Opening Act

Director Marc Webb told us in an interview that the first shot of this film would be a ticking clock, foreshadowing the sequel’s overall theme of time (and not having enough). He wasn’t lying, but he neglected to mention that the clock is actually a watch belonging to Peter Parker’s father, Richard Parker (actor Campbell Scott, not the Bengal tiger).

Webb and screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinker waste no more time on “the untold story” of Peter Parker’s parents; we see in quick montage how Richard Parker experimented with “special spiders” at Oscorp, and witness the night when he decided to defect from the corrupt corporation before his research could be used for evil. We re-visit the scene of Richard and his wife Mary (Embeth Davidtz) leaving young Peter with Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) –  this time from Richard’s perspective.

Cut to Richard and Mary fleeing on a Learjet, accepting exile and a life on the run from Oscorp, only to be attacked by an assassin mid-flight. It’s a pretty brutal and touching sequence, as Richard and Mary work together to violently battle the assailant, ultimately giving their lives in order to transmit important data about Oscorp to a secure location. The sequence ends with the plane plummeting down in flames, filling up the screen as we cut to…

…Spider-Man’s insignia on a black screen, seamlessly transforming into that shot from the trailers of the blackness morphing into a rear shot of Spidey as he’s plummeting through the air. (NOTE: The wind-ripple effects on his costume, the web-slinging, and 1st person perspective shots are alone worth a 3D ticket price.)

The epic entrance swings right into an action sequence of Spider-Man and a fleet of NYC cop cars taking down Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) and his thugs, who are breaking into an Oscorp truck to steal a radioactive isotope. Frazzled Oscorp employee Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is nearly run down by Sytsevich, but is saved by Spidey, thereby setting up their relationship. Peter also mistakes a random cop for the dead Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary in a cameo), setting up that thread as well.

With some impressive acrobatics (and sick visual effects) Spider-Man stops the robbers and recovers the isotopes, allowing Peter Parker to arrive just in time to his high school graduation, as his name is called. This Peter is clearly more confident and cocky, both inside and outside of the mask – brazen enough to kiss valedictorian Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) right on stage in front of everybody.

Scene #1: Times Square Battle

Director Marc Webb revealed that this scene occurs after graduation, when Peter and Gwen have not seen each other for a year (they’ve tried to honor Gwen’s dad’s wishes, or something). After Gwen calls, Peter meets her in the city and though the pair discuss trying to be friends, the sparks are clearly still there (it gets real adorable). Suddenly, Gwen drops the bomb that she’s possibly moving to Europe. Peter is left speechless (for once), saved only by the fact that his Spidey-sense starts tingling.

Cut to Max Dillon, now Electro, stumbling down a street of cars, slowly learning his new powers as he absorbs electrical charge from headlights and such. When Electro gets to Times Square, all hell breaks loose with the police. But the cops are no match for Electro’s godlike energy powers; thankfully, Spider-Man is in the neighborhood.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 really begins to impress in this battle between Spidey and Electro. It’s just impressive stuff visually, conceptually, and Jamie Foxx knows how to portray a compelling villain. Electro’s sight allows him to see in “electric current vision,” and the filmmakers make smart (and pretty accurate) use of physics to show just how dangerous a guy made of electricity would be when it comes to conducting lethal amounts of electricity through rails, metal grates or… webs.

Juxtaposed to “Electro-vision” is Spider-Man’s new spider-sense, which is basically bullet-time. True to the comics, Peter’s big brain is forced to come up with some impossible tactics and feats on-the-fly to keep dozens of people from getting zapped – and though it can seem like a watching turn-based RGP battles at some points, it’s generally a very clever realization of Spider-Man’s powers.

The combination of Electro physics and Spidey’s senses and abilities makes the fight sequence something more compelling than normal choreography and loud explosions (although there ARE some pretty impressive explosions, as well). Ultimately, Spidey brings down Electro with help from the FDNY and a fire hose, and in the midst of the rubble that was Times Square, he and Gwen must face one another, and acknowledge the massive dilemma they’re facing.

Scene #2: Harry Osborn’s Plan

In the more revealing segment screened, we finally get a real look at the deeper character of Harry Osborn in this version of the Spider-Man movie universe. In the scene, Dane DeHaan’s face looks like he’s already been through a losing battle with Spider-Man as the Green Goblin; the scene opens with the erratic young man breaking into Electro’s stasis chamber within what is presumably The Ravencroft Institute (a super criminal jail).

In a telling exchange of dialogue, it’s shown that Max and Oscorp have beef over a power grid Max designed that he feels the company stole. Harry uses that leverage to recruit Electro as muscle to help him break into Oscorp. Out of context we don’t know why, but something Harry has done has gotten him banned from his father’s company – and he’s not taking that slight sitting down.

Even though Electro hates Harry, he agrees to help out of mutual desire to get revenge on both Oscorp and Spider-Man – and the pride he feels at being needed by Harry. As guards storm the room, Harry provides Electro with a zap from a taser to activate his powers. Electro disintegrates into the air and literally burns through all of the guards in the room, killing them instantly (you can see a smoking, gaping hole in one guy’s chest). Electro re-forms his body, Dr. Manhattan-style, and imprisons Ravencroft director Dr. Kafka (Marton Csokas) in a sadistic electric-shock contraption, before he and Harry set out to wreak havoc.

Cue the montage of teaser footage.

Conclusions

1. Harry Osborn is going to be the real evil mastermind of this film (sort of a Jekyll/Hyde character); Electro seems far more sympathetic by comparison. However, what is interesting is that this version of Harry doesn’t seem to be cowing to his father, Norman (Chris Cooper); if anything, he seems to be trying to usurp the throne. That’s a welcome deviation from the doting son version of Harry that James Franco played. (Having Goblin Jr. go crazy now also leaves the door open for a full-fledged Norman Osborn Goblin to come in Amazing Spider-Man 3).

2. This sequel wastes no time getting to the heart of the mystery behind Peter’s parents and Oscorp’s experiments.  Even with all the revelations about Harry and Electro, it seems we’re only getting part of the story the full film will offer. Sinister Six could be truly epic to behold.

3. The Peter/Gwen relationship doesn’t necessarily need to end with Gwen’s death like in the comics – her leaving Peter’s life would be just as devastating. Still… nothing gets them teary-eyed like a good death scene, and Emma Stone has the chops for it…

4. Visually, the film is on a level no other Spider-Man can claim. So far, this is as good as live-action Spider-Man gets. The 3D makes for a better Spidey experience, so consider investing in the upgraded ticket (or check the trailer below in 3D if you have a chance. Then decide for yourself).

FINAL TRAILER

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