"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is the second in director Marc Webb's trilogy, (which began in 2012), starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, and is a reboot of Sam Raimi's trilogy starring Toby McGuire and Kirsten Dunst.
Clearly Spider-Man has legs and raises the question: What is there about this comic book character that so captures the imagination of several generations of fan-boys (the assumed demographic), keeping in mind that this superhero was created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and is considered one of the top three superheroes of all time?
As a character, part of Peter Parker's appeal clearly resides in his origin. As a geeky teen, studious and definitely not a jock, a radioactive spider bites him while on a high school science field trip. The arachnid bite changes his life, suddenly giving him superhuman abilities. A fantasy that is rich with permutations.
Peter also follows the familiar pattern of, say, Superman, and is orphaned at a young age (he's raised by his Aunt May and the late Uncle Ben).
Like all of the superheroes, he's a crime fighter, wears a costume that disguises his real identity, and uses his phenomenal abilities and regenerative powers for the good of mankind (peace, justice and the American way). Even his aunt May doesn't realize that he is Spider-Man.
Like so many preternatural superheroes, his gift is both a boon and a curse, and often causes him much personal pain and self-doubt (Batman and Superman are also good examples). In the case of Spider-Man, this internal conflict is made manifest in his relationships with mortals, especially young women. His dilemma: save mankind or give up all for the girl.
Which brings us to the just released "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," the second big tent comic book film to open this spring ("Captain America: The Winter Soldier" being first). A familiar trope in the Spider-Man stories is that the villain is an over-the-top, X-treme mutant (granted Spidey is also a mutant) whose mission is to create havoc while putting Spider-Man (Garfield) in harm's way. This particular baddie is called Electro (Jamie Foxx), a nerdy electrical engineer, injured in an industrial accident, whose character seems almost incidental, though he offers the writers the opportunity to create prolonged CGI pyrotechnics that have no comprehensible purpose other than spectacle.
Why Electro wants to bring down Spider-Man is vague at best. But then the plot is paper-thin and a bit scrambled, other than Peter's relationship with Gwen Stacy (Stone), his most recent squeeze; they have real chemistry (as it turns out, they're an item off-screen, as well) and some interesting moments.
The second question posed by this film is, will these comic book adaptations eventually reach critical mass? Most have arrived at that point when the destruction of planes, trains and city buildings has maxed out, now consistently overshadowing any story that might exist at the edges. How many new ways can Spider-Man swing through the city canyons of Manhattan? Or feel conflicted about his love life? We'll find out, for it's not over until it's over, and the third in this trilogy is in preproduction.
Tangentially, recall that making movies is called show business. As the opening box office numbers come in, it's likely that "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" will sweep (it grossed over $35 million on Friday alone). And not just in America, but worldwide. Movies have gone global, and the studios get this.