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THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott
Director: Marc Webb
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 142 Minutes
Release Date: August 19, 2014

It's been ten years...what have you been up to?”

I do some web designs.”

Film **

I confess...I love the Marvel universe, but I am beginning to question the logic of so many “reboots” of their franchises, and so quickly.

When Hulk came out, it was met with little love from fans, so The Incredible Hulk wiped the slate clean and began again...not a bad move; the new version of the big guy fit in better with the eventual Avengers realization.

But Spider-Man? The first three films (two good, the third not so much) were still quite fresh in our minds when suddenly the reset button was hit and gave us a new version...a little different here and there, but really, was there a point? Now I've read that even the Fantastic Four is getting the start-over treatment, with a new cast. Is all of this really necessary?

The Amazing Spider-Man was okay, and this sequel, more of the same. There are really no more surprises for film fans in the world of Spider-Man, so this movie is competent, but not exactly thrilling or engaging.

I will qualify that critique with a tip of the fan's cap to the opening sequence, however. In it, we briefly follow Peter Parker's father and mother (Scott and Davidtz) from right when they left their boy in the care of Aunt May (Field). Why were they so afraid and on the run? We start to piece it together. This pre-credit bit is quite exciting and emotional.

Unfortunately, not much that comes after in the nearly two-and-a-half-hour film even comes close. We are back to the adult Peter (Garfield), who is still protecting New York as our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He's a bit cocky, but good-hearted.

That good heart brings him face to face with Max Dillon (Foxx), a nobody who no one notices, and who doesn't even get credit for the work he did in helping Oscorp bring new clean energy to the city. Spidey notices him, and encourages him...but some loners are dangerous, as an accident on Max's birthday turns him into the new foe to be reckoned with: the dynamically powerful Electro. And Electro wants to be noticed...but not in good ways.

There is also Peter's long-suffering relationship with Gwen Stacy (Stone). They love each other, but Peter worries about his promise to her father to stay out of her life, lest the enemies of Spider-Man come after her.

We also get the appearance of an old friend in Harry Osborn (DeHaan), who learns he is suffering from the same fatal disease that took his father. Now he is young, rich and head of the most powerful company in town, but all he really wants is a chance to live. He stumbles on the project that his and Peter's father were working on, and becomes convinced that a little of Spider-Man's blood is what he needs to live. And if Spider-Man won't give it willingly...well, there were other things that Harry's father was developing as well.

The film has some amazing action sequences that look terrific in 3D (more on that further down), but is interrupted by long, tedious bits dealing with Peter's personal relationships with Gwen, Harry and Aunt May. I realize this is meant to be part of what made Spider-Man special to us...he is a normal guy with normal problems the rest of us can relate to. But these sequences meander around conclusions that are foregone, and don't engage our emotions so much as our patience...get on with it, already!

By the time it was over, I was SO ready for it to be over. Scenes began to feel recycled...not only from the first film, but within this one as well. There was one rather shocking surprise near the end, which I will not reveal, and it was almost enough to bring me back from the doldrums.

Again, ultimately, this is not a bad film, but simply one that doesn't have enough in the characters to really keep us involved. Action sequences can be fun (and these certainly are), but it's caring about the characters that earn audience's attention for the long haul.

Andrew Garfield is decent in the lead role; nothing special. I'm not sure anyone could have injected more life into this version of the character. The overall cast is impressive, but mostly wasted. The true shining stars for me were Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz, who bring characters that give the film it's much-needed gravitas, but not enough to carry us all the way through.

Is there more for Spidey? Hard to say...I watched this movie all the way to the end of the credits, as Marvel fans have been trained to do, but nothing was there. If the powers-that-be want to try another one, they need to learn from their mistakes in the first two installments. If they feel the need to wipe this slate clean and start again, my advice to them would be: don't. Let it lie for awhile, and put your energies toward the next Avengers movie and the next season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That would be a more worthwhile expenditure of energy.

Video ***1/2

The first movie, not reviewed on this site, offered mediocre 3D. This sequel, however, delivers a much better job. Spider-Man begs for this technology, and the results here are most impressive. You do feel like you're Spidey webbing your way through the city (thanks to some clever POV shots). The colors are beautiful and dynamic, and look great and well-detailed in both light and dark settings. There are minor instances of 3D “ghosting” here and there, but very few, and hardly distracting.

Audio ****

Absolutely no complaints here...the uncompressed surround sound is strong, dynamic, and enveloping. Ever action sequence comes to full life using the rear channels and subwoofer. Dialogue is actually well-balanced against the sound effects for maximum enjoyment.

Features ****

The extras are all on the 2D disc, and they include 13 total additional or deleted scenes, with optional commentary, plus a filmmaker commentary. There is 100 minutes of featurettes on the making of the film, plus a music video by Alicia Keys.

In addition, there is a DVD version of the movie included, and, of course, the wonderful 3D disc as well.

Summary:

In my opinion, Spider-Man never needed a reboot; just some fresh approaches, which are ironically what seems to be lacking in the new series. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does offer a bit of fun, but less from our webbed hero and fellow characters than we expect. This disc, however, is quite spectacular in terms of video, audio and features, so true fans won't be entirely disappointed.

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