So, I'll have to admit there are a lot of things about movie franchises I don't understand. Why were there two Hulk movies, for instance. And now, why there are two three-part Spider-Man blockbuster movies basically back-to-back, retelling the same basic story but with different scripts and actors. (And yes, I know that "because they can, and because people will pay money" is most of the reason why.) So, I've been skeptical about this re-do of Spider-Man for awhile. But, I'm mostly convinced that the second trilogy is better.
So, my clan wanted to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for awhile. (The "Amazing" part distinguishes this Andrew Garfield/Emma Stone trilogy from the Tobey Maguire/Kirsten Dunst franchise.) So, Saturday I took four kids from 14 to 6 to see it in 3D, which actually was pretty cool. I hadn't seen the first one, so we had to rent it on Amazon and watch it. I was very skeptical of Garfield, who was so convincingly feckless as Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network, but he makes a very likeable Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy (not the Mary Jane hero of the other franchise, both of whom appear in the comic book series) is a modern superhero girlfriend. Like Thor's girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman), Gwen is very intelligent, even more so than Peter, and her knowledge and courage save the world a few times. Unlike Jane, she does not seem emotionally helpless and is able to successfully manage her education and career even when Peter is not her boyfriend.
The second movie picks up basically where the first left off: Spider-Man is saving New York citizens on a regular basis, Peter and Gwen are graduating from high school, and Aunt May is having trouble making ends meet. Gwen has an internship and a scholarship to Oxford, but Peter doesn't seem to be enrolled in college, although Aunt May talks as if he is. Peter's time seems to be taken up swinging around the city, saving kids from bullies and stopping adult bad guys. He also spends more time obsessing about why his father dumped him (his mother doesn't seem to concern him) and what the items in his father's briefcase mean. We learn that the FBI told Aunt May that Mr. Parker absconded with vital scientific discoveries belonging to Oscorp for his own financial gain.
Then, however, the CEO and founder of Oscorp, Norman Osbourne dies, telling his son, Harry, that he has a genetic disease that will kill him, but that the secret to staying alive is at Oscorp. Though Oscorp seems to be a public company, Harry apparently succeeds his father as CEO, even though his is 20 years old. Let's just suspend disbelief for a minute. Also, Harry turns out to be the childhood best friend of Peter, though he was sent away to boarding school at a young age. Harry is obviously depressed about his terminal illness, but finds information in secret files at Oscorp that says that the spider venom that created Spider-Man may save him, and urges Peter to get Spider-Man, whom he believes Peter knows through his photojournalism, to give him some blood. Around the same time, an electrical engineer named Max (Jamie Foxx), who is ignored and bullied at work, falls into one of the secret projects containing electric eels and becomes Electro. Spider-Man must now fight Electro, who seems fairly invincible, and try to put off his friend Harry. Eventually, Harry turns his anger on Spider-Man, whom he feels has let him down, and joins with Electro to defeat Spider-Man (and get his blood). The third twist is that Gwen Stacy's dad, who dies in the first movie, asked Peter in a dying wish to stay away from Gwen, to save her from Spider-Man's enemies. Peter is having a hard time doing this, obviously, but it foreshadows some trouble later in the movie.
I have to admit that I still do not understand the pseudo-science behind the Oscorp/Parker discoveries of mixing animal DNA with human DNA to make humans faster, stronger, regenerative, self-healing, etc. This doesn't seem to be necessary to enjoy the great visuals and fun chemistry between real-life sweeties Garfield and Stone.
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