We've always known that Spider-Man's most important battle has been within himself: the struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of Spider-Man. But in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker finds that a greater conflict lies ahead. It's great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). For Peter Parker, there's no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: OsCorp.
Every summer we're greeted with big-budget comic book movies. Each studio trying to outdo one another at the box office with grandiose tales of heroes and villains. 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' subscribes to the typical crash-bang mayhem of the summer movie season. At times the movie can be exhausting as its bloated CGI-enhanced battle scenes are drawn out as far as they can be without simply making the entire movie one big fight scene. Yet, there's something to really respect about these new Spider-Man movies. Underneath all that computer-generated carnage is a superhero movie that doesn't shy away from dire consequences. A welcome change to the present Marvel/Disney anthology where changing the status quo is not only frowned upon, it appears to be feared.
Marc Webb's initial reboot of 'Spider-Man' caught me by surprise. I wasn't expecting Sony's blatant attempt to keep the rights to the character to also be a movie that I greatly enjoyed watching. The second one outdoes the first in many ways. Yes, I have my complaints, not the least of which is the movie's distended special effects. Some of the musical choices are downright groan-inducing. Playing Phillip Phillips' "Gone Gone Gone" during Peter Parker's (Andrew Garfield) character-building, I'm-going-to-find-my-father montage is shamelessly obvious – "And I would do it for you!"
What's appealing about Webb's superhero vision is how willingly he puts aside the geekier aspects of the comic book world and sets out to focus more on the characters instead. He isn't too interested in showcasing costume making, gadget building, and superfluous exposition. Even though the movie does contain some of all of those things, it isn't directly about those things, which makes it feel a little fresher.
In 'The Amazing Spider-Man', Peter promised Gwen Stacy's (Emma Stone) father that he'd stay away from her as long as he devoted his life to crime-fighting and life-saving. Peter is simply too dangerous of a boyfriend to have. With palpable chemistry between Garfield and Stone, watching them try to balance this tricky relationship is one of the most satisfying parts of this story.
We also have Peter delicately balancing his relationship with Aunt May (Sally Field). A bond fraught with secrets and withheld resentment after the passing of beloved Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). There's best friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who is dying from the same rare genetic condition that killed his rich, unloving father. Harry needs Spider-Man's blood, but Peter is afraid his blood could do more harm than good.
Then we have Max (Jamie Foxx). Max is a reclusive, needy scientist working for Oscorp. From the outset, Max's introduction is almost comical. His pocket protector, mumbling, and comb-over are screenplay shorthand for "Hey, this dude is a real nerd!" However, the screenplay transforms Max into a much more interesting character than his stereotypes make him out to be. He's dangerously obsessive and emotionally unhinged. In any other movie he'd be the prime suspect in a string of grisly murders.
After being saved by Spider-Man, Max forms an unhealthy obsession with the web-slinging hero. So much so that he finds himself talking to himself in the morning, pretending Spider-Man is there. They're best buds. Then Max is involved in a workplace accident. Genetically mutated electric eels attack him. Their energy transfers to him. In an instant, worthless little Max is transformed into a Dr. Manhattan like god of pure energy. What does someone that insecure do with that much power?
Once the final act rolls around and the CGI battles churn endlessly, the movie goes on auto-pilot for a while. Character studies have been replaced by explosions, lightning, and Spidey cracking jokes in the midst of imminent danger. Yet, all this chaos isn't without its lasting consequences. That's what makes 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' worth it in the end. It isn't petrified of changing the status quo.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The standard three-disc 3D version of 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' includes two BD-50 Blu-ray discs (one with the 3D feature and one with the 2D feature) and a DVD in a fatter-than-usual clear keepcase with a reflective and embossed cardboard slipcase. It's worth noting that two of the three discs must be stacked on either of the inside panels. A slip is included an Ultraviolet code and the back of the case indicates that this a Region A release.
