BY AMBER KELLY-ANDERSON
Relaunching Spider-Man in 2012 was a risky venture. The 2002 Toby Maguire vehicle had yet to gather pop culture dust, so a revamp seemed unnecessary. Surprisingly, the new film imagined the web-slinger with a more indie vibe, something augmented by the quirky-cute combination of Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Emma Stone as his high school lady love, Gwen Stacy. Go-around number two is a more arduous task as it cannot rely on the origin story thrills of the first and may risk comparison to the Doc Ock centered sequel of the original trilogy, the strongest film of that series (and listed by many as one of the greatest comic books films ever).
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 begins by filling in the blanks of what became of Peter’s parents after they left their son with his aunt and uncle. In the present, Peter and Gwen are graduating from high school while he attempts to save the world through web slinging and quips. One of the people he saves, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is an electrical engineer at the ominous Oscorp, who manifests an obsession with Spidey and the idea that he, an almost invisible man, might be “special.” What special means in the world of Spider-Man varies: for Max, it means falling in a tank of electrical eels and transforming into Electro, a man so ripe with power he can transcend the physical. For Peter’s childhood pal Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), it means an inherited disease that claims his father (Chris Cooper) and threatens to destroy him. Finally, for Peter it means being haunted by the ghost of Gwen’s dead father (Denis Leary) to whom he promised he would stay clear of Gwen. And it means discovering how to be a savior when the cost is so high.
Director Marc Webb does a stellar job of creating the dizzying action that makes Spider-Man so much fun. The Electro special effects with their glowing blue electricity, like The Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan, ignite the battles scenes where Garfield’s smart aleck delivery provides a nice contrast to the gravity of the situation. Garfield, in fact, is perhaps the greatest strength of this relaunch in that he’s just enough of a wise-cracker to authenticate his genius and insecurity, particularly when paired with Stone.
Where the film stumbles is with Webb and the script cramming too many elements, specifically climaxes, into one film. The triple climax fails to build, instead making the film’s last quarter an odd stalling of ideas derailing the pace. One less villain or one less climax might have allowed for better plot development and fewer arbitrary plot connections.