Review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′ is a Teenage Dream

Oh to be Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens.

They’re young. They’re beautiful and/or handsome. They have keen minds and bright futures ahead of them, one in a career in science and the other as a secret web-slinger.

And they’re in love. Sweetly, innocently, desperately, consumingly in love.

The chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, real life sweethearts playing onscreen sweethearts, makes the movie work. You just can’t help but root for them.

It’s the kind of love that blooms at 19, in the first blush of adulthood.  Beyond it, this Peter Parker just oozes superhero teen angst, a lighter, younger Spider-Man than Tobey Magurire’s turn ten years ago.

He longs for his deceased parents and frets about the safety of his girl, but not enough to mute his wise-cracks or temper his sheer physical joy at swooping and swinging around New York City high-rises. He doesn’t sit in remote webs brooding or carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. He just wants to thwart criminals and take Gwen to the mall, not necessarily in that order.

The film exults with him, using the full force of 3D CGI to plunge with him through city canyons, skim the roofs of yellow cabs, and swoop up on his silken thread to dizzying heights. The only thing missing is the wind in our hair.

But alas! Life, as we all discover eventually, is never that simple. Parker is frantically worried that his crime-fighting ways will endanger Gwen, a possibility that becomes reality when not one but two villains arise: Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan).

The Green Goblin is your average diseased lonely heir whose early friendship with Parker, which he considers betrayed, turns him sour on Spider-Man, although DeHaan is excellent as always in the role.

Electro is something much, much more interesting. In Foxx’s hands, with help from a powerful script, Electro is a villain that embodies black rage, more Malcolm X than mutant.

The parallels aren’t subtle. He begins as an invisible man, a nobody, an unnamed, unthanked worker in the power grid. He builds the foundations of power but has none on his own. Suddenly empowered, he becomes dangerous to the eye of the authorities, even though he himself has not as yet used his power to hurt anyone. He is automatically a threat. But once he realizes that the general world will never accept him, he grows into his power. And then, watch out. He wants nothing more than to shut the system down.

Electro’s whole being is a metaphor.

It’s a fantastic performance by Jamie Foxx and the most interesting part of the movie. In a movie that was more concerned with ideas, it could have been a fascinating and illuminating (excuse the pun) look at racial identity. This is not the Dark Knight trilogy, however, and the movie never fully steps into the promise of this thread.

What it is, however, is fun and frothy, something you could share with a child. Rated PG-13, the rating comes from sci-fi violence and action along with a storyline involving deep loss. The rest is squeaky-clean. The language is clear, the romance chaste. Better yet, Garfield’s Peter Parker and Stone’s Gwen Stacy are the type of recent high school grads we’d all like our kids to be: earnest, hopeful, sincere, kind, and self-sacrificial.

It may not be the most meaty treatment of the comic subject matter, but we already have Batman and Wolverine for dark heroes. There’s nothing wrong with lightening it up a bit, for the kiddos or for the sometimes overly-serious adults who accompany them.

 

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • MovieReview

    Some people have to see race in everything. “…Jamie
    Foxx as Electro. This villain embodies black rage, more Malcolm X than
    mutant”.

    Wow Rebecca you’re a clown. What if Foxx was replaced with a white actor would you say the same thing?

    • Bryce

      I thought the same thing. The insane reaching she is doing is just hilarious. Any way to make a political statement apparently people will push it now.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        It’s interesting to me you would interpret it as political. I don’t say it’s a positive or a negative. The reality is that I think it makes the villain more sympathetic and more well-rounded and that’s how I like my villains, rather than someone who’s just power crazy like Loki.

        In any case, I call em as I see em.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Selfie

  • hermit_boy

    In a world where peanut butter sandwiches are now racist, the whole race card thing is so overdone that it is just tired. Movies are there to entertain. If it does that, I may see it. If it tries to teach me about racism, equality, the horrors of war, or any other social problem or injustice, I will give it a pass. Hollywood, to say nothing about Jaime Foxx, should not be teaching morality in any shape, manner, or form.

  • Brett

    Given the promo photos of Foxx in a gangbangeresque hoodie like the one above, I don’t think you’re too far out of line to get that read on his character or to think it’s possible Webb/Kurtzmann/Orci/Pinker intended it.

    According to the recaps I read, since he’s a nerdy guy who thinks he’s been disrespected by Spider-Man, it’s also possible they meant to show how even a former nerdy outcast like Peter Parker can overlook someone once he gets an in on the cool side (by being Spider-Man).

    It’s sort of academic, I guess, since the Garfield reboots don’t interest me and I’m unlikely to see this one either. So you can dismiss my opinion as you see fit given that fact ;-)

    (I always thought the movie Loki wanted power to get the acceptance he felt he’d never had in Thor’s shadow and by being adopted.)


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