* * * ½
(Comic book hero saves Times Square)
Stan Lee’s Spider-Man is one amazing superhero.
Andrew Garfield does a good job of making him a sensitive, believable young man who is conflicted between his Peter Parker persona and his dedication to saving people.
There’s a lot going on in this sequel, and the action shifts from one set of characters and their desperate situations to another, leaving little time to digest what is happening over two hours and 20 minutes.
Peter has promised Gwen’s deceased father that he will stay away from her, a promise that is difficult to keep as he agonizes over their relationship. Gwen (Emma Stone) figures deeply in the outcome of Spider-Man’s battles with evil, especially in an action-packed ending.
The movie opens with the death of Peter’s parents, explaining how the young boy ended up in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Field). He reconnects with Harry Osborne, his childhood friend, who is now the head of the sinister OSCORP company. Poor Harry is dying of the same disease that killed his father and turns to Spider-Man for help. When he does not get what he wants, he turns against him.
And then there is poor Max (Jamie Foxx), an unappreciated OSCORP employee who is zapped with large doses of electricity and turns into Electro, a vengeful monster out to do great harm to Times Square and Spider-Man.
Unlike most Marvel Comics movies, the characters are not easily defined as good and bad. Both Harry and Max have been dealt pretty tough hands, leading them to do some pretty bad things.
Poor Peter is conflicted at every turn. Why did his parents abandon him? And why won’t Aunt May tell him the truth. He wishes no harm to come to his beloved Gwen, but he can’t stay away from her, even stalking her at one point.
In between all the pathos is whirlwind action, with Spider-Man using his webs more than ever. And the writers have given him a sense of humor, with some funny one-liners as he flies over Broadway. Music plays the Spider-Man theme in the background and he shouts, “I hate that song!”
There is a neat little sequence dealing with bullying that parents will appreciate.
Fans of the genre should be pleased with movie, if not a bit overwhelmed.
Rated PG-13 for violence.