The Amazing Spider-Man 2 —
Christian Movie Review!
The sequel of the Spider-Man reboot returns at an epic length of two and a half hours. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) decides to dig further into his past just as his present begins bringing more problems than he can handle, including a complicated situation in his relationship with Gwen (Emma Stone), a mysterious menace that threatens New York, and the return of an old friend named Harry, who is grieving the loss of his father and whom Peter tries to console. New York City, for the umpteenth time in a superhero movie, gets completely pummeled. Seriously, how does New York afford to keep rebuilding the entire city after it gets destroyed by all the crazy super villains in this universe — including the ones in the Avengers, the Transformers, and now the villains in this new Spider-Man movie? If all these movies were reality, New York City would basically be rebuilding everything at least once a year. It would be an annual tradition, sort of like New Year’s Eve in Time’s Square. Poor New York. No wonder people who live there are so tough.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity: Other than Peter Parker without a shirt, there is no nudity, and the only sexuality is kissing scenes between Peter and Gwen.
Violence/Gore: The only gore comes when people get electrocuted, and the camera shows charred corpses. There is also a somewhat graphic scene of a man’s decaying, diseased body as he is dying. But all of this gore remains PG-13. There’s plenty of violence, just not gory violence (with the above exceptions). A man is knocked out by a gun falling, a woman is shot and killed, a man is sucked out of an airliner, a woman falls to her death, and we see the impact of her body — which is psychologically/emotionally disturbing, certainly — but it is not graphically gory. Scores of people are killed by electrocution.
Language: Mild PG-13 language, maybe even closer to PG. Definitely no f-words and not many other swear words. Just a few uses of “hell.”
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: The only chemicals ingested in this movie are the scientific kind used for the purpose of curing a disease.
Frightening/Intense Content: Besides all the intense action, which includes lots of electrocution and general combat mayhem, a scene where a man is dying of a disease is a little frightening; a scene of a man’s seemingly dead body after major electrocution is also disturbing; and the scene where we see a person die after falling — though not gory — is psychologically intense/disturbing. There is also a scene in a jet where a man’s wife is shot dead. In general, the film shows a few deaths of innocent people, and this ups the ante as far as the psychological intensity and sadness of the film. That being said, it’s a clean film with very little language, no nudity or sex scenes, and only moderate gore compared to many other PG-13 action films.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
This film is almost as long as Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. That’s gutsy for a movie that doesn’t involve hobbits, elves, or huge quests to Mt. Doom. It is very ambitious. I’m not a fanatical fan of Spider-Man as far as ranking my list of favorite superheroes, so any movie about him — whether it is this version or the old one with Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in 2002 that started the whole superhero movie frenzy — is not something I’m dying to see. When I heard this movie was so long, I groaned a little. But the time went by fast, and I was into the plot from beginning to end.
Also, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone might be the best on-screen couple of any superhero movie. Their performances — along with the villains (Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan) — were awesome. Foxx and DeHaan both stole plenty of scenes, and I particularly liked the way they wrote Foxx’s character (how he becomes a villain). In both villains’ cases, the screenplay elicits real sympathy for them. It’s not completely black and white.
In general, the acting was the best part of this movie. Sure the special effects are jaw-dropping, and you can honestly say you know what it feels like to swing across New York on spider webs after you’ve seen this film, but the performances made the movie fun, emotional, and engaging. It doesn’t hurt that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are dating in real life. Their chemistry as an on-screen couple is among the best I’ve seen in any movie.
“We have to be greater than what we suffer.” –Gwen Stacy
The film is brutal on the heart though. It does not hold back when it comes to reaching for the heart strings of the audience and pulling as hard as it can. It’s not Schindler’s List, of course; I’m saying all of this in the context of superhero movies. In that context of film genres, this movie is emotionally heavy. It makes for a powerful movie — no doubt — but be prepared for an intense emotional experience.
Despite the heaviness, I have to point out that this film’s version of the Spider-Man character is refreshingly silly and lighthearted — as far as how Andrew Garfield plays the character and how the script is written. It conveys how much fun it really would be to have Spider-Man’s powers, and Garfield’s performance relishes that fun aspect of his superhero job with real joy and often humorous delight. It makes the movie fun (and funny).
Redemptive Value and Worldview
The film’s plot focus is Peter Parker’s past — particularly his parents and searching for the truth behind their disappearance — so the movie tackles the theme of losing loved ones and grief. This theme manifests itself in variations throughout the entire movie, and this is why it’s a heavier movie as far as superhero movies go. Its worldview, however — the way it approaches the issue of grief — has many positives, and I walked away feeling encouraged and edified. The film also looks hard at the topic of promises, especially the ones we make in the heat of the moment or the ones we make that prove to be extremely difficult to keep. This movie asks aloud: should we keep those kinds of promises, no matter the cost? Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone’s performances tackle the emotional complexity of that question powerfully.
Frankly, I wasn’t in the mood to watch an emotionally heavy movie like this. I’ve experienced grief in the past, so movies like this always hit hard. It tackles head-on the journey of grief and reconciling with the past, within a superhero genre context, of course, but in the end I was glad I watched it. I walked away feeling hope. Although the film makes you feel the palpable sorrow of characters, it pushes through all of the turmoil and concludes with a sense that there is a grand purpose in this universe, especially the line, “We have to be greater than what we suffer.” Why we would have to be greater than what we suffer? “To bring hope to others,” is the movie’s reply. That is the overarching message of this movie: bringing hope to others is more important than our self-interests. In an early scene when Gwen gives a college graduation speech she says the following, and it is probably one of the most powerful monologues of the movie:
It’s easy to feel hopeful on a beautiful day like today, but there will be dark days ahead of us too, and they’ll be days where you feel all alone, and that’s when hope is needed most, no matter how buried it gets, or how lost you feel, you must promise me, that you will hold on to hope. Keep it alive, we have to be greater than what we suffer. My wish for you is to become hope — people need that — and even if we fail, what better way is there to live? As we look around here today and see all the people who helped make us who we are, I know it feels like we’re saying goodbye, but we will carry a piece of each other, into everything we do next, to remind us of who we are and who we’re meant to be..
This monologue, which Emma Stone performs wonderfully, sums up the spirit of the film, and it carves a ray of light through the movie, even when the characters experience great darkness.
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