DIRECTOR MARK WEBB’s delightful movie, “500 Days of Summer” has been reborn into a charming and fun narrative with a certain web crawler who regularly saves the world (OK, not the whole world, just New York) from seriously angst-ridden guys with super-human powers and axes to grind. In this second outing of the second reboot with Englishman Andrew Garfield replacing Tobey Maguire as the nerdy Peter Parker turned Spidey, we’re treated to much more than the usual clash of titans.
At its heart, even as the menacing Omnicorp and an electric charge of a man, Electro, threaten to eradicate all who get in their way, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is essentially about Spiderman’s doomed relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Parker/Spider-Man is haunted by the warning of Gewn’s dying father (Denis Leary as Captain Stacy): that his relationship with Gewn would be the death of her. And so, despite his love for her, Spider-Man recognizes that he has to break their ever deepening bond.
Webb’s skill is that he invests the relationship with enough credibility to make you give a damn, despite the silliness of a romantic lead who’s been bitten by a radio-active spider; and he gives the relationship enough air and lightness not to turn a Saturday matinee blockbuster into a turgid wannabe tragic love-story.
It doesn’t hurt that there’s great chemistry between Garfield and Watson who steal the show from the rest of the stellar supporting gang. And that cast set the bar high: Jamie Foxx is the –main- villain, a down-trodden, near invisible electrician working at Omnicorp who just wants to be recognized. Foxx transforms himself beautifully from Max Dillon, the down-in-the-mouth, balding, badly dressed salary-man to Electro (after a shocking accident involving ravenous electro-charged eels), a man with a bad attitude and, you could say, volting ambition. He must have gotten a serious charge playing the role.
He’s joined by a rich cast of major players in minor roles: Paul Giametti is Aleskei, truck-driver turned human transformer, Felicity Jones (fresh from “The Invisible Woman”, who we really need to see a lot more of) is Felicia, a secretary; Chris Cooper is the dying Norman Osborne (head of Omnicorp and really the man we need to blame for everything); Sally Field is Parker’s Aunt May and of course Stan Lee is there in his usual cameo role.
What with all this superior talent around, Dane DeHaan (engagingly convincing as Jesse in “In Treatment”) as the heir to Osborne’s Omnicorp and emerging as the Green Goblin, looks menacing but remains pretty insipid throughout.
The story – essentially one about the relationship of fathers and sons – follows the paths of the two friends, Parker and young Osborne, both of whom were essentially abandoned by their parents. Parker, steeled by the discipline of his aunt and uncle (those famous words, “with great power comes great responsibility”) becomes a man with a deep sense of responsibility and commitment to fighting crime; Osborne, let loose in a world of unlimited wealth, grows feral, spiteful and, well, turns into a green goblin.
Writer Alex Kurtzman (also of “Star Trek” and, alas, “Cowboys and Aliens”) along with a team of dozens have managed to weave in enough back stories of the principal protagonists to ensure that their super-human powers become expressions of only too human needs and desires, all of which humanize what can so easily be simply a tale of “bad men gone amok” (think Bane in Batman).
Importantly, they give Gwen a real personality. Usually, the love interests are dehumanized gals whose only functions are to scream and be rescued. Not so Gwen: she’s determined, brainy and fearless. It’s actually she who shows Spidey how to outsmart Electro and it’s she who understands how to re-power the electricity grid. And it is she who Spidey decides to follow to Oxford.
All of this doesn’t get in the way of the action. There are some false looking bits (a clearly CG plane crash) and some great ones (Electro, much to my joy, wrecks absolute destruction on Time Square. The gaudy neon billboards come crashing down and explode in luminous fountains of sparks. Thank goodness, that’s one part of New York that needs a make-over). Of course “The Amazing Spiderman 2” is all one huge trailer for “The Amazing Spiderman 3”
I’ll be there