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Movie Reviews

Marvel Caomics’ wall-crawling teen hero has to fight for his own spotlight

Marvel Caomics’ wall-crawling teen hero has to fight for his own spotlight

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Neil Pond
American Profile
May 14, 2014
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The other night on TV, a show featured an urban-legend-ish conversation about someone who’d been bitten by a spider and then discovered little spiders crawling out of the bump on his neck.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that as I watched this, the latest in the ongoing Hollywood franchise about a nerdy teenager, Peter Parker, turned into a wisecracking, crime-fighting superhero by the bite of a radioactive arachnid. Not only is the Spider-Man empire, with its deep comic-book roots that go back to 1962, built on the bite of a spider, but this now marks the fifth big-screen treatment of the tale, and the second notch of the new cinematic arc following the original “Spider-Man” cinema trilogy, starring Tobey Maguire, that ended in 2007.

Those little spiders--they just keep coming. The problem is, now they’re in danger of getting lost in their own enormous web: massive productions with king-size star sizzle, mega special effects and north-of-$200-million budgets. This time around, the iconic wall-crawler (Andrew Garfield, reprising his role from 2012) has to deal with multiple villains, Peter Parker’s “complicated” relationship with girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, also returning), and troubling questions about his deceased parents.

Director Marc Webb, who also directed 2012’s “Amazing Spider-Man,” throws a lot into the movie’s sprawling two hours and 20-plus minutes--eye-popping action, tender moments, romance, humor, and musings on life, death, love, longing, friendship, loss, hope and the importance of fighting “for what matters to you.”

It’s jam-packed, stuffed with too much of everything, especially bad guys--do we really need three of them? Jamie Foxx plays an electrical engineer with serious self-esteem issues who gets turned, via a freak high-voltage mishap, into the rampaging super-villain Electro. Dane DeHaan is Harry Osborne, Parker’s rich, preppy high-school friend with a mutant family gene that morphs him into the monstrous Green Goblin. And Paul Giamatti, who opens the movie as a Russian prison escapee, later appears transformed into yet another one of Spidey’s archenemies from the good ol’ Marvel Comic book days.

Garfield, 30, and Stone, 25, seem a tad old to be playing recently graduated high school seniors. But the two of them have great natural chemistry (they’re a real-life couple, too). And their scenes together, especially when Garfield is out of the Spidey spandex and playing plain ol’ Peter, provide the movie’s strongest human heartbeat. Webb, whose directing resumè also includes the indie charmer “500 Days of Summer,” gives Pete ’n’ Gwen just as much of the story as Spider-Man, a wise move for making this movie resonate even more as a date flick.

Like most comic-based characters, superheroes never seem to age; Peter Parker/Spider-Man will always be eternally young. At least it’s that way in the movies, where time can be suspended, reset and rewound, and “old” actors, like Maguire, can be replaced by newer ones, like Garfield--who’s already signed on to star in the first of the two additional “Amazing Spider-Man 2” follow-ups.

Yes, those little spiders--they do just keep coming. Perhaps next time, the itsy bitsy spider won’t have such a hard time fighting for his own spotlight.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone & Jamie Foxx. Directed by Marc Webb.PG-13, 142 min.

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