Why Gwen Stacy Wears Such an Ugly Coat
The best of the Tobey Maguire "Spider-man" movies was the second one. It was a nice combination of melodrama, humor, Spidey "tropes" ("I will be Spider-man...no...more!" *Choke!*), some ingenious action sequences, and a great villain in Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus. Credit writers Gough and Millar (the guys behind the "Smallville" TV show) and Michael Chabon and Alvin Sargent for hammering it out and director Sam Raimi for a rather graceful directing job. After the first film took itself so seriously, the second one was like a tonic.
Now, the second of the Andrew Garfield-starring "Spidey" movies is out (The Amazing Spider-man 2) and I thought the first one was a big improvement over the "Tobeys" for a couple reasons: the casting, which made Garfield's Parker thinner, geekier and more neurotic, and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy Garfield's match in awkwardness; also, there was a through-story about the secret behind Oscorp and the disappearance of Peter's parents. The second film begins with a sequence expanding on that (with some interesting foreshadowing right off the bat) and then as soon as the title hits the screen, it is abandoned in favor of this chapter, featuring Parker's dithering about his promise to the late Captain Stacy (Dennis Leary) about staying away from Gwen, his struggles with his notoriety in New York, and a new villain, Max Dillon aka "Electro" (Jamie Foxx, playing, frankly, a minor villain, and they way they did it caused some wincing over memories of Richard Pryor in Superman 3). Meanwhile, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, who reminds one of Leo DiCaprio's demented brother) returns to his family home in time to see his father Norman (Chris Cooper), the head of Oscorp, kick the bucket, and promising Harry that he's going to meet the same fate. Gee, thanks, Dad.
|W-wow, dude. That's a lot of back-story!
When do we get to the review?
It's also a good mix of comedy and tragedy. Spider-man not only swings between skyscrapers, but between moods as well. The focus on Peter's parents keeps an under-current of sadness throughout, of conflict, and his struggles with the folks in his life (mirrored by the physical altercations with the villains) makes his life a very tangled web, indeed. The gang-ups he participates in on the streets work their way into the hang-ups in his civilian guise.** Yeah, Spidey's always been a weisenheimer super-hero, but like so many of them, their origins are based on tragedy and their efforts to ensure that such things never touch others. Spider-man has the worst luck, though, with friends and family constantly at risk due to his "great power" (and subsequent "great responsibility").
* Here's how good Garfield is: he makes a comic cliche funny and surprising. When Aunt May enters Peter's room—he's still in his Spidey-suit and hiding under the covers, protesting he's naked—she notices his face is grimey from all the crime-fighting he's been doing in the not-too-clean city of New York. "I-I was cleaning the chimney!" "Peter, we don't HAVE a chimney!" Garfield's shocked and surprised "Whaaaaaaaat?!" is full of "I did all that for NOTHING?"
** BTW, I mentioned in my review of the first "Amazing Spider-man" movie the absence of the "Spider-man song." It's here—it's Peter's ring-tone when Gwen Stacy calls. Talk about blowing your secret ID.