Color me surprised (sort of).
I adored the 2012 reboot starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. I thought director Marc Webb hit all the right notes of scruffy young angst, of familial love and resentment, and of just making ends meet and getting through a day … let alone having your life extra-complicated after having been bitten by a radioactive spider. The Sam Raimi films with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, while zippy and fun, just never really felt that grounded to me.
Blessedly, those relatable elements remain, though they are buried under a mountain of back-story and subplots. Garfield is winsome and charming as Peter Parker/Spider-Man – imagine if Anthony Perkins grew up a Millennial hipster and played a haunted spandex-ed superhero who hid his pain under glib one-liners and silly puns. And Stone as girlfriend Gwen Stacy is the perfect foil, more than holding her own amongst car crashes and emo dates alike. I will admit to finding their snappy teen repartee a bit cloying at times, but generally they remain the heart and soul of this series.
Sally Field also returns as Peter’s Aunt May, bringing free-floating yet fiercely protective anxiety and determined iron will to the role. She has one scene (as Field seems to in every movie in which she appears) that brought me to tears while I cheered her on – a quiet scene where she asserts once and for all that while she may not be Peter’s mother, she raised him and is the only family that counts.
Other cast members include Jamie Foxx as nebbish-turned-power-mad-demigod Max Dillon/Electro, Dane DeHaan as Parker’s childhood-pal-turned-chief nemesis Harry Osborn/Green Goblin, and a criminally underutilized Paul Giamatti (though if he’d been used properly, the movie would have been four hours long, instead of two and a half) as a scenery-chewing (literally) Russian-mobster-turned-mechanical Rhino.
Thematically, the film turns on a central concept of “being seen.” Gwen Stacy wants to know she has true value in Peter’s life. Aunt May wants Peter to know the sacrifices she has made to protect him at much cost to her own happiness. Osborn wants to redeem himself in the eyes of an industrialist father (Chris Cooper) who shipped him off to boarding schools like he was disposing of a pest.
And most overtly, Max/Electro wants the world to acknowledge his presence and his contributions in the moment, not to steal his ideas, and to simply remember his name. Some may find Jamie Foxx’s performance hammy (it is just shy of Jim Carrey’s Riddler in Batman Forever); I found it compelling. To me, Foxx walks a fine line between comic book silliness and heartfelt poignancy, giving us a Marty-style loser … that is if Ernest Borgnine had been dropped in a vat of angry electric eels and garnered lightning powers as a result.
I enjoyed this film a lot, but it is way too long and tries to accomplish too much. Yes, comic book fanboys, like yours truly, love to see all manner of minutiae from fifty years of four-color canon honored (and reinvented) on the big screen. But, we also like to see compelling movies well-made that tell a story efficiently, effectively, and seemingly effortlessly.
Unfortunately, I could feel the gears grinding together a few too many times in Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Webb and screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci labored to stitch together countless disparate threads. I also could feel the Sony studio heads rubbing their hands together with money-grubbing glee as they planned out the multitude of spin-offs and sequels that this flick might generate.
Regardless, the movie is an exceptionally entertaining enterprise, and that is chiefly due to a crackerjack cast that imbues the material with generous spirit, empathetic soul, sparkling wit, and loving heart.
Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.
again, you accomplish the encouragement of me maybe attending a film I have no desire whatsoever to attend? congrats! wondrous word choices!
my pleasure! thanks as always for your support and encouragement and love! love you
On Sat, May 3, 2014 at 11:13 PM, Reel Roy Reviews wrote:
well, let’s begin with your title, shall we? it is one of the best ever. as for the review, i’m happy you found some merit in it, though the movie does not intrigue me at all, and i am a spiderman lover with the best of them, especially because his tights, but i really have no desire to see this vegas style bad buffet over the top film explosion. that being said, i cracked up when i saw you dragged ‘budhapest hotel’ into the fray – ‘don’t hate the playa…’ ) and by the way, i saw ‘the other woman’ tonight and loved it )
too funny! I actually think you will be surprised by this one, Beth – I was dreading it for exactly those same reasons, and it found it generally very compelling and fun. at least worth watching as a rental down the road. thanks for the tip about “the other woman” – I wondered if that one would be cute. and I thought you would enjoy that Budapest reference! 🙂
On Sun, May 4, 2014 at 12:09 AM, Reel Roy Reviews wrote:
okay, fair enough, let’s call it a draw, a rental it is ) as for ‘the other woman’ it is funny like ‘bridesmaids’ funny. and leslie mann is a comic genius.
I do love her – she always makes me laugh. and if it’s like Bridesmaids, I will love it!
On Sun, May 4, 2014 at 12:19 AM, Reel Roy Reviews wrote:
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