7.6/10 – IMDb
54% – Rotten Tomatoes
We the moviegoing masses have come to expect a lot out of our superheroes since the start of the millennium, thanks in large part to Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark doing spectacular things along with some of their friends. Peter Parker has not received as much attention, though he was protecting us in the guise of Tobey Maguire before Batman and Marvel’s army took the reins. It’s a tough time for Andrew Garfield to try and wow us in Spidey’s shoes, given the plethora of heroes filling the summer movie slate. With 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, though, he seemed to prove a suitable fit for the web-slinging hero, and his pleasantly surprising first turn in the red and blue heightened expectations for this second effort. Behind him stands a strong cast, with Emma Stone and Sally Field returning and the likes of Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti joining the fun. The answer to your viewing quandary for this movie is layered and complex, as it almost always is.
Should I pay to see it?
If you’re going to see it, I would have to say yes. Parts of the movie are made not only for the big screen but for the 3-D big screen. Usually, I would be lukewarm on this point, but the technology works extremely well, and director Marc Webb deserves credit for creating some strikingly detailed action sequences that quite literally jump off the screen, notably some deft use of slow motion to capture electricity running through a chaotic Times Square. Spider-Man probably fits the 3-D form more than any other comic book figure, given that he, you know, swings from building to building and flies through the air and such. As a queasy audience member who usually struggles with the style, I have to say it worked wonders for this movie. The ornate action gets a boost from an awesome score, with Hans Zimmer and Pharrell knocking it out of the park, as we would all expect from two musical geniuses. The movie itself is somewhat crowded, with almost two and a half hours filled not with wasted time but with storylines clashing together into a busy whole. To simplify, it’s an entertaining action movie, not shockingly transcendent or Transcendence-bad, but you will vastly improve your moviegoing experience if you splurge on the theater tickets.
Could I watch it with a date?
As mentioned, there are many thrilling and vivid action sequences, but the film focuses just as heavily on the love of Peter and Gwen Stacy, of course played by real-life sweethearts in Garfield and Stone. I won’t deny being a big fan of each actor, and even of them as a Hollywood couple, but somehow their onscreen chemistry is lacking. Their lovey moments seem stilted and awkward, surprising for such a lively young pair of heartthrobs. Besides the leading pair, Dane DeHaan brings a youthful, Leo-looking creepiness as a volatile Harry Osborn, though perhaps only fractionally as volatile as his predecessor in the role. Foxx plays Electro, an oft-scorned Oscorp employee who finds himself with terrifying electrical powers following a serious accident. He works well as the villain, though it is hard to take him seriously as dorky, pre-accident Max Dillon. Electro is sort of an insecure Dr. Manhattan figure, a terrifying villain but fallible due to his own neediness. With Garfield and Stone, the franchise seems to be aimed directly at a young crowd, but the former doesn’t quite seem to be up to the task. He doesn’t quite nail the one-liners, though some of that falls on a subpar script for sure, and he comes up short of MaGuire’s awkward but lovable Spidey. No one expects or wants him to be Christian Bale or Robert Downey Jr., but he still seems to be unsure of how to balance the awkwardness of Peter Parker with the wit and humbleness of his costumed alter ego. We also now live in a world where our superheroes listen to Philip Philips, so take that as you will. The story sets up to be a wonderful mix of action and romantic drama, but it falls a little short in the latter department, meaning you and yours can probably find a more enjoyable option.
Could I watch it with my mother?
First of all, she’ll probably tell you that Gwen’s skirts are too short at times, especially her scandalous outfit for an Oxford interview. To be simple, this probably isn’t the action movie you want to watch while bonding with your mother. The story delves into Peter’s family and his father’s secrets surrounding his progressive research at Oscorp with Harry’s father, but the whole tale gets rushed into the movie for both Peter and Harry. Regarding both his father and Gwen, it’s difficult at times to buy into Peter’s inner turmoil. This isn’t all Garfield’s fault, as he’s certainly a capable actor, but the busy story and quickly accelerating drama make for a difficult role, one that requires great versatility to be able to bounce from vigilante to boyfriend to best friend to matured superhero. Even the final major action sequence, filled with incredible shots and stunts, feels rushed, perhaps standing as a telling microcosm for the entire film. There are a lot of good things to be enjoyed here, but the packed story makes it difficult to focus on any single one of them.
The movie turns towards a more serious path, following in the footsteps of most of our recent action franchises, but by the time Gwen tells us to “become hope” and to “be greater than what we suffer,” the film is done, setting itself up for what may very well be a fantastic part three. The final moments do set up well for a big and bold third entry, but this one may leave you frustrated, as the first of the series seemed to set up for a better second. Here’s to hoping the next one lives up to the hype.
P.S. Watch out for the Stan Lee cameo!