But because Sony didn't send a 3D copy of 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' to review, I went ahead and satisfied my curiosity by picking up Best Buy's exclusive "magno" case edition with a free mini Spidey comic book that quickly illustrates the first act of Electro's story. (I'd originally wanted a Steelbook version to match that of the first movie's, but this new option seemed like a potentially worthy alternative.) As for the sleek and shiny new magno packaging, who knows if it will catch on - but I sure like it. The case, which is altogether slimmer than a standard Elite keepcase, unfolds into a weighty four-paged package that houses the three discs contained in this set. The only downside is that the bottom of the discs are kept directly up against the packing. Unfortunately, no circular clips holds the center of the discs. Instead, there's a small lip at the base of the discs. The circular cutout snugly holds onto the rim of the entire disc, which holds it properly in place and ensures no slipping - which is an upside. The only real downside to the experimental new case is that the disc backs touch the packaging. Best Buy's magno edition also includes the Ultraviolet code from the standard releases, as well as a booklet containing even more coupons than there are villains in the movie. The coupons include a Shutterfly photo book, White Castle microwavable burgers, Mama Mary's pizza crust, Baskin Robbins, Beanitos snacks, Green Giant potatoes, Old Wisconsin cheese and Budding sandwich meats. The coupons expire at various times between 10/31/14 and 7/30/15.
Not too many blockbusters are shot on film anymore, but 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' is. This gives the 1080p image a very rich, cinematic look. In high-def it looks flawless. A wonderfully deep picture that never wavers in clarity. The CGI is never called into question by the crystalline visuals either. It all looks utterly superb.
I don't think you'd expect anything less from a recent Sony release. This is demo-worthy material from beginning to end. With distinct clarity and attention to detail, 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' Blu-ray offers up a robust video experience. Fine detail is optimal, whether the camera is gliding around New York filming Spidey as he swings in between historic skyscrapers, or when it captures small moments between Peter and Gwen in a small alley. It all look fantastic. Close-ups are full of all sorts of clearly defined facial features. Long-shots take in the entirety of New York without missing a single thing.
The greatness of the 3D element begins immediately. As Sony's logo gradually appears through the darkness via backlighting, the colorful prism of lens flares beam through the foreground with brilliant defined clarity, extending from the back into the close foreground. Once we dive into the actual movie, the strength of the deep and unfailingly natural 3D effects continue. While Peter's parents battle a bag guy on a private jet, despite the herky-jerky and fast-cutting action, there's never a bad bit of 3D. The depth and layering is consistent and smooth, never warbling or warping. Even the debris that blasts through the screen in quick blurs is properly placed in this dynamic field.
A few scenes later, we see Gwen impatiently talking to Peter over the phone while he misses out on graduation hooplah in order to stop Russian mobsters from stealing radioactive materials. Without looking odd or distracting, Gwen almost appears to pop out of the screen – something that gimmicky 3D movies attempt, but never successfully achieve. That's where 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' excels. Even its subtle moments offer the wow factor. During the most unexpected moments - like Gwen talking on a phone - the 3D is just as good as during the expected parts - like Spidey dodging bullets from a madman's machine gun.
Black areas remain controlled the entire time. I didn't notice any unsightly banding, even during the tricky fade-in scene that begins the movie. Those are usually where banding can be spotted, and there isn't anything there at all. This is one of the best looking Blu-rays of the year.
Originally mixed for Dolby Atmos consumption in the theaters (perhaps a re-release once Dolby Atmos home theaters become common?), 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' sounds just as great as it looks. Possibly even better.
The surround sound capability of this release is off-the-charts great. This is a fully immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Even if a 7.1 mix were provided, I'm not sure it'd be any better than what we're offered here. That's because the 5.1 mix is so well-produced and perfectly prioritized that it creates an all-encompassing listening environment. The rear channels feature a ton of action. Both Spidey vs. Electro fights send all sorts of action to the rear channels. As they fly around the screen beating each other up the sound flies with them without missing a beat. The transitions from speaker to speaker are flawless.
The LFE is as deep as it gets. Electro's power thrives on deep thundering bass. The sub is constantly working overtime as the movie is full of multiple action scenes and soundtrack choice that need the accompaniment of thundering bass.
Many aren't down with Webb's vision of Spider-Man, but I am. I'm all about "(500) Days of Spider-Man." The way he treats the characters, tip-toes through their relationships, and isn't afraid to change up what's perceived as comfortable, creates a satisfying unknown, something that is sorely missing in the Disney/Marvel 'Avengers' storyline. With demo-worthy audio and video – including a wonderfully consistent, deep and always-impressive 3D transfer – and a truckload of special features, 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' is highly recommended viewing.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.