There are some pretty high expectations for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
After a successful reboot to the web-slinger’s cinematic story in 2012, fans can’t help but hope for another sequel like “The Dark Knight” in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
Good news, fans.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has it pretty good. He’s got a handle on his spidey-powers, the affections of the girl he loves, Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) and is starting college, with the help of Aunt May (Sally Fields). But he’s plagued by the memory of Gwen’s father, who, of course, died in the first movie, and the promise he made to him to keep Gwen safe. After Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper) dies, leaving Peter’s old friend Harry (Dane DeHaan) fatherless, Peter remembers his own parents, and questions about their abandonment resurface.
Meanwhile, all-but-invisible Oscorp employee Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) becomes enamored with Spider-Man, which quickly turns to hatred. Max falls into a tank of electric eels and starts zapping people with electricity, and Spider-Man tries to stop him.
Although Max, now calling himself “Electrode,” is confined to an asylum, Harry busts him out when Spider-Man refuses to give him a blood sample that Harry believes will stop him from dying from the genetic virus that killed his father.
First off, can I just say, Peter and Gwen are adorable. This is exactly how you make a believable on-screen superhero couple (Take notes, “Man of Steel”). Actually, this is exactly how you make a believable on-screen couple, period. I mean, it helps that they’re dating off-screen, too, but even when you’ve got chemistry, credible lines are the other half of the battle.
The writing everywhere is completely solid, which is a refreshing change from movies that rely on special effects to distract the audience from clunky dialogue or awkward exposition. They could have, though — the effects are great, and many of the action sequences seem like they were constructed just because the CGI guys were having fun in the lab, but not in a bad way.
Once again, the performances are, for the most part, great, even beyond Garfield (easily the least-whiny live-action Spider-Man ever) and Stone. Peter and Harry’s friendship feels like it could be real, at least before, you know, Harry tries to kill Spider-Man, which tends to put a damper on any relationship. And Paul Giamatti’s brief but delightfully crazy minor villain, Rhino, is a welcome addition in an overstuffed but somehow not bloated 2-hour-plus movie.
I do want to stop and talk about Electrode. Now, I’ve never fallen into a vat of electric eels that turned me into basically a human battery able to shoot lightening bolts from my fingertips, and I promise I’m not really expecting super-villains to make decisions like a reasonable person and form logical plans, but I’m not sure I felt Electrode’s motivation in suddenly hating Spider-Man. I mean, there was this thing with a police sniper who shot at Electrode when Spider-Man was trying to talk him down, so I kind of get that, but the sudden “Spider-Man! You’re my friend! Yeah, I don’t want to hurt anyone, so I’ll just go with you, no proble—SPIDER-MAN IS THE WORST AND I WILL KILL EVERYONE!” seemed a little hasty. Just slightly.
Likewise, while I liked the Peter-Harry dynamic at the first, Harry seemed to jump on the crazy train pretty abruptly. It just didn’t seem like there was a whole lot of psychotic degredation between “Spider-Man! You can save me!” to “Spider-Man! You’re a fraud!” to just maniacally cackling. But it’s a superhero movie, so I won’t be too critical, especially since his Green Goblin was way more menacing and way less campy than in 2002’s “Spiderman.”
One more thing I have to give props to “Spider-Man 2” for: It’s rated PG-13, and there’s enough battles to earn it, but I don’t remember hearing the single allowed use of the “f-word.” In this day and age, that is unusual.
Oh, and if you sit through the credits, there’s a promo for this summer’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Just a heads-up for anyone interested.
All in all, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a treat for fans that doesn’t disappoint, and gives hope for the next sequel in the series.