Warning: There are some spoilers in this, so proceed at your own risk!
Having grown up with the animated Spider-Man series in the 1990s, Sam Raimi’s trilogy a decade later was my first film introduction to everyone’s friendly neighborhood web crawler. But while I remembered most of the different characters, not much else stuck with me. In fact, I always had this vague memory of not really liking the movies (sacrilegious to some I know!).
Luckily, FX has been showing most of the movies of a loop for the past few weekends so I’ve been able to brush up. Watching the original Tobey Maguire-James Franco-Kirsten Dunst films again helped me realize what it was I didn’t like about them – the casting. While some people swear by Maguire as Spidey, he just never struck me as the superhero type; Franco was alright as Harry Osborn, but over-acted a little bit; and Dunst was way too waifish a Mary Jane for me. As such, I never really had a problem with the Andrew Garfield/Emma Stone reboot, though I did agree it seemed to come too soon. (Apparently Sony has to make Spider-Man movies every few years to keep their license on the character).
Since I already liked Garfield in Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, I knew I would enjoy watching him reprise his role as Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (though did his hair really have to be so puffy?!). Because of that, I was able to focus more on the film’s secondary characters this time around and I really liked what I saw!
First there is Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone, Peter’s first love. Honestly, I didn’t even remember her from Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 (she’s played by Bryce Dallas Howard) or her importance.
Gwen is smart, feisty, and very determined to do what she thinks is best for her. Yes, there is a bit of tortured romance as she and Peter try to figure out how to be a couple when one of them is constantly leaving to help the police, but she was so much stronger than MJ and, as a girl, I appreciated that.While I knew that she dies in the comics (C spoiled that for me), I was hoping that her character would make it through at least one more film. Sadly, that was not to be, but I hope Stone’s portrayal of Gwen has set the tone for future leading ladies.
Next there are the main villains, both of whom I thought got short shrift in the film, which is surprising given the movie’s length (both C and I had to take bathroom breaks, which never happens!).
Personally, I thought Jamie Foxx was absolutely heartbreaking as Max Dillon/Electro. Yes, he turns into quite the bad guy, but there were so many times where it seemed like it could have gone the other way. If only his coworkers hadn’t abused him or he hadn’t fallen into that tank of electric eels or that sniper hadn’t shot at him. I know, it’s a long list of things, but still. He wanted help and I believe he could have been saved, but he was pushed one step too far and years of pent-up rage took over.
Dane DeHaan was also good as a petulant, narcissistic Harry Osborn, but frankly, no one will be able to top Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin – he was just too good. What was not good, however, was DeHaan’s costume. I will admit that Dafoe’s garb in the original Spider-Man was a bit garish, but this one felt all wrong. Instead of using a mask, DeHaan went through a disfiguring transformation that gave him goblin-like features. I’m sure the intention was for it to be scary, but all I could think of was “Eww.”
Ultimately though, while I felt there were a few missteps, I enjoyed Webb’s Spider-Man sequel and am curious to see what he has in store for us in The Amazing Spider-Man 3!