Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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Title: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Does Black Widow Make An Appearance? Larf. As has been extensively documented, Sony Pictures holds the movie rights to Spider-Man. For that reason, this may be the only movie Scarlett Johansson doesn't appear in this summer.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three shrieking eels out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Recent high school grad contends with dismal job market by performing bizarre arachnid-based performance art.

Tagline: "His greatest battle begins."

Better Tagline: "With great power comes more of the same."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: ASM2 is Sony's fifth Spider-Man movie in 12 years, and Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is just now graduating high school. He hasn't kept the promise he made to Capt. Stacy (RIP) to stay the hell away from Gwen (Emma Stone), but guilt and hallucinations compel him to get her to break up with him so he can fight crime with a clean conscience. His plans are complicated by the reappearance of childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), back in NYC to take over Oscorp following the death of his dad. There's also a new weird villain named Electro (Jamie Foxx) who has an unhealthy fixation on the wall crawler.

"Critical" Analysis: It's interesting -- if you care about that sort of thing -- to go back and look at the effects in Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man and compare them side by side to what Marc Webb had at his disposal for the latest film. Say what you want about the idiocy of Sony's apparent plan to reboot the series every decade, Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks pretty awesome.

And add Stone and Garfield to the "what works" column. Gwen is a very well fleshed out, interesting character that might as well have "dead meat" tattooed on her forehead. Meanwhile Garfield gets a lot right about the character of Peter Parker -- the wisecracks, the gadgetry -- and even adds a few elements. Here, Spider-Man proves he's a better detective than Batman. In the movies, anyway.But Sony is either going to have to age Spidey up in subsequent movies or switch to soft focus bulbs (Garfield will be 32 when ASM3 is released).

Webb and his triumvirate of writers (Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner) also throw out plenty of Easter eggs to keep the hardcore fans occupied. "The Gentleman" is back, there are references to the Sinister Six, Alistair Smythe makes an appearance (though the idea of the Ultimate Spider-Slayer eventually showing up is ... troublesome, because he sucks), and Harry Osborn's assistant is named "Felicia," which -- according to the internet -- means Black Cat will totally be in ASM3.

I'm more hesitant about the decision to continue the abortive storyline from The Amazing Spider-Man. Filling in those blanks clears up much of what muddled the first movie, but leads to a larger issue. Namely, making Peter's dad Robert (Campbell Scott, via flashback and video) the focus of Peter's anguish instead of Uncle Ben. I mean, I guess you're allowed to be upset because your parents, by all appearances, abandoned you to your aunt and uncle, but the driving force behind Peter assuming the mantel of great responsibility to go along with his great power is supposed to be a result of his (indirectly) causing his uncle's death.

And even allowing for comic book ... allowances, there's plenty of dumb to go around. For example, I enjoyed learning how easy it was circa 2002 to upload files from a crashing plane (those Gulfstreams apparently have some robust network architecture). Also, I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to drive plutonium through downtown Manhattan, though I was unable to confirm this, and now I'm on a NHS watchlist for my Google searches. Send Avi Arad the bill for any resulting court costs.

And there's Electro. As origin stories go, I suppose there are more ridiculous ways to acquire your super powerst han immersion in a tank full of electric eels, but I can't recall any off the top of my head.

Oh right, getting bitten by a radioactive spider.

Electro is like the Rupert Pupkin of supervillains. As mild mannered engineer Max Dillon, he just wanted to be acknowledged. As Electro, he finally found a way to make that happen. What using him as your main villain really (I'm selectively ignoring Paul Giamatti's 'Boris Badenov'-ing his way through a cameo as the Rhino) and bringing Green Goblin back (again) really demonstrates is the shallow pool of Spidey's rogues gallery. Don't worry, I'm sure Doctor Octopus and Sandman will return in the next movie.

That reminds me (and speaking of side-by-side analyses), here's DeHaan's Green Goblin alongside Evil Ed from 1985's Fright Night:

Amazing Spider-Man 2 is in theaters today. Strap in kids, summer's here.

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