*WARNING– VERY MINOR PLOT SPOILERS TO FOLLOW*
To be 100% honest, I was skeptical going into this film. Early reviews for the film were coming back as simply average, and coming off the heels of the mega hit Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that was to be expected.
In addition to that, back in 2012, the original entry had big shoes to fill from the previous success of Spider-Man flicks. Unfortunately we were largely left with an origin story that had already been told with only a few interesting plot points that were different than what we had seen before.
Those plot points were who are Peter’s parents, and why did they leave in such a rush? How is Peter connected to Oscorp? And finally, will Peter be able to keep his promise to Captain Stacy?
All of those questions are answered in the latest installment, the former of the two being answered rather quickly. We learn who Peter’s Parents are, and why they were in such a hurry right off the bat. We also find out that Peter is connected to Oscorp in many ways, one being childhood best friend, Harry Osborne the heir to mega corporation.
To begin, we find our hero in a rather interesting place, loving his role as Spider-Man, but struggling as Peter Parker. It’s almost immediately apparent that Peter has grown into his role as Spider-Man and is becoming a sensation with the citizens of New York, save for J. Jonah Jameson (who we only get to interact with via email, unfortunately). All the while, Peter is clearly haunted by his promise to Captain Stacy, and it is making his relationship with Gwen rather turbulent.
As to be expected, the excellent on-screen chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield returns to an almost immersive degree. The two are absolutely stellar together and the way they portray their affection makes the audience feel like they’re just as much a part of the relationship as Gwen or Pete. This is still just as welcome as it was in the first installment, as not only was Gwen under-utilized in the Raimi trilogy, but Tobey Maguire’s Peter and Kirsten Dunst as love interest Mary Jane were as stiff as card board, and just about as interesting.
We also see a disillusion Max Dillon transform from an average joe, and rather obsessive Spider-Man fan, to Electro, a now menacing outcast due to accident and misunderstanding.
To be perfectly honest, Jamie Foxx’s talents weren’t 100% percent utilized in the role, and the film could have went on without him. None the less, we’re presented with a conflicted, albeit a bit rushed, antagonist who hadn’t been recreated on film yet. Foxx handles the role relatively well, and while many critics have complained a bout the few cringe-worthy one-liners he spouts off, it truly does fit the character.
In addition, we also get introduced to Harry Osborn, who quickly reunites with old friend Peter Parker after returning to New York to replace his ailing father as head of Oscorp. Harry’s motivation for hunting down Spider-Man becomes apparent, and conveniently intertwines with Electro’s interests. This leads to some incredibly awesome scenes of the two pairing together to obtain what they want.
Dane DeHaan is absolutely incredible in his role, presenting us with a much darker and brooding Harry than the one we had seen with James Franco previously. DeHaan shows shades of Leonardo DiCaprio in his role and owns the character in a way that had yet to be seen in any Spider-Man medium to date. All the while, Harry’s transition into the Goblin did seem a bit forced, and is only present as so for a short amount of time. However, his role as antagonist is crucial to both the film and the series as a whole.
Unfortunately, we really don’t see to much of the Rhino in the film. The character serves as a soft introduction for future installments and could have been replaced with anyone really. Paul Giamatti pretty cringe-worthy in the role to be honest, serving as nothing more than a caricature of a great villain. So far it seems that Aleksei Sytsevich, the man in the Rhino suit, is little else than a bad Russian stereotype and doesn’t feature any of the better qualities the character exudes in the comics or even the man animated series’. Here’s to hoping that gets rectified in future installments.
As far as large positives go, the film as a whole does a great job of instilling hope, taking it away, and then restoring it. For me there were a ton of high notes in the story, including an awesome chase/fight scene between Spidey and Electro that’s reminiscent of a video game boss battle.There’s also one moment in particular that fans of the lore may be expecting, and having that in the back of your mind makes this film heartbreaking at times, maybe even more so than not anticipating it at all.
On the down side, the symbolism is heavy throughout the film, and quite frankly it wore on me the entire two and a half hours of the film until it’s all brought full circle at the end. On top of that, there was a particular scene where some licensed music felt a bit forced and out of place, but to its credit, the lyrics of the song resonate with the plot of the film in a way that is almost eerie. The only other real negative that stood out to me is the mishandling of Aunt May. You almost get the feeling that there were more scenes with her that were left on the cutting room floor, leaving you scratching your head as to why she gets screen time on her own during the climax of the film while so many more important things are going on.
Overall, the emotional roller coaster that is this film is a fun ride, but may not be one that sticks with viewers who aren’t fans of the series. For those that are though, you’re in for a hell of a romp. While I don’t consider myself an outwardly emotional person, I was brought close to tears on more than one occasion. By the conclusion of the film the franchise is thrusted in a new direction with plenty of interesting places it could go from here.
Long story short, here’s the rundown:
+ Stone and Garfield’s onscreen chemistry is electrifying.
+ Spidey and Electro’s video game-esque battle.
+Dane freakin’ DeHaan, man.
+Eventually everything comes full circle, leaving the franchise in a new, interesting place.
– The Rhino
– Aunt May’s solo scenes
– Symbolism is heavy-handed at times.
– No J. Jonah (C’mon!)
OVERALL SCORE: 9.0 – While there are a fair share of negatives, the positives of the film make them easy to forget. This is honestly the Spider-Man film fans have been pining for for decades.