All last week, reviews for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 have been trickling in at a steady pace. Just off the bat, the movie is notable as it kicks off the summer movie season, an event that has generally been held by a Marvel-themed character for the last few years. Despite that, most of the early reviews have been lukewarm at best, disastrous at worst. The tone of these reviews had gotten me a little nervous for the fate of the movie, which I took to heart as Spider-Man is pretty much my favorite super hero and I hold a lot of love for the first Amazing Spider-Man. Some reviewers were even going so far as to call it "the Batman & Robin of the Spider-Man movies". (Not to mention this review in particular from someone who seems to hate comic books, movies, and life in general. How does one get to be so miserable?)
After getting the chance to see ASM2, I must say that whomever compared this movie to Batman & Robin is clearly a moron. Or just unnecessarily hating on Amazing Spider-Man 2 for some reason. The only comparisons that can be made between the two films is the inclusion of three of the hero's Rogues Gallery; Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and Bane in the Batman case, Electro, Green Goblin, and the Rhino in Spidey's.
For starters, my favorite part about Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the character arcs that each of the villains went through. To a lesser extent with the Rhino, each of them has a satisfying introduction and an understandable breaking point. Both Electro and Green Goblin (who is never actually referred to by that name) have had everything taken away from them and both felt spurned by Spider-Man after reaching out to him for help. Clearly, Spider-Man draws both of their rage. It's a simplistic way to work them into the Spidey villain-hood but it was effective.
What's great about ASM2 is that it makes Peter Parker as important to the movie as Spider-Man. Equal time, if not more, is given to Peter's life: his relationship with Gwen Stacy, with Aunt May, and with his parents. Peter and Spider-Man are both still haunted by the ghost of Captain Stacy, who gave his life to help Spider-Man in the first film. Breaking his promise to Captain Stacy, Peter has continued to date Gwen and his guilt manifests itself in visions of Captain Stacy everywhere. I loved how director Marc Webb handled this aspect of their relationship as it was a visual reminder of why Peter is so indecisive about being with Gwen, which mirrored the Peter/Mary Jane relationship of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films. However, in Raimi's version, Peter just couldn't seem to make up his mind without the psychological reminders of why.
But my favorite part of the movie was Peter's parents. Hinted at in the first film, this one delves into the project that Richard Parker was working on when he was forced to leave Peter with his brother and disappear. Peter's interest in finding out what happened to his parents leads to an amazing (no pun intended [OK, well, maybe a little]) scene with Aunt May, pouring out her heart to Peter and venting her anger at Richard for what he did to his son. It's a really touching scene, one that elevates Aunt May from "doting aunt with a heart problem" to "loving guardian, care-giver, and surrogate mother". One aspect of the Peter Parker character is his devotion to Aunt May (even going so far as to make a deal with the devil to save her life in the comic storyline "One More Day"), and this scene perfectly illustrates the believability of that relationship.
Though The Amazing Spider-Man 2 worked pretty much by the numbers, it was an excessively fun ride. The CGI was on-point and the 3D was very impressive. The story took a few turns that I wasn't expecting and the film offered quite a few guest stars that any fan of the comic would appreciate. It was apparent that Sony was setting up their spin-off films to rival the continuity Marvel established in their films but most of them felt natural enough. There was a bit of shoehorning and I lost count of how many times they said the word "venom" but I'm willing to overlook that. At the end of it, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a well-crafted film with great emotional impact and offers 130 minutes of fun, which is more than I can ask for.