A couple of rogue solar systems in the Marvel superheroes universe land in theaters this month. They aren't part of the Avengers club orbiting Disney, so that meteor shower of money misses them.
Spider-Man and the X-Men mutants are, however, among Marvel's most popular creations, successful in every way except how to make studios play nice. Sony owns Spidey, Fox owns X-Men, and Disney hasn't bought them yet.
So, there's a lot riding on the releases of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 this weekend, and X-Men: Days of Future Past on May 23. Sony and Fox need big bangs to create their own universes.
Spidey holds up his end of the deal, in a sequel that — as in last decade's Tobey Maguire trilogy — surpasses the rote origins story of the previous movie. Not entirely amazing but interesting for the emotional punch that director Marc Webb packs between the booms. And the booms aren't bad.
Andrew Garfield now appears more comfortable with himself as a superhero, with a screenplay steering him closer to the wisecracking web-slinger of comic books. There is still Spider-Man's personal turmoil, crises of romance and loyalty, that Webb occasionally holds a few beats too long. Yet the performances ring true, with arresting chemistry where it counts.
That would be between Garfield and Emma Stone, as Spidey/Peter Parker's girlfriend Gwen Stacy, and also Garfield with Dane DeHaan, so interesting that his character's repetition from the Tobey trilogy doesn't matter. This is a triangle of sorts, with Spidey conflicted by what he owes each of them, versus responsibilities his powers give him. Garfield and Stone are dating, which is reflected by the intimacy in their interaction. DeHaan is simply an actor on his way to stardom, a Leo DiCaprio in the making, and not only by physical resemblance.
The on-off relationship between Peter and Gwen is the only constant in a tri-polar story, with Jamie Foxx figuring into the picture as a tech geek with a crush on Spider-Man and a grudge against a world ignoring him. An unfortunate encounter with genetically altered electric eels makes him Electro, a blue meanie who, in the movie's best disaster, shuts down Times Square. Not Broadway; Spider-Man's show tried that.
DeHaan reprises James Franco's role as Harry Osborn, whose father (Chris Cooper) hands down the touchpad-desk key to his kingdom, including the Green Goblin franchise. That stuff comes late, around the same time a twist handles tragedy smarter than many movies, comic book or otherwise.
I saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 3-D IMAX and think it's worth the surcharge. Or at least one of those sensory overloading formats. Webb has gotten the hang of staging effectively hectic action sequences, including Paul Giamatti's amusing turn as Rhino, one of the Sinister Six supervillain gang being set up for sequels and perhaps spinoffs from here. Sony's universe starting to form.
Don't worry about staying through the end credits hunting for Easter eggs. Sony doesn't do that, another loss in the brand war keeping Iron Man from helping Professor X. If these superheroes ever defeat the perils of corporate ownership and are allowed to unite, box offices at whatever lay beyond this universe will tremble.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.