Sequel stays in the shadows, but still lights it up
By Ian Murphy 05/08/2014
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Directed by Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
2 hr. and 22 min.
Darkness seems to be in vogue these days when it comes to comic book movies. Iron Man, Thor, well, pretty much all of the recent Marvel follow-up films have fallen into the shadows. And to be honest, there is no way to really criticize them for it. When it comes to successful sequels, films seem to follow The Empire Strikes Back formula of the darkness before the dawn. And The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is no exception.
We catch up with Peter Parker (perfectly cast once again with Andrew Garfield) as he struggles to balance his life as Spider-Man with that of a brilliant emo teenager still in love with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Spider-Man has become a celebrity, yet most of the populace of New York is divided between those who see him as a force for good, and those who see him as a vigilante menace. After saving the life of nerdy electrical engineer Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) — a decision he will come to regret — Peter begins to delve into his parents’ past and realizes that his becoming Spider-Man may not have been an accident at all.
AS2 has everything audiences have come to expect from the recent flood of Marvel movies. Big, heavy action sequences that charge at you like a rhino. Shocking character arcs that come as unexpectedly as being struck by lightning. The writers of this film (of which there are too many to list) did an excellent job of capturing the teenage angst of the better Spider-Man graphic novels, without turning it into an episode of Dawson’s Creek (which they easily could have). Borrowing very much from Brian Michael Bendis, the writer of Ultimate Spider-Man, in both tone and feel doesn’t hurt either. Why he was not among the myriad writers on this project is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t matter. The film is poignant when it has to be, and action-packed when it needs to be.
The villains in the film are wonderfully understated (no spoilers ahead). Jamie Foxx as Electro, as seen in the previews, is sympathetically wicked. The transformation he endures, both physically and mentally, almost makes him the film’s antihero, and Jamie Foxx’s portrayal is nothing short of remarkable. And the other villains in the movie (again, no spoilers) stay true to the originals from the classic comic. Comic book movies can have a tendency to “reinvent” villains, for whatever reason studio heads who have never read a comic in their lives think they have to; but not here. These are some classic bad guys who stay true to the source material and still pose a modern threat to the well-being of both the city of New York and Spider-Man.
If the film has any shortcomings, it is the fact that it’s pretty much a remake of The Dark Knight, with a wittier and more brightly colored protagonist. The films are very, very similar in structure. Not to say that AS2 is a rip-off, but the director Marc Webb (yes, that is his real name) must have watched the Christopher Nolan picture at least once. Still, the movie stands on its own merit as an entertaining, albeit dark, welcome addition to the Marvel comic movie canon.