By Joan Ellis
Here come the blockbusters.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Captain America” have settled in for long summer runs on multiplex screens all over America. On the slim chance that you haven’t already decided which, if either, to see, here are a few thoughts from a grumpy reviewer. Of the two, “Spider-Man 2” is far more fun. It’s a real comic book movie with little killing and a genuine love story at its core.
Whether Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) is tumbling through Manhattan’s stone canyons in pure joy or protecting it from the villain Electro (Jamie Foxx), we know he is Peter Parker, that nice guy tortured by his given need to do the right thing. Only in the air as Spidey does he surrender to the joy of his powers. On earth, he worries his way through life with a deeply furrowed brow.
Peter is in a genuine love match with Gwen (Emma Stone), a strong, funny and tremendously appealing heroine. Given the terrific emotional chemistry between Garfield and Stone, the filmmakers were wise to make their love story the central focus of the film.
Humanity is what sets “Spider-Man 2” above its competition. Trucks may explode and skyscrapers collapse, but this is comic book violence, not the usual relentless stuff so celebrated by our contemporary culture.
Credit Dean DeHaan with creating Harry, the most repulsive villain to haunt us in years. Sally Field and Campbell Scott give fine support and Jamie Foxx is hideously effective as Electro, nice guy turned monster. What makes it work, no question, is Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone who carry the movie and do it in style. Horrible Harry catches the essence: Spider Man needs her “to help him make his choices clear.”
“Captain America,” on the other hand, is a thoroughly confusing special effects extravaganza – a thunderous roar of characters, sights and sounds. Steve Rogers/Captain America has been frozen in ice since serving in World War II. Now thawed and dropped into the present day, he faces a war between two intelligence agencies: HYDRA (bad guys) and SHIELD (good guys, maybe) that are trying to destroy each other over secret projects.
As Steve deciphers the details, the movie sinks into a confusing frenzy of double agents, personal duplicity, lying, betrayal and constant killing.
During the chaos, Steve deflects bullets, bombs, fists and knives with his undented shield. Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlet Johansson, Chris Evans, and Robert Redford keep things moving. Robert Redford? Yes, Robert Redford.
As our ears throb from the noise, our hearts are pierced by the sight of Robert Redford suffering the humiliation of this high-decibel violence. Promise you’ll remember him, instead as our beloved Sundance Kid, when story and humor and characterization made movie lovers smile.
“Captain America” plays to a culture that embraces special effects violence. “Spider-Man 2” has plenty of that but it dares to inject emotion and a genuine old- fashioned story.