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Forgiveness

Matthew West

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Andrew Garfield is Electric in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"

Movies & DVDs

Release Date: May 2, 2014
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action/violene)
Genre: Action/Superhero
Run Time: 142 min.
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott, B.J. Novak, Chris Cooper


Considering that Tobey Maguire had donned the iconic Spidey suit for the third time a mere five years before The Amazing Spider-Man hit theaters in 2012, the rebooted origin story had a definite been-there-seen-that vibe. Nowhere close to the "amazing" promised in the title, the film wasn't a total flop, thanks to a talented cast including Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Emma Stone (The Help) and Rhys Ifans.

With the obligatory set-up out of the way, director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) must've decided to really swing for the fences because The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is light years ahead of its predecessor. It's not only a fantastic Spider-Man flick, but one of the best superhero offerings in recent memory, boasting spectacular special effects (every scene is more eye-popping than the last) with no sacrifice of quality storytelling.

It really helps that Garfield is such a terrific actor. Anyone who saw the young actor hold his own with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in a Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman couldn't help but marvel. No doubt, roles like Salesman and The Social Network have more prestige than playing a superhero, but it's still quite a feat when a 30-year-old plays a recent high school graduate so convincingly.

Garfield's Peter Parker is the perfect mix of gawky and self-assured, conflicted and committed to the cause of helping people. His performance truly anchors the movie. And thanks to easy chemistry with his real-life love Emma Stone, who plays onscreen girlfriend Gwen Stacy, we see that being Spider-Man comes at a high price for Peter personally. When you've chosen to protect your fellow man from danger but hope for a rewarding life outside of work, it's a lot to juggle, and that struggle is a recurring theme.

While Spider-Man's most challenging conflict has always been with himself as he balances life as a civilian and superhero, there's a new set of stakes that help set The Amazing Spider-Man 2 apart. For one, he learns what really happened with the parents who abandoned him all those years before. He also reconnects with his old friend Harry (Dane DeHaan (Chronicle), a dead ringer for a young Leonardo DiCaprio). Like Peter, Harry knows what it's like to lose his father, and hopes that his friend can help save him from a disturbing fate.

Adding another layer of drama to the proceedings is Spider-Man's seemingly random encounter with a slightly cuckoo guy named Max. Played by Jamie Foxx (White House Down), Max knows a lot about science, particularly the intricacies of electricity, but is rarely ever noticed as a person. So when Spider-Man saves him from an early death and recovers his valuable blueprints in the process, Max feels like he's finally being noticed by someone important. On his birthday, no less.

Anyone who's seen a superhero movie won't be surprised by what happens next, but the way Max's transformation into Electro is orchestrated is fun to watch nonetheless. Perhaps one of the more visually exciting bad guys committed to film in a while, Max has a tragic backstory which prevents him from feeling one-note. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for a prisoner named Aleksei Sytsevich. While the accent that Paul Giamatti (Saving Mr. Banks) employs is amusing in its sheer ridiculousness, his character is underdeveloped and feels a little tacked on.

All things considered, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is probably a little longer than it needs to be, but it managed to hold my attention for more than two hours, which is really saying something. Sure to be this summer's first bona fide box office behemoth, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is popcorn entertainment with solid acting, gorgeous cinematography and real stakes, a far cry from business as usual in Hollywood and a fantastic lead-in for future Spider-Man installments.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking, sometimes to excess in the case of Harry Osborn.
  • Language/Profanity: A single use of he--, dam- and pissed. A couple of exclamations of God's name.
  • Sex/Nudity: None. There’s some kissing, and we see Peter Parker shirtless in a couple of scenes.
  • Violence: Without heading into serious spoiler territory, let’s just say the body count is pretty high. People die in a variety of not-so-fun ways, namely by gunfire, strangulation, stabbing, electrocution, falling from a high structure, you name it. Most of the violence is highly stylized, but it was enough to scare several younger viewers during my press screening. We also see people nearly die in a plane crash, while a few others actually crash to their death. There’s a transformation of a character that’s pretty frightening, and his power to shut down the power grid in New York City leaves plenty of civilians panicked, too. A school bus full of civilians is rescued from a fiery end by Spider-Man.

Publication date: May 2, 2014

Page Source (url): http://www.crosswalk.com/culture/movies/the-amazing-spider-man-2-movie-review.html

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