It cannot be a twist of fate that the person who directs a movie about a man who can spin webs, literally, is named Marc Webb. It must be some cosmic destiny that led him to this destination, and whether it is his name or some inherent talent, Marc Webb understands
the superhero, Spider-Man, if The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are anything to go by. With the release of the 2nd of 4 films, Webb proves that he is here to stay, and that he will now forever remain etched in our minds as the guy who gave a new lease of life to the otherwise not-so-heroic superhero.
Of course, superheroes do not die, either in literature (a. k. a. graphic novels/comics) or in films. Andrew Garfield is neither the first nor the last, we'd assume, to play Spider-Man, but something tells us that he will be the most memorable, forever.
After the death of Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary), Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) had decided, based on the promise he made to the dying cop, that he would leave the latter's daughter, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), alone.
True love, however, has a funny way of making one overlook such solemn vows, and Peter finds himself on-again, off-again with Gwen. His guilt makes him believe that the deceased policeman is watching him, disapprovingly, but he also has to save the city from the various miscreants that only New York seems to throw up, and is therefore not too obsessed with his remorse.
During one of his adventures on the street, Spider-Man saves Oscorp employee Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) - Max is the one who says the word "amazing" later, when he sings the superhero's praises. For those who came in late, Oscorp is the organisation where Peter's father, Richard (Campbell Scott), worked before he disappeared so many years ago, leaving Peter in the care of his uncle and aunt. Oscorp is also where Gwen works now, and the place where Peter had the accident that made him Spider-Man.
The owner of Oscorp, Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper), is a dying man. He calls for his young son, Harry (Dane DeHaan), to hand him over his (Norman's) legacy, and tells Harry that the disease that he is dying of is hereditary.
Harry takes over the company, and renews ties with his childhood friend Peter. He wants Peter to ask Spider-Man to donate some blood, because he believes there is a chance Norman may recover. Spider-Man refuses, because he thinks it is too dangerous.
In the meantime, Max, who is a lonely man and who likes to think that Spider-Man is his best friend, falls into a container of genetically altered eels while fixing the power grid at Oscorp. He then becomes Electro, who at first does not know what is happening to him, until his freaky appearance makes the cops attack him.
Spider-Man tries to reason with him during this incident, and eventually Max is captured. He feels betrayed by the superhero. So does Harry. Together, Max and Harry try to figure out a way to destroy Spider-Man.
This is a superhero movie, and the fact that it is a rebooted version of previous films cannot alter the fact that there will be more action than romance. Marc Webb, otherwise famous for his well-known love story 500 Days Of Summer, does try to insert some intensity into the relationship between Peter and Gwen, but those moments are relatively few compared to the explosions and gun fire. Without giving away much of the plot, it needs to be said that it is imperative for the story to work to establish the passionate love that Gwen and Peter share, and the screenplay fails to do that convincingly.
The rest of the story is about Peter's need to find out what happened to his parents, and why they abandoned him. He discovers the answers, but they are not what he expects, and that changes not only his life, but his perception of himself. Between his parents and Gwen and his aunt May (Sally Field), Peter has a lot to come to terms with, and the movie is more about his growth as a character and his journey to becoming a responsible citizen.
The consequences that he has to live with after he comes face-to-face with Electro and Green Goblin are too much for him to bear, and he begins to question his role in society. As in previous movies, he is criticised, but he also has a strong fan base.
For those of you who love the comics, the mandatory elements of thrill are in place - the New York taxi stuck in traffic, the subterranean sequence, the blue-and-white police cars chasing a big van stolen by a goon, the kiss on the bridge, the spider webs that can catch anything, and many others.
The dialogues are sparse, although Gwen does deliver the inspirational speech that is required to make Spider-Man come to his senses. One would expect the makers to delve into the relationship between Aunt May and Peter, but as with the Gwen angle, this too is touched upon only superficially. The good vs evil angle, too, is compromised slightly, as the villains are grey characters, with plenty of justification for their acts, and you want to sympathise with them more than hate them.
The movie is relevant to our times, because the concepts of selflessness and sacrifice are eternal issues. The script tries to underline the idea that no matter how much good you do, you will always find opposition and ungrateful people - but your resolve to be true to yourself has to be unwavering. This definition of a superhero is not blatantly put across in the writing, but you get glimpses of the concept every now and then.
And then there is Andrew Garfield. As mentioned earlier, he makes Spider-Man vulnerable and therefore human, without turning into a sissy. He does whine a lot, but he is lovable. The chemistry between the actor and his co-star, Emma Stone, is sizzling (which is natural, given that they are a couple in real life), and it is a pity that it is not explored properly.Emma Stone seems a bit subdued in this movie when compared to her previous one, almost as if she is now content to stay in Spider-Man's shadow, now that she has him in her grip.
Dane DeHaan is not as scary as he was in Chronicle
, but he is effective as the young boy who feels betrayed by everybody. It looks like he is now stuck being typecast as the neurotic villain in future movies.
Jamie Foxx could have done a lot more with his role, and he begins well, but the script does not let him experiment much. The rest of the cast do their bit, and quite well, but given that the story touches upon each character just superficially, they do not really make an impact.
New York in 2014 - that is the setting of the movie, and the production design is commendable. There is an element of Gothic vintage in some of the sets, such as those of the mental institute and the tops of buildings, and they add the required intrigue in the visuals. Spider-Man is still experimenting with his costume, in a way, and the makers take pride in explaining what marvels the body suit is capable of. The costume designs for the rest are contemporary, and slightly more interesting for the villains.
The music plays an important role in the movie, since there are plenty of realisations and silent moments. The visuals and cinematography are suitably impressive (although there is nothing new that the film offers), and the high speed action sequences are worth waiting for. The editing could have been less erratic, or at least, the placement of sequences could have been better.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a must watch for fans of the genre, and with the twist in the end, the forthcoming sequels will have plenty of new action and events, obviously. Now that the past and the present are sorted for Peter Parker, the future remains a mystery, and that is enough to whet your appetite for the return of the superhero. Do not expect intensity, and you will enjoy Marc Webb's latest offering.