Your hands won’t be exactly sticky from sheer thrill, but Marc Webb’s Lloyd Dobler vs Horace Pinker bout may be good enough to spoil the Raimi’s Easter.
The aptly-titled Webb’s second “Spider-Man” film – and the second in a series of films that were rebooted way too quickly (but if Sony had let Spidey slumber they’d have lost the film rights) – is a lot more confident, entertaining and enjoyable a film than its 2011 predecessor. The action sequences are marvelous, the visual effects (especially the Spidey swinging scenes; amazing how far technology has come since Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy) are brilliant, and Brit Andrew Garfield is even better second-time around, giving a likeable, very droll and at times, somewhat dominant turn as Marvel’s lightest superhero.
While not quite of the caliber of “Spider-Man 2” (widely considered to be the high point of those three “Spider” films), let alone some of the other superhero films that have shocked critics into awe spasm (high-five “Captain America : The Winter Soldier”!), it’s definitely a sling in the right direction for Sony’s oft-questionable exercise in recycling.
There’s a lot going on this time around – but unlike the cluttered mess that was “Spider-Man 3”, or lest-we-forget moments in comic book movie lousiness like “Batman & Robin” and “Iron Man 2”, most of the film’s sub-plots, endings (yep, the thing drags on a while) and plethora of villains seem to fit into the large jigsaw comfortably enough.
As the film opens, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is battling a crook named Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) – when he should be sitting alongside sweetheart Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) at his High School graduation.
Spider-Man has clearly taken priority over the relationship – as well as anything else in Parker’s life – and it starts to take its toll on the teenager and those around him.
While trying to keep his relationship with Stacey in-tact, Parker’s forced with a couple of time-intensive tasks : save the city from a blue building-zapping mutant named Electro (Jamie Foxx), and resist the urge to help dying friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) – for fear the favour will not only reveal his secret to the world but put dangerous information into the hands of someone who might be able to sway from a straight path.
In addition to the already stout cast-of-characters, Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz appear in intel-filled flashbacks as Parker’s parents, Chris Cooper puts in a few minutes of screen time as Norman Osborn, Sally Field reprises Peter’s dependable Aunt May, Denis Leary cameos as Gwen’s late poppa, and British up-and-comer Felicity Jones puts in a teaser appearance (those who know the “Spider-Man” comics know that her character has an alter-ego, too) as Felicia Hardy.
The immense action sequences rule in the film – perfectly staged, spectacularly captured and bursting with energy, they easily steal attention.
The rest of it – all the Peter/Gwen relationship hurdles, the Peter/Harry relationship hurdles, the Peter/May relationship hurdles – are also entertaining but less because of the writing though and more because of the various thesps involved, like the always-likeable and plucky Emma Stone, impressive newcomer Dane DeHaan, and Garifeld, who has really made the role of Spider-Man his own.
But entertaining drama doesn’t mean affecting drama. There’s something very feigned about the films emotional, button-pushing beats – you don’t much care about the villain’s plight or make-up (despite the fact he’s just a quiet normal Joe who wants to be liked; the gentler moments between Peter and Aunt May (Sally Field) don’t play as effective or as touching as they should, and a surprise at the tail end of the film (though, let’s admit it, anyone with an internet connection probably predicted this one) doesn’t drop jaws like it’s obviously intended. Much like the ’90s Batman series, Webb’s “Spider-Man” films splice in quite a few dramatic moments but they’re moments that haven’t been as well-tuned as the film’s expensive action and effects sequences.
While the 2011 reboot was little more than a serviceable distraction, the sequel is a huge improvement – big, entertaining, and intriguing. Like Spidey’s suit at the end of a hard day’s work, the franchise needs a bit more work before the cynics are truly won over, but there’s enough in this to at least guarantee most will be back for a part three.