Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx
Director: Marc Webb
Screenplay: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, James Vanderbilt
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 142 minutes
Release Date: May 2, 2014
Spider-Man/Peter: Single, P-P, Pro (Untransformed Episodic Hero)
Electro/Max: Single, P-N Moral, Ant (Fallen Lone Villain)
Green Goblin/Harry: Single, P-N Moral, Ant (Fallen Lone Villain)
Greg, it looks like Marvel Comics has just spun another web of super-heroism and super-villainy.
We begin with a flashback to when scientist Richard Parker (Campbell Scott) was murdered but not before he was able to download a complex message for safekeeping. In the present, his son Peter (Andrew Garfield) is crime-fighting superhero Spider-Man, who saves the life of OsCorp employee Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx). Meanwhile, OsCorp CEO Norman Osborne (Chris Cooper) is dying from a heritable illness and gives his son Harry (Dane DeHaan) key information that may prevent Harry from also perishing.
Max is obsessed with Spider-Man. At work he is tasked with fixing an electrical connection and accidentally falls into a vat of genetically altered electric eels. He is transformed into the super villain Electro. Meanwhile, when Norman Osborne dies, Peter visits old pal Harry and they rekindle their friendship. However, Peter’s relationship with the beautiful Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is on the rocks as Peter cannot reconcile a promise he made to her father on his death bed – a promise to keep Gwen safe by not seeing her.
Greg, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an ambitious work of art, a three-pronged story of heroism endowed with two heavy-weight villains. I say “three-pronged” because our hero has three missions in this film – to restore his father’s good name, to resolve his conflict with his girlfriend Gwen, and to defeat the supervillain Electro. These goals are intertwined and some might say that they somewhat over-complicate the movie. In any good superhero film, vanquishing the villain is the primary mission and this film is no exception, even with the two other main storylines taking place.
In most superhero stories, the superhero rarely shows much character transformation, remaining as solidly virtuous as a character can get from start to finish. One could argue that this shortcoming, if you could call it that, occurs in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, although we do witness Peter Parker learn a lesson or two about the perils of falling in love, possibly with the wrong woman.
You have really isolated the strength of this film. It includes the origin story of two villains in the Spider-Man universe as well as the love story between Peter and Gwen. But, as if that weren’t enough, it also includes a classic Brother Story. Peter and Harry are old friends separated by time, money, and a dark past (Richard Parker’s disappearance). So I see your three-pronged story and raise it one: battle-of-the-brothers.
This is an interesting pattern we see both in mythology and in popular fiction. We meet Peter and Harry who are friends at the beginning of the film. They reconnect after years of separation. Harry has a problem that he believes only Peter can solve. But Peter is unable (possibly unwilling) to help. This prompts Harry to take extreme risks that cause him to evolve into the Green Goblin – Spider-Man’s arch enemy. We also see this in the Superman/Lex Luthor origin story. It also plays out in the X-Men universe where we see Professor Xavier and Magneto start out as comrades only to end up on the opposite end of a conflict. It’s a great story dynamic that goes as far back as Cain and Abel.
Very cool observations, Greg. The two villain stories in this movie are as detailed and well developed as you will ever see on the big screen. We are privy to two classic personality defects that typically give rise to villainy, and those defects are selfishness and an inability to see the larger picture. The trait of selfishness is seen in Harry’s overwhelming preoccupation with saving his own skin at whatever the cost, without concern for others or for the risks involved. Max Dillon as Electro has the similar problem of being driven only by his own desperate need for love and approval, and when this need isn’t met he selfishly resorts to violence toward others.
The two villain stories also demonstrate the fine line that exists between heroism and villainy. Both Max Dillon and Harry Osborne first show promise and more than a hint of goodness in their characters. Their bond with Peter Parker suggests not just an awareness of right from wrong but a respect for it as well. Both Dillon and Parker suffer setbacks, as all heroes and villains do on their journeys. What tilts them toward evil is their choice to avoid taking responsibility for their problems and instead finding convenient targets for their anger. Peter Parker is the person closest to them, so he is the convenient target, a scenario that is not unlike the real world where people often hurt those whom they love the most.
As a hero, Peter Parker as Spider-Man starts out pretty strong. The opening scenes of the movie show a Spider-Man in control of his world and a Peter Parker who’s graduating from high school. He’s in love with his girlfriend Gwen and the world is at his feet. But it’s not long before he is faced with a conflict – that of finding out what happened to his father and mother who left him at the age of six with Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Peter is tormented by this puzzle from his past and it causes him to go places he’s never gone before. This, I think, is Peter’s missing inner quality and he resolves it by the movie’s ending.
Yes, exactly right, you’ve identified the main factor that separates heroes from villains. Heroes have the ability to see beyond their suffering, to find a larger purpose for it that transcends themselves. In contrast, villains are consumed by their suffering, cannot see beyond it, and project their anguish onto others in the form of evil. Hero transcendence is seen in the Batman franchise, where Bruce Wayne channels his pain and anger toward eliminating evil. Peter Parker’s losses also fuel his drive to conquer evil, and we see how difficult a task this is when Parker buries himself in his misery toward the end of this movie. However, as heroes must do, Parker summons the strength and moral courage to overcome his anguish to fight evil once again.
Scott, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a great kick-off to the summer blockbusters. It has everything you could want in a popcorn movie. It has great heroes, great villains, romance, and some wonderful supporting characters (who doesn’t love Sally Field as Aunt May). I give it 5 out of 5 Reels.
Peter Parker and Spider-Man have unfinished business in this film both in terms of the sins of his father and the promise he made to Gwen’s father to keep her safe. This creates a tension in the character that is played to the hilt and finally resolved for us in the end – albeit tragically. The “sins of the father” pattern is also a common theme in hero/villain stories. I give Peter and Spidey 5 Heroes out of 5.
Our duo villains underwent a complete transformation. We saw the full backstory for Electro which is so rare in any movie. We also were given the origin story for Spider-Man’s arch enemy The Green Goblin. Both had reason to feel anger toward Spider-Man and that anger turns them toward evil instead of good. However, I’m still reluctant to give them full scores. Electro was still a cartoonish villain – even though we got his full Villain’s Journey. Harry’s journey was incomplete in my mind. I’d like to see Harry invested in something more than just getting even with Spider-Man. I’m giving them just 4 out of 5 Villains.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t an amazing movie but it is ambitious, stylish, and densely populated with memorable characters. There’s a lot going on in this movie, perhaps too much, but none of it lacks fascination and appeal. This film features a great hero, a strong and anguished love story, and a pair of richly detailed villain stories. I enjoyed this movie very much and award it 4 Reels out of 5.
Peter Parker’s heroic journey lacks a notable transformative component but the character still packs a substantial punch with the challenges he faces and the ways in which he handles those challenges. The connection between our hero and the villains he encounters is shown in vivid and effective detail. I give Parker 4 Heroes out of 5.
This movie’s villain pairing is revealed to us in full form and in fascinating detail. We are witness to the genesis of evil, at least in the Marvel universe, and what we see is consistent with current psychological research on the origins of crime and aggression. Villains either fail to transform, or as you note, Greg, they undergo a perverse transformation toward heightened self-aggrandizement and narcissistic empire-building. For an up-close look at the birth and development of villainy, I award this movie 5 Villains out of 5.