There's a lot to be said about the second in the rebooted Spider-Man series but going into some of the plots specifics would give a lot away, so I'll break it down as simply as possible without spoilers:
As Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) graduate from high school and prepare for college, their relationship is strained to the breaking point by Peter's extracurricular activities as Spider-Man and his guilt over remembering his promise to stay away from Gwen, a promise he made to her dead father (Dennis Leary). While Peter also wrestles with unraveling the mystery of what really happened to his parents, his uber-wealthy childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns after over a decade at fancy finishing schools in Europe to find he is now the heir to both Oscorp — his father's bio-engineering and weapons-development corporation — and an hereditary condition that sees its sufferers slowly turn scaly and green before death ultimately claims them, so Harry is ruthlessly desperate to find a cure at any cost. Meanwhile, Max Dillon (Jamie Fox), a highly-unstable genius Oscorp employee and victim of too many abuses in life, becomes delusionally obsessed with Spider-Man and gains godlike electrical powers as the result of a lab accident. In short, there's a lot going on in ol' Web-Head's world, and life-changing tragedy looms large for all involved...
All of those threads interweave in ways that made the superpowered soap opera of Peter Parker compelling for over five decades and the film is a very good sequel to the previous installment. That said, the film is not without its relatively-minor issues, though those are offset by a fair number of quality points, so here's how it all breaks down:
- At two hours and twenty-two minutes in length, the movie is overlong by at least a half hour and a tighter edit probably would have been the way to go. However, if the film were shorter it would have lost a lot of its emotional gravitas and from what I hear the finished result is the end sum of some serious trimming already, so any way one cuts it it would have been a tough creative call. What you, the viewer, need to know is that the running time is palpable — though the film is never boring — and the little ones may get restless. And in the name of all that is holy, don't forget to have a pee-break before the film starts. You'll be glad you did!
- Andrew Garfield is superb as Peter Parker and Spider-Man and, much like Christopher Reeve achieved with his portrayals of Superman and Clark Kent, he pulls off making apparent that Peter truly comes alive when masked and in costume. Peter and Spider-Man have very distinct and separate personalities and Garfield flawlessly nails both.
- Though he often looks like a CGI videogame character, Spider-Man's physical capabilities have never looked better. There's a real joy to his plummeting from the tops of skyscrapers like a HALO jumper, only to check his fall by shooting a web line onto another building and flying back up with the aid of is elastic tension. Any time we get to see Spider-Man in action is sheer fun and worth the price of admission.
- The film's 3D is only truly spectacular during the first action sequence involving Spider-Man. After that, it's revealed to be wholly unnecessary, so save yourself from being ripped off and opt for the 2D version.
- From Gwen's valedictorian speech onward, the film possesses an ominous tone and has a slow build to a number of tragedies that come off like what might happen if Shakespeare had a hand in writing a comic book superhero narrative.
- The film features a modernized version of the infamous events of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #s 121-122 (June-July, 1973). Fans of classic comics know exactly what that means, so hit them if they try to fill you in on it.
- I didn't buy Peter's hangdog angst over Harry's situation for the simple reason that while they were tight during childhood, they hadn't had any contact in around a decade.
- Is it just me or was there a concerted effort to make Harry Osborn look not unlike David Bowie circa THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH?
- Electro is very impressive to watch in action and at times he steals from Dr. Manhattan's playbook.
- The soundtrack is awful.
- Spider-Man whistles his own 1960's cartoon theme song and also has it as his cell phone's ring tone. It was a painful groaner, to say the least, and it wasn't amusing at all.
- Sally Field is once again amazing.
So, the bottom line here is that THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is well worth your time, but bear in mind that it's a long haul that ends on a note of "To Be Continued."