- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2014

I’ll admit this right up front. I’m not fan of the latest Spider-Man film franchise reboot.

Director Sam Raimi got it right back in 2002, at least with the first two movies, and Toby Maguire will always be my live-action Peter Parker.

That reported, I’m mildly warming up to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated: PG-13, $45.99).

It’s certainly a feast for the eyes in the Blu-ray format with outrageous combat scenes and head-shaking, aerial acrobatics.

However, more than that, director Marc Webb’s gutsy call at the end of the film allowed my willingness to take part in temporary sacrilege to the Raimi legacy.

That one pivotal and defiantly dramatic scene in the film changed my mind, and I’m not revealing it. Its comic book origin is well-documented, and we can thank Gerry Conway and Gil Kane for really setting the precedence for superheroic inconsolable grief.

Unfortunately, before that point in the movie, viewers are stuck with an overtly ambitious, bloated effort from Mr. Webb, clocking in at 142 minutes and mired in more sub plot strands than Spider-Man’s webbing.

Starring Andrew Garfield (with fake New York accent in tow) as the hero and his googly eyed gal pal Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, their onscreen chemistry is undeniable but underused.

It’s also a popcorn-munching affair, for sure, every time Spider-Man confronts one of the epic villains.

Although, as a gamer routinely engaging with the PlayStation 4, the film’s hyper-realism of computer-generated effects now look with too much like a video game rather than movie.

Speaking of the epic villains, always required in a blockbuster, we get three fighting for screen time here. Each chews up the scenery.

First, Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon aka Electro is at the mercy of special effects once his electrifying transformation occurs. It completely destroys any chance of a decent performance from the accomplished actor.

Next, thankfully, Dane DeHaan delivers an impressive and demented performance as Green Goblin. Filmmakers do away with a silly mask (used in Mr. Raimi’s interpretation) and infect Harry Osborne with a genetic mutation that distorts his facial features. It gives Mr. DeHaan the chance to truly act and not under a giant green helmet.

Finally, viewers get veteran actor Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich, who eventually becomes the rhino via a mechanized suit. His Russian-accented ranting is so idiotic and unnecessary, it made me savor the devilish flare Mickey Rourke brought to the screen as Ivan Vanko in “Iron Man 2.”

Mr. Raimi ran into trouble with keeping track of too many villains onscreen (reference in “Spider-Man 3”) and Mr. Webb has the same problem with the evil balancing act.

Alas, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 only shines briefly, mostly through its high definition and that daring denouement.

If one puts it terms of a Marvel comic-book series released over the years, the reboot is more Ultimate Spider-Man lite rather than Volume No. 1 of the Amazing Spider-Man.

Still, it did make me want to go back and watch Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series to fondly remember the good old days when a perfect mix of humor and a passionate appreciation for the original source material could bring a sequential-art superhero to life.

Best extras: An optional commentary track offers a steady stream of thoughts from writers Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinkner and producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arid. Most entertaining of the bunch is Mr. Arid who acts as the kind grandfather, ready to reminisce about the early days of Marvel films, Marvel Comics patriarch Stan Lee and why he liked the movie. It’s kind of cute to listen to the other guys interviewing him and then try to get back to talking about the movie.

Next, a 103-minute, warm and fuzzy documentary “The Wages of Heroism: The Making of Amazing Spider-Man 2” presents interviews with almost all of the actors and key production personnel, often patting each other on the back (everyone was very “passionate”). I did enjoy interesting fodder on special effects, Spidey’s new costume and viewing plenty of artwork from the film and some of the original comics. Best interview, as always with Marvel films, is with Stan Lee talking about the key characters, especially Gwen Stacy.

Finally, viewers get 13 deleted scenes with an optional commentary from director Marc Webb. The most eye-opening of the bunch reveals Peter Parker’s reunion with his apparently still living father Richard. I’m very happy it was cut from the film. It would have forever displaced Spider-Man’s origin for new fans that have never read the great, early comic books.

Play the movie (literally): A video game of the same name as the film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Activision, rated Teen, nicely priced at discount retailers for $39.99) came out earlier this year and offered a player the chance to control Spidey and Peter as they cleaned up New York City’s criminal element in a beautiful-looking, third-person, free-roaming adventure.

It’s a frenetic ride as our costumed heroes swings through Manhattan and beats on villains, but it’s also tempered by quieter moments such as interacting with the co-creator of Spider-Man, Stan Lee, who owns a comic book shop in the game.

Read all about it: Find out about the key pivotal moment in Spider-Man’s life that I refused to reveal above, in a trade paperback collection that I can’t even name since it gives away the spoiler. The Marvel comics collection ($14.95) compiles issues Nos. 96 to 98 and 121 and 122 of the Amazing Spider-man comic book series from the early 1970s and Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man No. 1 from 1999.

Featuring mainly the pop prose of Gerry Conway and fantastic artwork of legend Gil Kane (inked by John Romita), it’s a must-read for any self-respecting, budding comic-book historian who needs to know about the ill-fated relationship between Harry Osborne, Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker.

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