Movie Review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ Is An Emotional Roller Coaster

Many will consider the roller coaster of emotions on display in the latest Spider-Man flick a failure of focused tone. They may have a bit of a point, but when it works as well as it does here it’s hard to find fault. There may be several quick shifts between villainous character development and the core story of Peter Parker’s personal journey, but they never bothered me like they might have in another film. The reason for this is simple. This film is one of the most emotionally resonant pieces of popular filmmaking I have seen in quite some time.

We discovered quite early in the last film that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were one of the best on screen couples to ever grace the silver screen. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that their chemistry in this film is absolutely electric. Ironically, there is a bad guy in this movie named Electro (Jamie Foxx), who shoots electricity out of his finger tips, and his electricity is a pale comparison to what goes on when we see Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker. Whether they are being playful or serious, they are always shooting sparks, and sometimes it is enough to bring a tear to your eye. Especially, if you are a hopeless romantic like me.

Yet, their love is not the only thing in this movie that draws an emotional response. There are moments of discovery with Peter figuring out about his father, Aunt May breaking down in a beautiful speech to Peter about her love for him, and an ending that is so emotional I had a hard time keeping my composure. I’m sure that this has a lot to do with the fact that I have cared for these characters most of my life, but a big part is how brilliantly director Marc Webb makes the emotional bits of this film work. In only his third film, Webb has figured out exactly what pieces of the filmmaking puzzle he needs to manipulate emotion and you can count me as impressed.

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The writing and acting obviously play a big part in creating the art of manipulation, but another massive piece of that puzzle is the music, and Hans Zimmer has worked his magic here again. Much like he did in The Dark Knight and Man of Steel movies, Zimmer uses an expertly crafted piano motif to convey emotion. Big surprise, it works like gang busters. Zimmer has also taken James Horner’s horn melody from the first film and turned it into a heroic theme that delivers in the key moments. I loved the first movies theme, but this one might be better. I even think that Electro’s dub step theme was an inspired choice. Some may not like it, but I did.

The heart of the new film is Peter’s struggle with being Spider-Man and keeping his promise to Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary) about staying away from his daughter. He feels unbelievably tormented by this situation. He is so madly in love with Gwen that it seems crazy to live in a world without her, but he also knows that simply being his girlfriend puts her in danger. It is a struggle that Peter has had in just about every incarnation of him for years, but it really works well in this movie. It is very different to see two people that are completely in love with each other try and deal with it as oppose to watching Peter decide that he just can’t be in a relationship. The last series spent two films trying to get Peter and Mary Jane together. This movie already has it’s couple and it’s more interested in the difficulty of keeping that relationship.

There are also a couple of villains in this movie. The first one being a nerdy guy named Max Dillon, who turns into Electro when he falls into a tank of electric eels. Jamie Foxx does a fine enough job portraying Max, but his transformation into Electro is pretty thin. He basically just feels like nobody sees him and uses the fact that he has electric powers to show the world that he is just as amazing as his former idol, Spider-Man. Not the greatest motivation for killing tons of people. I mean, he does get shot at by the police when Spider-Man says they won’t and so I can see him get a little angry, but why that should lead to mass murder is kind of crazy. Still, the actions sequences with Electro are so exhilarating that I mostly forgave his weak character development.

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Similarly, Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan) becoming the evil Green Goblin and going after Spider-Man seems a bit irrational. I mean, Spider-man makes it pretty clear that he can’t help the dying Osborn because he believes it will make things worse. I guess being on the way out just turns some people into creepy jerks. Still Dehaan is so good in this movie that I completely bought his transformation. Also, at a certain point he becomes almost irresistibly fun to watch. The worse he becomes, the more fun he is. I especially enjoyed the scene where he teams up with Electro for payback. It’s impossible not to be behind him a little bit.

While the relationship stuff is certainly the best part of the film, I would be crazy to not mention the action. This is a superhero film after all and there are a number of stunning action set pieces. The three that will stand out the most to people come directly at the beginning, middle, and end. Honestly, I’m not sure which one I like best. The first time we see Spider-Man in this film is one of the best character introductions I can think of. He is in straight free fall and watching him soaring in 3D is quite a treat. You know I am not a big fan of 3D, but it’s worth it in this film. Then there is the second action sequence with Electro in a Time Square that is quite intense and the final showdown at a power station. Both of these are pretty awesome, but the sequence in the power station is probably the second best of any a Spider-Man movie yet (right behind the train sequence in Spider-Man 2).

The final action sequence also culminates in such a way that the action packed nature of them film collides rather brilliantly with the emotional side of it. As a matter of fact, this movies end is good enough that it would be worth watching just for the end. If every other thing was mediocre, it would still be worth watching for the end. I really wish that I could write about it, but I would be ruining something that will come as quite a surprise to many people. Hell, I saw it coming and I was still fairly shocked to see it happen.

The way you react to this film emotionally is obviously going to depend largely on how much you care for these characters, but I care for them a lot. So, I found myself deeply moved by this picture and mostly ignoring the slightly overstuffed nature of all it’s villainy. I also felt like the movie truly flowed by quickly and had no problem with its 142 minute running time. Which is one of the many reasons that I recommend you go out and enjoy The Amazing Spider-Man 2 this weekend.

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Nathan Ligon

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