Things have changed for Peter Parker. He's no longer just another rebellious teen. He doesn't have time for that silly stuff; he's too busy living up to his … responsibilities. Peter's so busy, in fact, that he almost misses his own high school graduation. But he steps up to grab that diploma with seconds to spare. Hey, that's how he has to swing things these days. Literally.
The one thing that's really been biting at him lately, though, is this whole situation with Gwen Stacy. He's head over heels for the girl. But just before her dad died, Peter promised him that he'd make sure Gwen was kept well clear of any of his, ahem, crime-fighter antics. (It's something the teen has taken up on the side, you see.)
Peter has tried to stand by his word. He and Gwen have even broken up a couple times because of that promise. But he just can't stay away from her. After all, she's … Gwen (sigh). Man, this is more than a guy his age should have to deal with.
Of course, that's not all this particular teenager will have to deal with. For while Peter is fretting over his romantic life, a shy guy named Max is stumbling into big trouble. Well, actually, Max, an engineer technician for Oscorp, is falling into big trouble, right into a giant vat full of hyper-powered electric eels.
This tragic accident involving chomping eels, massive power cables and a whole lot of electric zap doesn't kill Max like you might expect, though. Instead, the geeky tech is transformed into an unstable human powerhouse of electrical energy. He can absorb voltage from any source. He can float above the ground. He can dissolve himself to travel through copper wire. He can toss lightning bolts. He can blast buildings and cars, making them crumble and tumble like children's toys.
It's a whole new world for the formerly bespectacled and meek Max. No, wait, he shouldn't call himself Max anymore. From now on he'll be known as Electro! Let people try to ignore him or order him around now. He'll be doing the bossing from here on out. His former manager can't stop him. The cops can't stop him. Hey, an army couldn't stop him. He's practically a god!
You know where this is going, right? Yes, you do. The only person who can even slow Electro down is a certain love-sick teen, a guy named Peter Parker, also known in some circles as the Amazing Spider-Man.
Power does indeed change things. And it's a lesson writ large across this Spidey supersequel. For Max, power amplifies his hidden anger and makes him a destructive and deadly force. Power—in the form of high-tech gadgetry and supervenom—does something very similar to Peter's school friend Harry Osborn too.
The obvious bad results make for good lessons by way of negative examples. (See, electricity is a good metaphor here!)
But as Spider-Man, power amplifies the good qualities that were always a part of Peter. He continually goes the extra mile, using his supersenses and strength to protect everyone within swinging distance. In fact, on a number of occasions, Peter opens himself up to attack so he can snatch some innocent from danger. We even see him take the time to comfort confused and terrified people in the heat of conflict (including a non-powered-up Max at one point).
Peter is also a morally minded man who wrestles with the rightness of his choices. He repeatedly sees images of Gwen's dad as his subconscious reminds him to stick by his promise. And he earnestly strives to make sure his actions don't endanger Gwen in any way. He loves his Aunt May dearly. And when she worries she's not caring for Peter like she should, he assures her that she's "more than enough."
It's love that's a motivating emotion for the whole Parker family, actually. In a video recording, Peter's dad explains why he and Mom had to leave years before, saying, "Nothing is as important to me as my son, Peter." And Gwen tells our favorite web-slinger, "You're Spider-Man, and I love that. But I love Peter Parker more."
Still, hope trumps even love in this high-flying tale. In her graduation speech, Gwen tells the gathered students (and, later, by way of video recording, Peter) to push forward for what's right and good in their lives, no matter what. "No matter how lost you feel, you must promise me to hold on to hope," she pleads. Peter ultimately takes that advice to heart, even though it might be the hardest thing he's ever had to do. He says of his alter ego, "I like to think he gives people hope."
Electro muses, "I will be like a god to them." Aunt May enthuses, "Thank God!" when power comes back on in the hospital where she works.
Peter and Gwen kiss several times. Gwen wears a short skirt. Harry's assistant wears a low-cut top. Peter is several times shown ripping off his costume to show off his ripped abs. To humiliate a crook, he uses his webs to pull down the guy's pants (leaving him standing there in his boxers).
