Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott, Marton Csokas, Louis Cancelmi, Max Charles, B.J. Novak, Sarah Gadon, Chris Cooper, Denis Leary, Stan Lee
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, James Vanderbilt, based on characters created by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Directed by: Marc Webb
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Running Time: 142
Date: 05/02/2014
IMDB

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

A Soulful Spidey

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Two years ago, The Amazing Spider-Man was a competent, polished reboot devoid of personality, supplanting the original Sam Raimi series, which conversely had a great deal of personality, even if it was sometimes a bit loony.

The new director, plucked seemingly at random, was Marc Webb, whose only other feature had been (500) Days of Summer, a delightful, bittersweet romance with a few laughs, a few songs, and a lot of emotion.

Now comes The Amazing-Spider Man 2 and it slowly becomes apparent what Webb is doing here. His version of Peter Parker, again played by Andrew Garfield, is incapable of suppressing his feelings. He's by turns jubilant, heartbroken, cocksure, and tormented, but he's never boring.

Peter's moments, and his interactions as a human person with other human people, make The Amazing Spider-Man 2 worth experiencing.

He has a loving, yet cautious relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and there's his sweet Aunt May (Sally Field), whose face he grabs in his hands as he says, "you're my everything!"

Even Peter's room is full of energy, with movie posters for Blow Up and Dogtown and Z-Boys making way for a frenzied map of clues left behind by Peter's father.

Surely, if Webb could have got away with a musical number starring Garfield, he would not have hesitated.

But when it comes to the comic book stuff, the action and the villains, Webb seems bored. The movie opens with an awful scene, a flashback further explaining the fates of Peter's parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) that disintegrates into a shaky-cam melee.

When future bad guy Electro first appears, he's just nerdy engineer Max (Jamie Foxx) with a bad combover, and Webb clearly has some affection for him. But when an accident gives Max evil powers, he becomes a flat, monotone special effect.

The same goes for Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who at first has some satisfyingly slithery line readings but eventually descends into more and more angry sneering.

The swinging Spidey fights seem designed more for speed than precision, as if Webb simply wanted to get them out of the way. The best parts come when the hero pauses to banter either with a villain or with a rescued passerby. He's the coolest dork ever.

If only the rules of superhero filmmaking allowed more room to play, to try smaller, less bombastic stories, like the comics sometimes do. How about Peter battling the flu, or income tax forms, or noisy neighbors? Those or a million other ideas, like Spidey's webs, could really stick.

Blu-ray notes: This is the type of movie that Blu-ray was made for. The sound and picture quality here are top-notch, with colors, sound effects, action, music, and everything coming through in glorious clarity. There's a commentary track with the writers and prodders, but no Marc Webb. There's also a feature-length, six-part making-of documentary that contains a plethora of goodies (including Stan Lee). Webb appears in a short featurette about the movie's music. We also get about 23 minutes of deleted scenes, plus Alicia Keys' music video for "It's On Again." Certainly this movie isn't as totally satisfying as it is technically excellent, but if you're a Spidey fan, this is a good, solid Blu-ray package.

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