Throughout The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) it was hinted that there was more to the disappearance of Peter Parker’s parents than met the eye. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 begins with another look at the night that Richard (Campbell Scott) and Mary Parker (Embeth Davidtz) dropped young Peter off at Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May’s (Sally Field) home. Things don’t go very well for the Parkers and that’s all the prologue we get before a grown Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has to protect New York from one Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) on his graduation day — which means he misses the speech given by his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).
Peter is a lot less emo in this movie and he seems to really enjoy swinging over the rooftops of Manhattan, but this is a movie so nothing stays fun and frothy for too long. He cannot shake the promise Gwen’s father (Denis Leary) extracted from him in the previous movie, so the cute couple breaks up. Then his old pal Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to town with an odd request. And a man named Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) whose life he once saved meets with a freak accident at Oscorp and becomes Electro: a being who can channel electricity.
So Peter Parker has his hands full: he is still trying to solve the mystery of his parents’ disappearance, and doing everything in his power to keep his dual identity a secret from his Aunt May, while struggling with his feelings about Gwen.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 packs in a lot during its 142-minute run time but there are very few moments that feel like they drag on needlessly (unlike certain other superhero movie storylines). Peter experiences multiple emotional highs and low with his girlfriend as well as the best friend who moved away eight years earlier. He has to work very hard to defeat the foes before him, and he has to cope with real human emotions, about his parents, his girlfriend, and his dual identity.
It was evident from the trailers itself that director Mark Webb and his visual effects team were planning on giving us a never-seen-before perspective of Spider-Man’s web-slinging around the city. And I have to say the effect is exciting and dizzying in equal measure — like a good rollercoaster ride. The choreography during the battle sequences is exciting, and considering how many villains they throw at Spider-Man during one single movie, they manage to make each of the major action sequences look different from each other.
The only gripe I have about this movie is that there are portions where the close-ups are just a little too close. And Marton Csokas’s hammy performance is the one sour note in the large ensemble that inhabits this film.
The movie features a decent mix of spectacle and gravitas, and it is one of those movies where the 3D actually helps: not just just during the action sequences, but also during quiet moments. Like that shot when we are looking at Gwen from behind a store window and the writing on the glass is framing her face.
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are really good as the star-crossed couple, and Mr. Garfield does a good job balancing the quippy persona of his masked avatar with the more responsible nature he exhibits when he’s in street clothes. I’d say he is a better Spidey/Parker than Tobey Maguire.
Mr. Foxx does very well both as the character-less Max Dillon whom everyone ignores, and also as Electro the electricity-channeling being who gets angrier with every volt he absorbs until there is a genuine possibility that Spidey might not survive his next tangle with the blue man from everyone’s worst nightmares.
Even Dane DeHaan explores new ground in his portrayal of a tortured character that turns villainous (an arc not entirely dissimilar to that of the character he played in Chronicle not so long ago).
Final Verdict: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an excellent entrée into Hollywood’s 2014 summer movie season. I haven’t been this excited by a superhero movie since the first Iron Man.
My Advice: Watch it on the biggest screen you can find. And then go watch it again.