Is It Cool?: Excellence in Filmmaking
This movie, directed by Marc Webb (the joke writes itself, right?) is the second installment in the Columbia Pictures Spider-Man reboot. Running nearly 2.5 hours, the film packs a heck of a punch in terms of both quality film making and entertainment. I’ll admit right up front that I seem to be in the minority of people who actually like this installment better than the first one. I also saw it in 3D, which I normally hate, but was pleasantly surprised at how well I felt it worked for this feature.
Fans of the long-running Marvel comics will be familiar with the story. This film does a nice job continuing where the first left off and also addresses that whole “what happened to Peter’s parents?” thing that the first movie just sort of leaves untouched. Peter (the quirky and charming Andrew Garfield, The Social Network, Never Let Me Go) continues his romance with the lovely Gwen (Emma Stone, The Help, Easy A) and Sally Field reprises her role as Aunt May. The film made good use of its huge effects budget and the design, sound, and camera all work together to produce a very experiential “live action video game” kind of feel that I think will have a lot of appeal to the target audience.
Warning. (Minimal) spoilers ahead.
Really. There will be spoilers. Last warning…
Okay, get ready, because there is a LOT of story crammed in to this movie. The film opens with a flashback scene of the night Peter’s parents drop him off at Aunt May and Uncle Ben’s house. This becomes important later on in the movie and the mystery of Peter’s Parents is revealed.
We then skip ahead to young adult Peter who, in my opinion, finally hits his stride as the quirky and almost slapstick vigilante that we know and love from the Marvel comics. His quips and physical comedy routines with the “bad guys” in this movie hit an enjoyable tone for me whereas previously Spidey felt a wee bit stilted. Don’t be lulled into thinking that the movie is light-hearted, though. Peter is suffering some serious guilt because he promised Gwen’s dad he would stay away from her to keep her safe. This is an old argument between Peter and Gwen and, finally unable to bear the cycle of angst, Gwen breaks up with Peter. They do their best to give each other some space, but ultimately are drawn back together. While Gwen is working at Oscorp and trying to land a dream scholarship to Oxford, Peter is fighting crime and trying to solve the mystery of his parents’ disappearance. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn dies.
Before his death, though, Norman gets a visit from his son Harry (the eerily pale Dane DeHann). Norman tells Harry that his disease is hereditary and that Harry will die, too, unless a cure is found. He then hands Harry a file containing all of his company’s secret research on human/animal hybrids. Harry discovers the secret spider experiments and is determined to save his own life by using the blood of Spiderman. He calls his old friend Peter Parker thinking that because Peter takes pictures of Spidey, he must know where to find him. Peter is trying to protect Harry because he believes his blood would either kill him or turn him into something horrible, so he tells Harry he can’t help him. This drives Harry to some rather desperate and nefarious choices, ultimately heading him in the direction of becoming the Green Goblin.
Underscoring the rest of the stories is Max, the lowly but brilliant Oscorp employee who actually designed the entire power grid used to light up NYC, but Oscorp stole his designs and gave him no credit. He is a stammering, awkward, and wholly forgettable guy (played by Jamie Foxx). A tragic accident turns Max into Electro, and so we begin the setup for the Sinister Six (I told you, there’s a lot going on).
Scenes between Peter and Gwen are completely adorable with quick-witted, funny, and charmingly awkward banter taking center stage. Peter’s relationship with Aunt May is by turns hilarious and heart achingly deep. This is going to sound crazy, but some of the best acting I’ve seen in theaters all year I saw from Andrew Garfield and Sally Field, in particular the “you’re my boy” scene (trust me, you’ll know it when you see it).
The pacing of the movie seems to move pretty well from point to point, and even though there is a lot going on, you follow everything quite easily. Dane DeHann’s performance hits all of the “villain” notes well and I’m excited to see where his Green Goblin story goes in the next movie. My only major gripe with this whole cast was Jamie Foxx, who turned in a pretty unremarkable performance, which is too bad because he got a lot more screen time than DeHann.
Overall, moviegoers should expect that this is not, nor do I think it was meant to be, a stand alone feature. It very definitely is setting us up for the next Spidey feature as well as opening the door for possibilities with The Sinister Six.
What’s it Saying?: Message of the Movie
There is a lot of talk in the movie about hope. Gwen’s graduation speech is built around that theme and she challenges her classmates to be the change the world needs and to bring hope. Peter must struggle to learn this lesson and to take it to heart. When things get hard or when tragedy strikes and he wants to give up, Gwen’s message drives him on.
There is also a great scene about how Aunt May and Uncle Ben might not have biologically created Peter, but it’s love that makes a person a parent and not necessarily genetics. There is also a lot about personal choice and responsibility and how sometimes we cannot protect other people from themselves.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Morality in the Movie
There is some mild cursing in the film as well as the expected crash/bang/boom kind of violence we see in Comic Book movies.
There is some kissing, but no nudity or sexual content. Overall, the movie was refreshingly “clean.”
That's Right. I Said It: Reviewer Comments
I am maybe a little definitely in love with Andrew Garfield.
Sally Field is a GEM in this movie. A GEM.
Seriously, could Emma Stone be any more adorable?
There is soooooo much going on here. Like, it should be too much, right? But why am I still engaged? Is it too much? I mean, it’s a lot, but it still makes sense. I still care.
Pharrell Williams does a mighty fine job with this whole “music for a movie” thing.
Jamie Foxx is doing nothing for me. Nothing.
This movie is really fun, right? I can’t be the only one who thinks so. Am I the only one who likes this movie?? AM I THE ONLY ONE?!!!!!