The comic-book Spider-Man of the 1960s and ’70s had a distinct thing that happened when he suited up: He shifted from suburban to urban. Spidey was a master trash-talker.
He definitely got a little inner-city. And more muscled-up. Everyone knew Spidey wasn’t the Hulk, but he did have impressive delts, traps, and quads. He was not your average teenage dude by any means; he was a superhero.
This new whippersnapper Andrew Garfield has the Peter Parker hair—a massive bouffant of it. It’s good, this hair. But we’ll discuss the proper Spidey makeover later.
The prevailing question is, should you see “The Amazing Spider-Man 2?” Yes, if you’re 14.
So there goes The Amazing Spider-Man, web-slinging around Manhattan, and he runs into his self-avowed “No. 1 fan.”
Meet Max (Jamie Foxx). Max is techie-geek-nerd for the Oscorp Company, which, unbeknown to Max, begets all of Spider-Man’s many nemeses. He’s an electronics whiz.
Later, back on the job, Max falls in a tank of bad CGI demonic electric eels. Who is he now? Electro. All blue-faced and electricity-sucking and sparkly and bass-voiced.
He also has anger-management issues. He starts frying everything in sight. He claims he’ll suck the whole city’s power so people can see what it’s like to be in his nobody world—a world of bad comb-overs and no ability to charm the ladies. In other words, no power. It’s a little bit sad. But it’s also not sad. It’s a cartoon.
The other main Spidey villain is Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), an old school-buddy with a toxic smirk and a toxic disease brought on by dad’s (Chris Cooper) meddling with science. Harry’s convinced that the cure for his disease is Spider-Man’s spider-blood.
So, so far we’ve got Harry’s Spidey bloodlust, Electro’s need for recognition, and then there’s Paul Giamatti’s mechanized “Rhino” villain. Add to that the fact that Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), is graduating high school and going off to England to study. Throw in lots of web-slinging, explosions, and Osborn’s bloodshot eyes glaring at everything, and you pretty much have the synopsis.
Now, the love story between Peter and Gwen is lovely. Put Stone in any scene, any time, any place, and its value will go up. Their young love is quite moving, actually.
Also surprisingly moving are the scenes with Peter’s Aunt May (Sally Field). One is mildly shocked to find oneself experiencing real feelings in an actual drama, despite being in the middle of a cartoon.
The exciting thing about Spider-Man has always been that it’s a coming-of-age tale. He’s a man in the suit, but a boy in high school. They get this partially right. They also get the do-gooder, role-model, glorified-camp-counselor aspect right.
What they get most right is one scene, where an out-of-costume Peter Parker uses his supernormal abilities to mess with some bad guys. With the suit off, the abilities are far more fun. More of this sort of thing in the next Spidey film, please.
But they need to put another guy in the suit. The reviewer feels the need to see Spidey morph from cheetah to panther. This is his aesthetic. You may not share it.
But as a former trainer, the reviewer feels that the Spidey producers should consult a fitness coach about specificity. The spider-bod should be rockclimber-ish. All that pulling and hauling and grabbing that Spidey does should result in some truly epic lats (latissimus dorsi).
Spider-Man should also have Popeye forearms, with all the grip-strength requirements in his line of work. Build a better body for Spidey.
Garfield’s is a quippy spider-chucklehead—more of a Bugs, Daffy, and Roadrunner trickster than the darker, Batman-like, menace-to-gangsters quality he ought to at least carry a modicum of.
Let Garfield do Peter Parker, but put a sinewy bodybuilder like 1970s Frank Zane, or a UFC fighter like Frank Shamrock, in the Spidey suit.
And put Samuel L. Jackson in the voice-over booth for the trash-talk dubs, and use Jim Brown for any vocals that need special vehemence. Now that would be an amazing Spider-Man.
‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’
Director: Mark Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Sally Field
Run Time: 2 hours, 22 minutes
Release Date: May 2
3 stars out of 5