always been one of (if not the most) popular of Marvel’s characters, mostly because of his relatability. Peter Parker is a quiet nerd who has lost his parents and is raised by his elderly aunt and uncle. He gets sudden superpowers when bitten by a radioactive spider. First using those powers to make money, he fails to prevent the death of his beloved Uncle Ben, and realizes that “With great power, there must also come great responsibility!”, which is perhaps one of the best lines ever written, comics or not – thank you Stan Lee! This story was beautifully covered by Sam Raimi’s 2002 movie, but even better in the 2004 sequel:
This second Amazing SpiderMan is far superior to the one released 2 years ago – at least I think so. That one was a bit clunky, Rhys Ifans was horribly miscast as Dr. Conners, and it was rebooted way too quickly after the Sam Raimi stinker that was Spider Man 3. The reboot got several things right; number one and two of that being Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
This story picks up where the last one left off. Peter is trying to fulfill the promise he made to the dying Captain Stacy of keeping Gwen safe by keeping SpiderMan away from her. Unfortunately, Gwen is not making that easy, so Peter is haunted by the ghost of Captain Stacey who shows up and frowns at him every time he gets near Gwen. Due to his SpiderMan responsibilities, Peter shows up late to his high school graduation, and just misses Gwen’s valedictorian speech, which is a shame, because it was full of foreshadowing. Meanwhile, the dying Norman Osborne brings his estranged son Harry back from boarding school to leave him his company, and also to gloat that the disease that is killing him will soon begin to kill Harry – wow, what a terrible guy.
Spiderman saves humble, geeky, overlooked and ignored Oscorp electrical engineer, Max Dillon from being hit by a car, giving Max the fuel to start fixating on Spiderman. Norman dies, most of the Oscorp employees get the afternoon off, but Max’s snooty boss, Mr. Smythe (that should come back in the next one) tells him to go fix something in their electrical room. Max falls into a vat of electrical eels – becoming Electro (who first appeared in Marvel comics in 1964, and was an electrical engineer struck by lightning while fixing a power line – no eels). He seems to be dead, but then wakes up in the Morgue as pure electricity but weak, so heads out into the city, and quickly finds out he needs to ‘charge up’. He causes a commotion in Times Square, which puts his face on all the screens, which he loves, because finally everyone can see him. SpiderMan shows up, and does remember Max, and tries to help him, causing SpiderMan to go up on the screens instead of Max, and since he’s already crazy, that pushes Max over the edge. Oscorp locks him away.
Harry becomes obsessed with trying to beat his hereditary disease, and when his childhood friend Peter stops by to offer condolences about his father, they rekindle their friendship. Harry eventually puts together that Peter knows SpiderMan, because he takes his pictures, and demands that Peter get him some of SpiderMan’s blood, believing that it will save his life. Peter finds his father’s secret lab, and learns what he and Norman Osborne were up to, and that his father loved him very much, and did not abandon him as he had previously thought. Meanwhile, Aunt May starts working to become a nurse – presumably to give Sally Field more to do. Meanwhile (there’s a lot of Meanwhile action in this flick), Gwen gets offered a scholarship to Oxford, so she is preparing to go to England. She breaks up with Peter, because he’s wishy-washy about committing to her due to the guilt about her father. Harry learns that the spider serum he wants is in the Oscorp “Special Projects” vault, and just as he gets ousted by the Oscorp board, he breaks out Electro for assistance in getting to the vault. Electro gets to charge up, and Harry injects himself with crazy spider serum – this allows him to go Green Goblin-y and steal a glider and suit from the special projects vault.
Peter realizes he needs to commit – finds Gwen on her way to the airport, and tells her he loves her. He’s so excited to see her that he doesn’t realize she’s wearing the exact same outfit that she wore in a very important issue of the comics. He tells her he’s going with her to England, but then Electro attacks, and they have one of the most visually interesting fight sequences in the movie. Gwen demands to help, causing the ghost of Captain Stacy to show up and really frown hard at SpiderMan. He defeats Electro – just in time for the new Green Goblin to show up, and take one look at SpiderMan, and Gwen next to him, and realize that it’s Peter. They have a huge fight, which ends as it is supposed to, with Harry off to intense psychological repair at Ravencroft Institute, plotting with the mysterious Mr. Frears to create the sinister six, and Peter in a bit of a depressed state. Aunt May offhandedly mentions that the world needs SpiderMan, so he goes out and battles the Rhino. At no point does his new neighbor next door come over to let him know he just hit the jackpot – Tiger. But, surely in the next movie (Shaliene Woodley was cast, and shot some scenes, but Webb decided they didn’t quite fit).
