THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 Directed by Marc Webb, written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner, with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti and Sally Field. A Sony Pictures release. 142 minutes. Opens Friday (May 2). For venues and times, see Movie Listings Rating: NNN
You can say this about the new Spider-Man movies: they're consistent. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 delivers virtually everything its predecessor did, and gets by on the charm and chemistry of its leads.
No, seriously, it's the same movie. Amazing 2 even starts at the same point as Amazing 1, expanding on the events of the night young Peter Parker's doomed parents left him in the care of Uncle Ben and Aunt May. And it ends with a mopey Peter urged to make the most of his life by a handy speech recorded earlier in the story.
In the middle, well, there's all the comic-book jumping, fighting and web-swinging as our hero battles super-villains created by the weird science of the nefarious Oscorp. This time they're Jamie Foxx's scene-chewing Electro and Dane DeHaan's calculating Harry Osborn, a character rebooted - if not exactly reinvented - from Sam Raimi's trilogy.
That stuff is fine. As he demonstrated the last time around, Marc Webb has a nice way with elaborate 3D action sequences, and he keeps the heavies on a short leash. They're the bad guys, and though they do have connections to Spidey and Peter, respectively, they don't get to take over the movie the way the villains did in Raimi's films.
More importantly, the non-super stuff is just as strong as ever. Andrew Garfield brings radically different physicalities to the paralyzed, self-doubting Peter Parker and his high-flying alter ego, and Emma Stone's plucky Gwen Stacy is basically Emma Stone infused with the proportionate adorability of a dozen golden retriever puppies. Sally Field continues to be a much different and much more affecting Aunt May than Rosemary Harris ever was in the first trilogy: Field's rapport with Garfield is at least as important to the movie as the bond he shares with Stone.
Still, the subplot about Peter's dad and his super-secret research? Much as I enjoy seeing Campbell Scott in a major Marvel franchise, it's entirely unnecessary, adding a good half-hour to the running time when three lines of dialogue would take care of the required exposition.
Of course, the Spider-Man movies are never really streamlined, are they? And the need to set up more projects - like a Sinister Six spinoff I'm not sure anyone is clamouring for - does start to weigh the picture down by the end. But I guess that's the case with every Marvel picture these days.