Not since 2012's smash success AVENGERS has a comic book movie truly captured the essence of a comic book, well now THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 sits side by side with it as arguably the best pure comic book movie made. This film will polarize audiences this year, but that's only because the general public expect a movie to only follow one genre/theme, but when you read a Spider-Man comic the stories are layered and complex.
I can't express enough just how outstanding Andrew Garfield is as Spider-Man! He now joins the likes of Christopher Reeve and Robert Downey Jr. for perfectly portraying an iconic super hero. Hearing Garfield playfully quip throughout the runtime as the famed web slinger is a geeks dream come true. What Macguire always lacked in the first trilogy was a distinct difference between Peter Parker and Spider-Man, but Garfield makes sure that Peter wears his heart on his sleeve, and reserves the bravado for the web head.
The love story director Marc Webb introduced last time with the fantastic Emma Stone as brainy and beautiful Gwen Stacy is back, but unlike any relationship displayed in comic book movies thus far this one is meaningful (likely due to the real off-screen chemistry of Garfield and Stone). Some people may go into this movie expecting the villains to be the main attraction, but it's clear that this film is the story of Peter and Gwen set in the chaotic world of Spider-Man.
What about the villains? Well the central antagonist is Max Dillon/Electro, played serviceably by Jamie Foxx. I say "serviceably" because Electro is just like Loki in AVENGERS, simply there to be an entertaining foe for our hero to overcome and clearly not a Ledger like Joker. Electro looks awesome and the encounters between Spidey and "sparkles" are straight from a comic book splash page. Even though there's not much depth given to Electro just like Tom Hiddleston's take on Loki in AVENGERS, I'm able to feel empathy towards Max and I credit the talent of Foxx for that.
The last main character is Harry Osborn, played with excellent charm and intensity by Dane Dehan. Dehan is able to bring his always wonderful talent for villainy seen previously in his breakout role from CHRONICLE. Veteran actor Chris Cooper is introduced as ailing Norman Osborn, and in one scene between Cooper and Dehan the infamous Osborn father/son dynamic is demonstrated terrifically.
Peters quest for answers about his mysterious parents is finally resolved, making the first film stronger when revisited. The overall theme of this film is the concept of time. Peter didn't get more time with his parents, Uncle Ben and now theirs never enough time to be Spider-Man and still find enough time to be Peter Parker.
Now I need to address The Rhino (played briefly by Paul Giamatti) we only actually see him for a few minutes. The man who will become Rhino has a few more moments of screen time but he isn't meant to be another main character, merely a nod to a simple foe appearing in a Spider-Man story. A nice change of pace in the genre because not every "bad guy" requires a backstory in a superheroes world.
This movie isn't THE DARK KNIGHT where the villain outshines the hero, thankfully here the hero outshines the villains because in a superhero movie the "hero" should be the best part. THE DARK KNIGHT is a great dramatic film but terrible Batman film, simply because Batman is not the most interesting person on screen and always should be. In the AVENGERS, Marvel knew to make "earths mightiest heroes" the main focus never making Loki more interesting than the heroes. In this movie we see Spider-Man taking time to save real people. One scene sees Spidey protect a young boy from being attacked by bullies, and that is what being Spider-Man is all about.
Famed composer Hanz Zimmer has brought a very good score offering a distinct new theme for our hero, but if I had one gripe it's that the overall score could connect the scenes much better.
Webb balances the several different tones of this film very carefully, and his direction is perfect in the moments that matter most. The world building for future films may at times make this sequel cramped, but overall it's handled great and will allow the much needed depth required for a fully realized Spider-Man movie universe.
Not everyone will enjoy this film and that's fine because all I care about is seeing Spidey done justice, with this installment the longtime comic book readers finally have what just may be the definitive version of Spider-Man. No matter what happens in Peter's life he must continue to endure and protect the innocent. This movie is a stellar part 2 of a 3 part story about the life of Peter Parker. Funny, daring, emotional and thrilling this is the best Spider-Man movie made so far.
5 out 5 Stars
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