Pop Culture Monday: Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Doing Whatever A Spider Can

So this past weekend, Em and I got in line to see “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”.  We had originally been going to see “Moms Night Out”, but it wasn’t playing in our wee city, so Spidey was a last minute choice.  I hadn’t heard great things about it, but it’s a superhero movie where things were going to blow up, so it was my substitute suggestion to Em.

I did not see “The Amazing Spider-Man”, starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Web Head and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey.  I’m not a big comic book gal, and trying to get a sitter for the kids was rough at the time, so I let it blow by.  Turns out it was a good thing I saved my money; although the film did well at the box office, it was universally panned as flat and brooding, trying to be too much like a like a heavy character study rather than a light, fun romp.

Not so much with its sequel, thankfully.

Now, I grew up with Sam Raimis’ take on Spider-Man, the ones with Toby McGuire as Peter and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, his love interest from the comics.  J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jamieson stole every scene he was in.  I really liked the first one.  It was funny and interesting, and I thought the Green Goblin was pretty cool.  The special effects seemed good, and oh, my God — it had James Franco as Harry Osborne.  The second film was, well, meh, and the last one just really sucked ass.  The character of Peter Parker became kind of a douche, Dunst looked bored, and it had a weak plot.  Yet another reason to pass on “The Amazing Spider-Man” when it rolled into town.

But I liked this second one.  Like I said, I can’t compare it to the first one, having never seen it, but as a stand-alone film, it works quite well.  Before I go any further — SPOILER ALERT!!

Really, the only thing you need to know going in is that Peter Parker promised Gwen’s dying father (played by Denis Leary), who had figured out his alter ego, that he would stay away from Gwen in order to keep her safe.  At the start of this second film, he has not been keeping his word.  Recap of the plot: Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), a bullied and loner employee of Oscorp (owned by Dane De Haan as Harry Osborne, not Leonardo Di Caprio, despite the strong resemblance), has an industrial accident that turns him in to Electro, a villain determined to take out Spidey because he feels betrayed by the web slinger from an earlier interaction.  Joining forces with Electro is Peter’s childhood friend, Harry, who is suffering from some complicated sounding genetic disease that causes skin lesions, turns him green, and will eventually kill him.  Harry sought out Spider-Man to ask if he would give some of his blood to the terminally ill man in an attempt to cure him, and Spider-Man, who has learned more about his origins over the course of the film, turns him down, afraid of what his augmented blood will do to his best buddy.  Harry’s now out for revenge against the superhero “fraud” and even against Oscorp, whose board has ousted him and turned him out on the street.  There’s some neat-o CGI and fights, some chuckles, and an emotional ending that left me a bit choked up as I reached for my watered down Coca-Cola.

And that’s just a brief overview.

There’s a lot going on in this movie.  The relationship between Gwen and Peter.  Electro’s story.  Harry’s story.  Peter’s search for the truth about his parents.  Whew.  But if you can wade through that, it’s not a bad way to spend a Friday night.  I really liked Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone — they just worked for me.  They are super cute together, and I buy Garfield as both Peter and Spider-Man.  Gwen is a bit too much of a convenient genius for my taste, but I like how Stone plays her.  De Haan is okay, I guess, giving us his best tight smiles and lets us see the anger that bubbles just below the surface in every scene he’s in.  Even Jamie Foxx, not my fave despite his Oscar, does alright as Electro, even though I like him better as Max.

So, all in all, not as good as the first Raimi Spider-Man, but better than the second.  If you’re looking for some escapism with a PG rating (although the violence made me wonder what the MPAA was smoking when they rated the thing), give it a shot.

Eight popcorn bags out of ten.



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