Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Studio: Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment
The three best reasons to sit through The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Dane DeHaan, who almost—almost—make all two and a half hours of it worth your while.
They’re three of the best and most engaging actors of our era, and their zip, smarts, emotional accessibility and shared chemistry in the well-worn roles of Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn make you wish they’d shuck the whole franchise-building plot mechanics and riff instead on something sexier, stranger, deeper and funnier. Picking up pretty much where the previous Spidey flick ended, the bloated new movie has Parker still ruminating about his dead parents and about whether, now that he and his girlfriend Gwen Stacy are graduating high school, he should heed the dying wish of her father (Denis Leary) to keep her safe by staying the hell away from her. If only. But not only do heinous urban crimes and other dirty deeds keep our adolescent hero hopping, there are three new supervillains with whom he has to contend. It’s not only a symptom of the Spider-Man franchise’s envy of the Avengers series but a symptom of the movie’s ill-advised belief in Mae West’s old maxim, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”
In a crowded playing field, a mumbling Jamie Foxx overplays his role as a friendless, lonely, perpetually overlooked Spidey-obsessed electrical engineer named Max. Once Max, in a nasty Oscorp industrial accident, gets turned into supercharged and perpetually volatile Electro, Foxx just fades, becoming instead a mere hanger for special effects—growly and grimacing as he hurls electrical currents that decimate the product placement paradise the movie makes of Times Square. On the other hand, DeHaan, especially opposite the lanky, rubbed-raw, in-the-moment Garfield in some of the movie’s best scenes, is charisma squared playing the sad, smarmy billionaire and boarding school brat whom circumstances turn into a fascinating, petulant and pitiable Goblin. It’s still a joy to catch a contact high off Garfield and Stone’s all-too-obvious rapport in their teen soap opera scenes, and as the hero’s aunt, Sally Field gets in some heart-tugging licks, too, as she deals with her nephew’s weirdness along with having to support herself with a second career at a late age.
As scripted by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and directed by Marc Webb, the movie's third act flummoxes and wobbles all over creation, and at least one character’s semi-shocker of an exit promises to leave a gaping, potentially fatal emotional hole in any and all of the upcoming sequels. But, for at a least half of its running time, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 thrills, entertains and bamboozles its way over the dreaded sophomore slump.