Spider-Man has always been the people’s superhero. He’s a high-school dweeb whose superpowers allow him to fight crime but don’t offer any help at all in dealing with the everyday problems of being a teenager. Girls, friends, parents, authority—he’s on his own. It’s this intimate side of the web-slinging wonder that clearly appeals to both director Marc Webb and his star Andrew Garfield.
Like the first film in this rebooted series, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is as much about a boy growing up as it is about heroes and villains. The problem is that these two aspects are equally key in creating a satisfying blockbuster—and the filmmakers can’t reconcile them. The result is an overlong, at times almost plot-free soap opera that introduces a wealth of characters and dips into a wide variety of subplots, but never comes together as a story.
We find Spidey late for his high-school graduation (thanks, of course, to a truckload of stolen plutonium) and questioning whether he’s ready to go out into the big, wide world of commitment and responsibility. But it’s not long before other, more life-threatening concerns arise in the form of Jamie Foxx’s recluse-turned-power-conductor, Electro, and Dane DeHaan’s childhood-buddy-turned-spoiled-rich-kid, Harry Osborn. DeHaan is by far the best thing here, and his scenes with Garfield have an integrity lacking elsewhere. Foxx, too, is very watchable: The effects makeup is spectacular, and his character is intriguingly downtrodden, if dubious in its portrayal of the mentally ill.
However, much about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn’t work. Garfield aims for dorky and lovable but comes close to smug; Emma Stone, as his squeeze, Gwen, has too little to do; the big action sequences are perfunctory, confusing and too infrequent. Fans who made the first movie such a huge success will doubtless find much to enjoy here, while others will long for the boldness, scope and wit of The Avengers.
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