Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2Swinging into theaters this weekend is the sequel to 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man. Scripted by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and directed by Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 picks up shortly after the reboot with returning stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Sally Field as well as Dane DeHaan and Jamie Foxx, both new to the series. The sequel exceeded my expectations as Garfield fell comfortably back into the title role.

Peter Parker is just a teenager still trying to find his way less than a year after his powers have been thrust upon him. He has no school for gifted youngsters such as himself to provide peer support. He hasn't had a lifetime to come to terms with his powers under the guidance of a moral compass like Jonathan Kent. Only after the events with The Lizard has he had a chance to ponder the life ahead of him and its effects on those he loves.

Though some would say his on-again/off-again relationship with Gwen Stacy isn't true to the final shot of part 1, in which he throws caution to the wind, I think that reads too much into the scene. Sworn by her father to keep Gwen out of danger by avoiding her altogether, Parker is torn between his love and fear for her. Though like most any teenage boy he often feels invincible, self-doubt and uncertainty frequently win out as he is constantly reminded of the death of her father and his guilt over being unable to prevent it. Being Spider-Man provides his escape from or justification for his feelings over the death of Uncle Ben. Being with Gwen provides his escape from the responsibility of keeping an entire city safe.

Dane DeHaan is perhaps typecast as the rebellious, misunderstood teen vaulted into a position of power while suffering the mental ravages of abuse and neglect. His time on screen as Parker's childhood friend, Harry Osborn, is only background filler as he treads water until assuming his role as one of the seminal Spider-Man villains, Green Goblin. This is not Green Goblin's movie, however, and though the character's actions are pivotal, Green Goblin takes a back seat to the Electro storyline. 

Jamie Foxx's Electro/Max Dillon skirts the wrong side of the line between playing a socially awkward genius with possible autism spectrum disorder and playing a truly offensive Hollywood stereotype of a mentally handicapped savant so desperate for a human connection he becomes obsessed with Spider-Man simply because the hero reads his name from his Oscorp badge. After an accident involving genetically modified electric eels, when he assumes his full power as Electro, the awkwardness falls away and he becomes a force of nature -- rage personified, focused, with deadly purpose. This is a recurring theme for the film, in which the everyday alte-egos of our characters are at best awkwardly scripted, while scenes with their superpowered selves are phenomenal.

Art design, action choreography, cinematography, every aspect of every fight between Spider-Man and his enemies is perfection. In his interactions with the New Yorkers he's trying to protect, Spidey's smart-alecky wit and tender, non-patronizing attitude with children capture exactly the spirit I remember from the comics of my youth. In these scenes, Andrew Garfield is as perfect for the role of Spider-Man as Christopher Reeve was for Superman. This is what makes The Amazing Spider-Man 2 my favorite Spider-Man film to date.