May 7, 2014 -- In the tradition of 21st Century movies, the continuing tales of Spider-Man, somewhat lighter a dozen years ago when Tobey Maguire first played the web-slinger, are getting progressively more gloomy now that Andrew Garfield has inherited the role of Peter Parker (Spider-Man).
The story of Spider-Man has always tip-toed gingerly around the relationship between Parker and the women he loves. In the earlier films, Peter's love interest was Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Now, it is Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone). The problems in these relationships arise from Parker being a vigilante, not having much money, and the inherent danger of being the girlfriend of a super hero. If the bad guys find out who Spider-Man's girlfriend is, and they always find out, they kidnap her in an attempt to control Spider-Man. She is his weakness.
If this wasn't enough trouble for Peter, there is also the problem of his relationship to the sometime super-villain Harry Osborne (played by Dane DeHaan of “Chronicle”), and Peter's troubling family history, dating back to his father's genetic research for OsCorp, the Osborne family company. Peter is also haunted by the ghost of Gwen Stacy's father, who made Peter promise to keep Gwen out of danger. OsCorp is the source of all evil in this story as it is revealed that the main reason for OsCorp's animal genetic research is to cure a genetic disease plaguing the Osborne family. Various shadowy conspirators within the corporation who control thick-necked security agents stir up even more trouble.
A laboratory accident at OsCorp causes a mild-mannered scientist, Max Dillon (played by Jamie Foxx of “Django Unchained”) to become a super-villain, Electro, capable of harnessing vast amounts of electricity in his body. Through a set of unlikely circumstances, Max and Harry Osborne both end up gunning for Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy gets kidnapped in an attempt to control Spider-Man. There is a lot of angst in this story.
I liked the performances by Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx and Andrew Garfield. DeHaan has a kind of evil intensity about him, and a look that reminds me a bit of Leonardo DiCaprio. Garfield seems equally at home playing the joy of being a super-hero and playing the angst of being a super-hero with a super-complex life. There are also some good supporting performances by Sally Field as Peter's Aunt May and Chris Cooper as Harry Osborne's father, Norman.
The story is not bad, but I couldn't quite buy Max Dillon becoming a super-villain quite so easily, when he wanted so desperately to be a super-hero like Spider-Man. The whole “exploding battery” thing was unconvincing as well. Overall, this is an entertaining film, but enough with the angst already. I've had enough of that. This film rates a B.
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