After an explosive opening action sequence involving Peter Parker's mysterious parents, we're zoomed in on the back of Spider-Man's costume as he free-falls between New York's massive skyscrapers. Within seconds he's slinging from building to building, weaving in and out of the city streets with ease. There's a bull-headed criminal on the loose--this one played by Paul Giamatti, doing his best Russian mobster--and he's barreling through vehicles in an armored truck, wreaking havoc. But Spider-Man's right on his tail, flipping over cars, saving pedestrians, and defeating the bad guys once again with humor and the most mind-boggling, circus-like maneuvers.
There are a few of these moments scattered throughout The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and all of them are exhilarating, producing the sort of visceral rush that reminds you why the superhero movie is more popular than it's ever been. And it's during these scenes--these thrilling, death-defying leaps and grabs high above the streets of New York--that director Marc Webb separates himself from the rest of the comic book movies invading theaters year round. His Spider-Man is the most entertaining when it comes to utilizing the special powers he's been given.
As a complete movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't quite as strong as, say, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Like others that have come before it, including those from Marvel Studios, it struggles with its villains and balancing its loyalty to a single story versus the adventures that will come next. Previous superhero movies may have better scripts, better bad guys and even better action sequences, but for me none of the heroes are as entertaining as Spider-Man is during those high-flying moments where he's saving the citizens of his city and fighting the bad guys at the same time.
There are only so many things Captain America can pound with his shield or Thor can smash with his hammer. There are only so many buildings Superman can throw his enemies through, or villains Wolverine can claw his way past. But when it comes to Spider-Man, he just feels the most inventive out of his heroic peers. Next to Tony Stark (Iron Man), he also has the most personality. He's a prankster and a terrific improviser, and he makes you smile.
Note: The following paragraph includes major plot spoilers for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Read at your own risk.
He also makes you care. The on-screen chemistry between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) feels so real, authentic and intimate (partly because they're a couple off screen, too) that we're invested in their relationship more than other comic couples, including Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, or Thor and Jane Foster. So when Gwen Stacy eventually meets her demise during one of the most gut-wrenching scenes I've ever witnessed in a superhero movie, it literally takes your breath away. That's how much you care about these two as a couple, and that's what separates The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from its more recent superhero counterparts. It actually has the guts to do what others won't.
Guts, charisma and inventiveness. In my opinion, that's what The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does better than other superhero movies. It may not get everything right, but at the end of the day it's the hero that makes the movie worthwhile.
And Spider-Man is a hero I love watching.
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