I wrote this review for the Chicago Tribune teen newspaper, The Mash. For obvious reasons, some cuts and edits were made, but I am so in love with this movie and so enjoyed writing this review that I thought I’d share the #UNCUT version (despite the fact that no one reads my blog except my dad, hey dad). I also added some last minute things as I’ve now had some time to let the film marinate in my mind. I am in a Spider-Man induced coma. Enjoy!
I remember the first time I was truly terrified. I was six years old, covering my eyes with my hands as Norman Osborn transformed into the Green Goblin in the 2002 version of Spider-Man.
I’ve been obsessed with Spider-Man ever since. From seeing The Amazing Spider-Man eight times in the theater (and countless times on DVD), to reading the comics, to working a booth at Chicago’s Wizard Con in order to breathe the same air as Stan Lee, I’m a devout lover of the web-slinging super hero.
Obviously, this makes me slightly biased. But, with great adoration comes great judgment: while I am honestly delighted by anything that involves Spidey, I’m also hugely critical. When I found out they were rebooting the Spider-Man film franchise, I had my reservations. Were new films necessary? And could they even slightly hold a candle to the movies I so admired growing up?
As I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2, twelve years after I was first bitten by Spider-Man, I felt oddly thrilled as the infamous Green Goblin Glider glowed to life.
With Andrew Garfield in the role of Peter Parker, it is obvious that this beloved franchise is in safe hands. Garfield plays Spider-Man with the gawky persona and scientific dexterity that made Spidey such an iconic hero in the comics. More specifically, Garfield plays Parker as a true-to-form teenager — he often faces self-doubt, and with a lack of true parentage, he struggles to understand who he is, and who he should be. Although Garfield was a little bit slicker in his second go-around as Parker, his physicality, even in the emotional scenes, is moving. Likewise, his ability to carry such affected passion in his eyes and face is stunning.
The chemistry between Garfield and Emma Stone (who plays Gwen Stacy, a young scientist/Peter’s main love interest) is intense and beautiful. Although their real-life romance threatens to remove the audience from the mysticism of the film, it really does the exact opposite. The playfulness (and, at times, heartbreak) between the two adds an emotional layer to Parker’s role as a hero. When Spider-Man gets in trouble, we are not thinking solely of Peter Parker — we also begin to worry about Gwen Stacy’s safety, about how Parker’s actions will affect her. There is a scene in which Parker crosses a street filled with traffic, his eyes watching her devotedly. I choked.
Stone gives Stacy a strong, feminist edge. While she is still being “protected” by the hero, she asserts dominance in the relationship. When Parker, teary-eyed, admits he struggles to be with her when he knows it puts her in danger, Stacy flips the switch: she breaks up with him. She continually suggests that her and Parker are “on different paths”; she insists on making her own decisions, rather than being dictated by the men in her life. This is refreshing.
At its core, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a film that touches on the rawest of human fears: being discarded, being lied to, being hurt, losing someone. Jamie Foxx as Electro/Max Dillon displays this in the more concrete way. Deeply obsessed with Spider-Man, his life is painfully lonely. The film is designed so we feel sad for him — even when he is transformed into the film’s main antagonist, we understand his desire for power, and his misdirected resentment towards Spider-Man.
Feeling the same sympathy for Harry Osborn is trickier, but once it hits, it is an unbearable emotional tidal wave. Unlike the earlier Spider-Man films, Harry and his father, Norman Osborn, have a more damaged relationship, as Harry was shipped off to boarding school, causing him to feel unloved. Even on his deathbed, Norman belittles Harry, and it is learned that the disease Norman is dying from is genetic. Soon after, Harry is close to his own death, and is desperate for some of Spider-Man’s blood, certain that it will save his life. Greedy, narcissistic and incredibly immature, Harry Osborn is generally unlikable.
But there is a scene between the young Osborn and Electro that changes everything. As he pleads with Electro to join forces with him to defeat Spider-Man, Osborn screams, “I was thrown away, too.” It is painful and affected and so sad. Osborn wants to forge a new path from his father — he does not want to live the same life, or die the same death, as the man who hurt him so deeply. Also, his individual transformation into the Green Goblin is just as gruesome and horrifying as the 2002 film — but the backstory is so different that it holds a much different weight. Plus, the Green Goblin is one of the best villains in the Marvel Universe, and the stunning Dane DeHaan’s portrayal is nothing short of brilliant.
Father-son relationships are important to “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. Just in the same way that the Osborn men affect one another, Peter Parker’s continued search to understand why his father abandoned him comes to a heartbreaking climax. This provides for two of the film’s most beautiful scenes: first, when Aunt May, played by Sally Field, cathartically tells Parker that he is “[her] boy,” a moment that gives the chemistry between Stone and Garfield a run for its money; secondly, when Parker discovers a video of his father explaining why he had to disappear, their faces separated only by the computer screen, Garfield’s cheeks soaked with tears.
A special effects triumph with an unhealthy amount of heart-pounding action sequences, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not an action movie with emotions woven in, but a true coming-of-age story that happens to have some awesome fight scenes. Without a doubt, TASM2 is the blockbuster of the summer, and is a true testament to all things Spidey.