2 Stars – Entertaining

When Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee and Steve Kitko created the character of Spider-man in 1962, they captured the imagination of a generation.  Since the Marvel Universe has been brought to film by Marvel Entertainment, a new generation has been bitten.  Arguably the character with the most engaging bite is the charming teenager, Spider-man.  However, in this most recent series of films, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a high-school graduate who is facing the uncertainty such a transition creates, even for the man with spider-sense.

Directed once again by Marc Webb, who also directed The Amazing Spider-man, the screenwriters have morphed from James Vanderbilt and Alvin Sargent to Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, although Vanderbilt did contribute to the story.  Primarily an action film with the impulsivity and insecurity of teen-love, the plot thickens as Peter discovers the truth about his father, Richard (Campbell Scott) and mother, Mary (Embeth Davidtz).  Although this film does not explain how the modified spiders of his father’s lab bit Peter and transformed him, it does present a more complete narrative about his father’s involvement.  One complaint for the Marvel Universe is that it is helpful if not necessary to see all the films in the serial stories they present.

Peter’s love interest is Gwen Stacy, who is once again played by Emma Stone.  Knowing that Peter is Spider-man is both a blessing and a curse for their romance.  Understandably, it is difficult to be the enemy of all criminals while trying to maintain a normal life and relationship. 

The rest of the cast includes Peter’s Aunt May (Sally Fields) and Gwen’s father Capt. Stacy (Denis Leary), along with Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) who plays a menacing Electro and Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) who is a troubled Green Goblin.  There are also the evil executives of the Osborn Oscorp and other minor villains who require the quick moves of a spider to defeat.

Weaving romance with action, the film is fairly predictable but entertaining.  As a visual comic book, it is not intended to be deeply informing on the human condition, but it does resonate with our insecurities and fears as well as our desire to be courageous, respected, known and loved.  Although not explored with depth, it is this exploration of the human condition that all science fiction provides.  With two more Amazing Spider-man films in the works currently, we look forward to viewing the next chapters in the tale.

Discussion for those who have seen the film:

1. Most teenagers in high school see themselves as being different from others and fearful of love.  How did you find your way through these common experiences?

2. What happens at the end of the film obviously sets us up for the next chapter.  Do you prefer films that are a part of a series or do you think that each film needs to be a stand-alone tale?

3. The character of Electro develops out of experiences that left him feeling ignored and powerless while living with a seething anger, and then he becomes powerful and seen by all.  However, he uses this new power to express his anger, which is the opposite of Parker who uses his power to help others.  If you were suddenly given the power to express your inner self, would you express anger or compassion?  Why do you answer as you do?