Spider-Man has always been my favorite of the marvel superheroes. What’s not to love about him? He’s a teen misfit who develops superhuman powers after getting bit by a radioactive spider and with that power he fights crime in the backdrop of New York City. I’m not the biggest fan of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy but those films do hold a kind of nostalgia for me. It was those many days I spent surfing the bonus features of my deluxe edition DVD set I received on my tenth birthday where I discovered how films were truly made. Before then, I always thought it was the actors who were the first and last part of movies. It was their faces I saw so, naturally, I thought they held up the tent. Through that DVD set I discovered the concept of the film maker, the casting director, the screenwriter, etc. And ever since then I could never imagine myself anywhere else other than on that set and behind that camera. Spider-Man was also the only comic books I ever picked up as a child (I never even picked up a comic of Batman who’s always been my favorite superhero). Spider-Man was a very big part of my childhood so when another movie comes out you’re always sure to find me at the theater.
When I heard the studio was rebooting the franchise a few years ago I was fairly excited but also a bit skeptical at the same time. Even though I’m not a die-hard fan of Sam Raimi’s trilogy, I still think those films captured the spirit of Stan Lee’s classic character perfectly. I thought Tobey Maguire was a great choice to play the web slinger and the chemistry between both he and Kirsten Dunst was unmistakable. Frankly, I thought Andrew Garfield was too cool to play Spider-Man. Do they really expect us to believe this cute, skateboard riding guy who has a great sense of humor and also happens to be good at math and science, is a misfit? No, it doesn’t work like that, Hollywood. All in all, I thought the first Amazing Spider-Man was a pointless rehash. Like Superman, Spider-Man’s origin story doesn’t really change so why would you go through it all again only five years after the last trilogy ended? It was too choppy and the villain wasn’t nearly as interesting or memorable as Willem Defoe’s Green Goblin. The Amazing Spider-Man felt like the only reason it existed was for more cash, and that’s most likely the case in this day and age.
In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 we find Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker still at large as the famous web-slinger. He fights baddies, throwing nicknames and cocky jokes around like candy at a parade. He flies around, getting shot at and making enemies all on his way to his own graduation. He and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy remain dating but problems seem to keep cropping up, mostly due to the danger of his dual identity and their separate education plans. One of my problems with the first movie was Emma Stone’s character not having enough to do and that’s only slightly improved this time around. But it’s with the villains where the real problems arise. Jamie Fox isn’t at the top of his game here at all as Matt aka Electro, a Spider-Man obsessed employee at Oscorp who goes virtually unnoticed by everyone. Even on his own birthday his boss (played by long-time Office co-star B.J. Novak) shows a disinterest and has him stay late while everyone else goes home. After he falls into a toxic pool in the Oscorp lab and develops superhuman powers you can imagine problems arise. The usually wonderful Paul Giamatti pops up as well and is borderline terrible as Rhino but he doesn’t stick around long enough for me to have any real complaints.
Peter Parker reunites with his childhood friend, Harry Osborne, after his father dies of a terrible genetic disease leaving the 20 year old kid to run the company alone. Dane DeHaan fills the pretty large shoes James Franco once wore as Harry Osborn. I have a weakness for actors like DeHaan. He brings such complexity to every character he plays. Whether it’s starring opposite Ryan Gosling in Place Beyond the Pines (one of last year’s best) or as Jesse D’Amato in the popular TV series In Treatment , when DeHaan shows up he manages to steal the show in pretty much anything. If you’ve seen any of the trailers, I don’t think it’s any spoiler by saying he eventually turns into the Green Goblin. The moment he shows up we pretty much know exactly where his sub-plot’s goingl. He, like the rest of the villains, seem to be just thrown into the film just for the sake of it.
Like a lot of people, I’m crazy about Marc Webb’s breakout indie, (500) Days of Summer. It blended rich comedy with brutal honesty about love in the modern age. Aided by the wonderful and perfectly casted Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschannel, it was a pleasant surprise in an age where romantic comedies exist just to get on our nerves. But Marc Webb jumping right into a big studio franchise like Spider-Man is never a good idea in my opinion. Even Christopher Nolan worked on a few smaller films before taking on Batman Begins and he was able to maintain pretty good control over the creative decisions. The pressure itself could kill even the strongest of film makers. I can tell this film didn’t go exactly how Webb originally planned it. Between the amount of footage seen in the trailers that was left out and the countless scenes of Shailene Woodley as Mary Jane that were cut, the final product is probably a very different movie than it was going to be originally. Maybe it was a better movie or then again there’s always that chance of another subplot being one too many. Like when you blow too much air into a balloon, just that one extra blow causes it to pop. But still, I wonder what that film would’ve been like. Maybe they’ll release an extended cut or something.
Oddly enough, I liked The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This in no way changes my opinion of the first movie and isn’t able to come even remotely close to topping Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, but what it does do is finally successfully reimagine the classic superhero. It’s different enough and similar enough to finally successfully reboot the franchise in the right way. It was the kind of old fashioned superhero film we haven’t had in a long while. Nowadays, we pretty much have only two kinds: the overly goofy Avengers films that spend most of their time poking fun at how stupid their costumes look or the overly dark and stale films like Man of Steel. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is fun in all the right ways and dark in all the right ways often enough. The villains don’t offer much and I wish this film didn’t rely so much on them to tell the story. This film has enough flaws to make even the happiest of movie goers tear their hair out, but it’s Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (who just so happen to really date each other) who save this film from mutating into a hideous green villain. Their chemistry manages to hold this film together through all the rocky detours it takes.
There’s a moment in this film where a child dressed up as Spider-Man goes out into the street and stands up to a certain villain. He pulls his Spider-Man mask over his glasses and stands before him in protest. The real Spider-Man shows up behind him and the two of them share a moment together that I found quite powerful. This scene was very nostalgic for me. Both the kid he was and the man he’s become standing before each other. My nine year old self couldn’t help but come into mind at this point. All those days I spent alone in my backyard, fighting villains and saving the day. I was so oblivious to how the world really was. I thought it would all become clearer as the years went on but instead it all became even more jumbled. It was all so much simpler then. There are bad guys and there are good guys and then there is you: the hero. That’s how we all think when we’re children and then, before we know it, the walls come crumbling to the ground. The reality that sometimes you can’t save the day and sometimes you can’t win the girl over in the end hits us like an atomic bomb. That one scene captured all of that for me. I can’t help but wonder what my nine year old self would think of me now. Would he be proud or disappointed? That’s most certainly the question of the day. But one thing I do know is my nine year old self would’ve loved this movie. B