Max is seemingly dead after his accident in the electric eel vat. Indeed, his body is crisped and unrecognizable. But then he stirs and the crusted flesh crumbles away, revealing a translucent blue body underneath.
As Electro he cuts loose in Times Square, laying waste to buildings, blowing out everything electrically powered with massive bolts of lightning and sending police cars flying. Spider-Man struggles to save the innocent, but scores of policemen and civilians are still electrocuted or crushed. Explosions and fires level a large area. Electro's power-sucking ability also blacks out all of New York City at one point—endangering hospital patients, triggering mass car crashes and nearly causing two airliners to collide.
A Russian thug and his henchmen hijack a plutonium shipment, ramrodding through NYC in a tractor trailer that crushes everything it rolls over and through. (Later we see the thug in a heavily armored suit complete with large-caliber police-blasting weaponry.) Peter's parents are attacked by an assassin while flying in a private jet: His mother is punched full in the face and then shot, his struggling father fights back and is strangled with his seat belt. A man is sucked out through a shattered plane window; the pilot is shot and the flaming aircraft crashes.
Peter is zapped repeatedly by Electro, of course. His rubberized suit and whiplash-fast moves save him from electrocution, but he's pummeled and blown back into buildings, through windows and up against walls. Later, when Harry gets into the action as the Green Goblin, Peter and Gwen are both hit by the shockwaves of an exploding grenade and sent smashing through a giant clockwork.
Electro is captured, strapped into an electrical harness and repeatedly tortured with voltage blasts by Dr. Kafka. Electro later returns the favor, zapping the doctor with his own harness and lowering him to drown face-first in a tank. Electro also materializes behind several individuals and skewers them with his electrical charge. It's revealed that a man is dying from a debilitating leper-like neural disease: We see his peeling and withered face and limbs as he lies on his deathbed. We then find out that Harry has the same disease and watch as he pulls a small patch of skin from his neck. Harry has himself injected with venom as a possible healing agent and writhes in agony as the poison changes him. Somebody falls from a great height and, in spite of Spider-Man's last-minute rescue attempt, dies from the fall. (We see a trickle of blood.)
Crude or Profane Language
Two uses each of "d‑‑n" and "h‑‑‑," one of "p---ed." God's name is improperly exclaimed a handful of times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Harry drinks glasses of hard liquor and appears to be inebriated. He talks about how his dad sent him a bottle of scotch for his 16th birthday.
Other Negative Elements
Peter's getting pretty good at lying to protect his Spidey side. Harry's father expresses undue disappointment in his son, berating the boy, while on his deathbed, for not living up to his expectations.
I think there's a simple reason why people like superhero flicks. It's because those overblown make-believe adventures always seem to point to something we instinctively know is true: That life is indeed a daily battle between right and wrong.
Sure, we can often lose sight of such things while we stew in a world full of moral ambiguity and fret over the mundanities of daily workloads and bills. But in our gut I think we always know that those basic struggles between good and evil, love and hate, hope and despair, are the things of importance in life.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 reminds us once again of all that.
More so here than in the first film, our hero is a fellow we can cheer. A guy who's settled into being … good. He's got humor and pluck and a never-give-up spirit. He cares for family and friends. He takes time to bolster everyone he meets. But more than anything he wants to do the right thing, no matter the cost. And that applies to everything from putting himself in the line of fire while saving a city, to simply upholding a private promise.
That's not to say there aren't any sticky bits to be cautious of in this webby pic. The movie is relentlessly and bombastically destructive. And it racks up quite a large bang-bam-boom death toll.
But that's not to minimize the fact that this flick longs for good to prevail, that it weeps at love's loss and yearns to see innocence dig in its heels before corruption and call out a fearless "You shall not pass!"
See? It's the simple stuff we all identify with way down deep. Even if we can't bat aside bullets or swing with death-defying grace from Manhattan skyscrapers. (Just speaking for myself, of course.)