By Bill Arceneaux
Somewhere towards the end of The Amazing Spiderman 2 – the latest sequel to be birthed from the Hollywood assembly line – I noticed an odd occurrence.
Many audience members were tearing up.
I call it odd because, well, I don’t see it often anymore. People openly crying during a movie is a welcome experience, especially during a presentation as potentially cynical as a superhero film. For some critics, it could be an indictment of the average moviegoer’s emotional threshold, showing how easily manipulated they are.
For this critic, it’s a testament to this web slinging sequel’s quality.
Throughout the late night screening, I kept having flashbacks (and a few nightmares) of Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies. There was a childish goofiness and almost too campy campiness swinging around the screen. Of course, the original Sam Raimi Spiderman had its moments, too – just look at Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin costume, with it’s permanent facial expression and all. In fact, I would say that all of the ridiculous comic bookness comes solely from the villains. Jaime Foxx and Paul Giamatti ham it up and play around with their respectful performances, totally committed but never going off the deep end. In fact, the overall silly factor of the film never goes off the deep end. It would appear that Director Marc Webb (and the rest of the production team) has found that happy formula for an enjoyable flick all can love.
It might be controversial to claim, but The Amazing Spiderman 2 might be the best adaptation of the comic book hero thus far. While my love for the other Spiderman 2 will never die, that movie accomplished something shades different: exposing the true inner dilemma every super hero must face. This new sequel is accomplished in both its style and atmosphere. Having a story filled with so many villains and multiple conflicts could lead to a cluster bomb of a product (like Spiderman 3), but, in this case, it worked to its advantage. The main word to describe Peter Parker’s life at this point is complicated, as it should be for a pre-college teen. We feel the weight of all these problems, and understand the struggle in juggling all of it.
Added to the style and atmosphere is a romantic innocence that I haven’t seen since Roger Corman’s infamous and unreleased Fantastic Four project. The main theme in the score is incredibly upbeat and gung-ho, making you want to root for Spidey. Our hero throws out joke after joke, taking every dangerous situation in stride. And his relationships are incredibly sweet. While we only get some fleeting scenes between him (Andrew Garfield) and Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan), the actors make the friendship palpable, almost like a wonderful brotherhood. With Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), there is an infectious chemistry, one that is highly relatable and even magical. You can almost see a visible giant heart circling over them, and get a heartwarming chest thump from their facebook couple selfies. Such sweetness and spirit has largely been abandoned in the post Dark Knight era. Grittiness isn’t always needed…
I can’t accurately recall the last time I witnessed public tears in a movie theater, though maybe it was during 12 Years a Slave. A movie doesn’t have to be in a specific genre for it to effectively make you cry, but it does need to be engaging. While the plight in Spiderman 2 was far more challenging to the superhero tale in general, The Amazing Spiderman 2 has a more, dare I say, universal struggle, compelling us to care about the person behind the mask, and the people in his life.
Did I cry a little? No, but I did have some “unexpected allergies.”