Director Marc Webb seems to be settling into his role, and this movie is better than the first. It flows better, has even better action, and the effects blend well with the story. Webb seems to really understand the characters – and while some of the decisions in the first one upset me because they re-worked the origin story, we’re past that part in this one. I have to say, my absolute favorite moment in the movie is when SpiderMan saves a young boy and his science project from a group of bullies who have him cornered and break his project. SpiderMan not only scares away the bullies, but fixes the project, introduces himself to the boy, and walks him home. This is a very short scene, but it is exceptionally perfect for the character and it brought tears to my eyes. It also pays off later in the movie.
The actors are also all settling into the roles, and again – the casting is very good.
- Andrew Garfield continues to play the role with the joy you’d expect from someone who has been a die-hard SpiderMan fan all his life. He continues to do amazing charity work using the costume to bring joy to kids, and he really does a great job of being SpiderMan. His perfect chemistry with Emma Stone due to their real-life relationship is fantastic, and really pays off in the flick. They work well together, and Stone’s feisty version of Gwen is fabulous. You absolutely believe she would be able to help with the web-shooters, but is also tired of Peter’s nonsense.
- Jamie Foxx plays Max Dillon, and I have to say – sometimes I forget that he has an Oscar. He is a talented actor – and I think it’s on display in this movie. At the beginning, Max is so pathetic, you really feel sorry for him. When this powerless man finally gets some power, you understand the flip he makes. Then of course, he goes psychotic and takes it too far, but up to that point, I was empathizing with him!
- Dane Dehaan is creepy and excellent – if you didn’t see Chronicle – rent that now. You never really believe that he could ever be a good guy, he radiates malevolence. It was interesting to see he and Peter reconnect, which was well done, but you are not surprised when he goes bad. And no, the goblin make up doesn’t look as bad as you thought it would.
- Sally Field has less moments in this one than she did in the first one, and I wasn’t sure about the subplot of her nursing studies. It just provided the grounds for May and Peter to have an argument about laundry. I did enjoy when she – clearly well aware that he’s SpiderMan – mentions strongly that the world needs SpiderMan, and he needs to be out there. Subtle, Aunt May – real subtle.
- Colm Feore plays the evil head of Oscorp who bosses Harry around a bit. His character is named Donald Menken, but there are many who speculate he will become the Vulture.
- Felicity Jones plays Harry’s assistant, Felicia – which he says just enough times to make me repeatedly ask if her last name is Hardy and when that will pay off. It didn’t – but hopefully it will in the next movie. After all, SpiderMan will need help to take on the Sinister Six.
- Paul Giamatti is barely in this movie. For all the pre-hype of him playing the Rhino, he’s got two scenes – clearly setting up for the Sinister Six plans.
- Campbell Scott plays Richard Parker and he and Embeth Davidtz as Mary Parker get one preliminary action sequence on an airplane that sets up the movie.
- Kiwi actor Maron Csokas pops up as Dr. Ashley Kafka (running Ravencroft), and seems to look a lot younger than the last time I saw him. He’s crazy in this, and that’s fine – but I would have cast him as Kraven, so I think it’s a missed opportunity. I always think of him as Borias from Xena, no matter how many other things he shows up in.
- Also – that brief Aidy Bryant cameo was not enough Aidy Bryant.
It’s really good, it’s really fun, and it really moves. The Electro effects are really cool, and Garfield and Stone are great. There were some complaints that it had too many endings – but I would disagree with that. It’s long, but I didn’t feel the length. I will say, that comparing it to other things I’ve loved this year – when Captain America 2 ended, I immediately wanted to see the next one…When this ended – I thought, “Hey, that was great!”, but did not immediately crave the next one. I do wish Sony would let the rights go back to Marvel so that we could see Peter interact with the Avengers.
9 out of 10 – again, it’s probably higher than it should be because my expectations were really low, but I did love it. Gained points for the tease of the Sinister Six – it’s not really a tease, it’s more of a declaration. Lost points for Dehaan being so creepy. Gained points for Chris Cooper playing Norman Osborne – lost points for his claws…yikes. Gained points for that scene with the kid – which is one scene that sums up everything Spiderman should be! Also - bonus points for putting Gwen in the right outfit for her climatic scene.
Bonus Video 1: Electro from the 90s SpiderMan animated series – still the best one.
Bonus Video 2: Chronicle trailer.
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews