More than all his education, more than any villain he has ever fought, what Peter Parker can never forget with or without the mask on are six words spoken to him by his late Uncle Ben. Six words that have defined the life and career of Spider-Man as a hero. The reason why, regardless of what J. Jonah Jameson prints in the Daily Bugle about him he could never be a menace. Those words that constantly ring in the back of his brain are the reason why you and I could probably never be the hero that he is. I think I would personally go crazy having to deal with all that he has gone through but this kid from Queens stayed the course and keeps fighting the good fight regardless of all the pain it causes him. All because he can never forget that “With great power comes great responsibility.”
SEPARATION ANXIETY The movie opens with Peter (Andrew Garfield) doing whatever a spider can in a fantastic car chase involving what looked like the entire NYPD fleet. As usual, being Spider-Man interferes with his normal life and he just narrowly makes his high school graduation ceremony. During what should be the happiest moment of his life thus far, Peter mind is heavy with guilt. He is not keeping the promise he made as a last request to Captain John Stacy (Denis Leary) in the first movie. This leads to a fight with Gwen (Emma Stone) and her breaking up with him in the most high school fashion ever (“I break up with you!”) This leads to a surge in Spider-man sightings and a sharp reduction in street crime. To be completely honest with you, the plot of this movie is barely existent. We have three Spider-Man villains in this movie and despite Electro’s (Jamie Foxx) heavy presence, everything is really about what is going on between Peter and Gwen. Even the events that lead to the birth of Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) as the Green Goblin tie right back to them. That may sound like a criticism and it really is. The first movie had a much more solid plot direction and people complained about that story. It is hard to explain in words but somehow this story just works. It is a mishmash of feelings with splashes of action, capped off with a predictable big bang at the end; and it just works. I think a big part of that is how the villains were handled. Many were scared that having three or more in one film would produce another dance sequence, but great care was taken to prevent that. Each villain gets just enough time on screen to have a good fight with Spider-Man and just enough time is taken to introduce them individually. In comics, the hero is often bashed and called the creator of the super-villains they face; pay close attention to Electro and you might just spot a fourth “bad guy.” As a New Yorker, I found this extremely ironic. In all, this movie is like the sandwich you see Scooby-Doo and Shaggy throw together: on the outside it looks like a disgusting mess. If you don’t think about it too much and just let it digest, you will enjoy all the flavors.
CHEM CLASS I walked into this movie cold because I had heard that it was not very good. I left all my expectations at the door and said to myself that I will decide for myself. It turned out that I did not even realize the issues until just now as I am writing this review. The good thing is that even though the overall story can be compared to monkeys throwing crap at a whiteboard to see what sticks, you really won’t care. Jamie Foxx delivers probably the worst performance of his career (yes, worse than Booty Call), but you will still love Electro. Whether he is the pathetic Max Dillon talking to himself or the sadistic Electro playing off of Evil Luke Skywalker (tell me DeHaan does not look like a young, evil Mark Hamill), his performance just works in this movie. The fantastic chemistry that Garfield and Stone had in the first film is more than twice as strong in this one. They play off of each other so well that even a silly high school style breakup works. Foxx works the magic that took him from variety show mediocrity to super stardom and makes everyone look better. This is most apparent in his scenes with DeHaan, who was dangerously close to imitating James Franco’s Osborn. I almost wish they had more screen time together, but this movie was pushing two and a half hours so if there is more of them teaming up it can wait for the blu-ray. This is one of the few times that you will see me say that a weak story is worth watching and the reason is simply that within the context, the acting was very solid. True believers will laugh, cry and be angry. Even still, when the credits roll (you have to stay midway, not to the very end), I think that they will be satisfied.
NOT YOUR DADDY’S “WEB” CAM This is definitely one of those films that you will want to spend the extra money on for an IMAX 3D experience. From the use of the Spider-Man perspective the first movie made famous to the explosions and Electro effects, this film truly does 3D properly. There are none of those “whoa” moments where an object is needlessly thrown out at the screen, instead a lot more thought was put into the use of the 3D. Particle effects during explosions made the slow motion moments look amazing as everything had its own depth with respect to Spider-Man and other characters. Electro stole the show in this respect. They went a long way to make his effects stand out. Every time he shot a plasma bolt the energy would linger for a bit and the camera sort of moved around it which was a very cool effect. What I most appreciated was that CGI characters looked real in heavy action sequences and had realistic movement versus previous films where they looked like cheap video game characters. I don’t know if this is because of special effects in general having evolved or if it is the result of a $200M budget, but I am glad that the”magic” is becoming more and more believable.
(light spoilers ahead)
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. In some ways I am not sure how I did considering the mess that is the story and the fact that compared to the first there is a lot less Spider-Man on screen. Maybe the focus on Peter and what he has to deal with out of the mask is a good thing as long as it is not delivering pizza or performing at nightclubs. This movie will be hard to top in certain aspects but I look forward to see how the writers and actors will try to make it work in 2016. I like that this series does not kill off the bad guys because even in a cameo capacity it would be nice to see the Lizard or Electro return. Now that we know that a multi-villain film can work, I am extremely excited to see The Sinister Six versus the webhead. I think that showing Spider-Man quickly dispatch one or two or his lower level baddies can strengthen a film because it gives us a chance to see more of what makes his character great. Having him throw off someone like the Shocker with puns that annoy him and cause him to make mistakes while setting the stage for a larger main villain is the type of thing fans want to see. The use of Rhino is a perfect example. Yes, he may physically be one of Spider-Man’s toughest opponents, but he is so stupid and easily tricked that he only deserves a few minutes screen time. While the ending of this movie had to happen, I am sorry to see that is the direction the writers took because a huge part of what made these two films great is just gone now. There are several routes that can be explored in the third film but if it is the obvious one, I can only hope for a cameo scene at the end instead of focusing the whole film on it. I am being vague on purpose here because I know some of you still have not seen the film. And here is the comparison that you have all been waiting for. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a great follow-up to the first; in terms of action, the first was still better and neither of these films can topple Spider-Man 2. I do look forward to someone outdoing Alfred Molina however, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for the third installment.