Spider-Man may soar through the air but what gives The Amazing Spider-Man 2 its lifeblood is the Underworld, a realm ruled by Pluto, the archetype that rules not only death but also healing, as well as the incisive, fearless research that set this mythic story rolling in the first place.
Directed by Marc Webb, the movie takes off by revisiting the relationship between teenager Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), who’s Spidey during his down time, and his beloved Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). The pall over the couple is Peter’s recurring vision of Gwen’s deceased father (Denis Leary), who made the danger-prone lad promise to protect Gwen by breaking up with her. The image resonates throughout the movie like an exhortation to physicians to “First, do no harm.”
However, as with most fanboy movies in which the forces of good and evil face off, chances are slim that Peter will keep his word to Gwen’s dad. That’s because Peter has father issues of his own.
All Peter knows about his dad, Richard Parker (Campbell Scott), is that the man was involved with some mysterious research at Oscorp, his employer. As a result of an ethical stance, Dad and Mom had fled to save their own lives and protect their only child, but their murder has caused Peter an aching Pluto-generated abandonment. In addition to his own attempts to heal from that tragedy, the movie serves up other dire restorative challenges and references.
Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), the son of Oscorp’s founder, has inherited the same illness that killed his dad and believes Spider-Man’s blood will cure him; instead, he becomes the lethal Green Goblin. Peter’s Aunt May (Sally Field) is in training to become a nurse. And Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), an all but ignored Oscorp employee who’s desperate for attention and praise, accidently becomes the monster Electro, an inexhaustible, Pluto-associated power conduit. Electro’s destructive lightning-blasts parallel Spidey’s life-affirming, hand-generated web-threads that seem to effortlessly reach out towards the divine.
Where’s the life force in all this mayhem? Peter descends into the Underworld – a Pluto-tinged subway station, abandoned and secret – that holds the secret of his father’s research, and from which he resurrects. Equally carrying Pluto’s regenerative and transformational energy is Gwen, who hopes to go to Oxford to study molecular biology.
When it comes to the movie versions of comic-book stories, it’s a given that that audiences expect sweeping, on-screen movement and huge images. Where The Amazing Spider-Man 2 excels, however, is in its running with an archetype that plays with content and character at a deeper, more satisfying level than its action suggests. Like last year’s under-appreciated Pacific Rim, this Spidey literally goes below the surface.
Astrology Film Rating: ♇ (Pluto)