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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

(2014) ** 1/2 Pg-13
142 min. Sony Pictures. Director: Marc Webb. Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Chris Cooper, Paul Giamatti.


It feels a bit uncharitable to chide a blockbuster superhero movie for providing too much. After all, isn't excess job one for a movie like The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Marc Webb's sequel about Marvel Comics' famed Manhattan webslinger succeeds in being a largely well-produced comic-book movie extravaganza, but its weighty baggage may leave audiences wishing it had traveled light.

If The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an embarrassment of riches (at a budget upwards of $255 mil), it doesn't embarrass itself, and kids are bound to love it in spite of its butt-numbing run time. Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner pick up where the 2012 film left off, with Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) tortured about dating the girl he loves, Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), because of the inherent danger posed by his double life as Spider-Man. Danger obligingly arrives in the forms of Russian mobsters and a series of supervillains, but Peter and Gwen have a hard time staying apart. (And playing that dynamic, Garfield and Stone remain chemically charming.)

In the film's biggest tonal misstep, Webb directs Oscar winner Jamie Foxx to ham it up big-time as pocket-protected Max Dillon, who becomes the super-charged Electro as the result of that old comic-book standby, the tragic lab accident. The lab is, of course, located in the skyscraping Oscorp Industries, where Peter's old friend Harry Osborne (a commanding Dane DeHaan) inherits from not-so-dear old dad (Oscar winner Chris Cooper) both the CEO position and a fatal genetic disease. As Spidey fans—and all who saw Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man films—know, Osbornes notoriously suit up as sky-surfing bad guys under the brand name of Green Goblin.

Throw in a large heaping of backstory involving Peter's long-gone parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz), a couple of juicy scenes for a third Oscar winner (Sally Field as Peter's Aunt May), and the emergence of at least one more supervillain (hello, Paul Giamatti—glad you could drop in), and you start to see how The Amazing Spider-Man 2 quickly reveals itself to be crowded, busy, and lumbering, whereas its predecessor, for its faults, etched relatively clean narrative lines.

But no one goes to this sort of thing expecting Chekhov; they go for the larger-than-life characters and all the action 250 million simoleons can buy. And on the "Amazing" score, Webb fares pretty well, in giant-sized confrontations on Manhattan city streets (and, natch, at a power plant). The freneticness of these scenes consistently threatens to spike into the red (and occasionally does), but they serve their purpose, and Spidey's high-flying CGI stunt double has become considerably more convincing over the years.

Does all of the sound and fury (including a distracting and off-putting score) signify anything? Well, there's a simple-minded clock motif (framed by Gwen's valedictory-speech assertion "Time is luck," whatever that means) and a rehash of the no-brainer notion that a hero provides hope. At least the plot doesn't shy from tough-minded consequences, which play into the real message: start saving your pennies now to see what's next, in the already primed spinoffs and sequels The Sinister Six, The Amazing Spider-Man 3, Venom, The Amazing Spider-Man 4...

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