Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) has a lot more fun in the sequel in the rebooted franchise. Credit: Niko Tavernise
'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' Director: Mark Webb Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone Rating: PG-13 3 (out of 5) Globes
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” easily improves upon its predecessor, but it doesn’t always feel even passable. In fact, at times it’s distractingly dumb. It opens, poorly, with a scene where Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz, reprising their roles as the missing, probably dead parents of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), are fleeing corporate killers the way most of us would: by flying on a private jet. Their battle with an assassin, who gives himself away by washing blood off his hands right in front of them, is the kind of set piece that a child playing around with toys would devise: It’s thrills over basic sense — spectacular and spectacularly stupid at once. It doesn’t seem like an adult wrote it, much less convinced terrific actors to play it.
Luckily this isn’t par for the course. Returning director Mark Webb, of the sprightly break-up saga “(500) Days of Summer,” has grown more confident with action. But he’s also gotten better at finding a coherent, enjoyable tone, and one that’s not a mirror of the deceptively light one rocked by Sam Raimi in his superior, only decade old trilogy. If the 2012 reboot/remake was clumsy and emo — like a sludgy, overly sincere cover of a rock classic — this remembers it’s based on a bright, colorful, fun comic about a young’un slinging around the five boroughs with webs.
Granted, it’s not that sunny. Peter has fully embraced the Spidey do-gooder persona, which has left girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) feeling neglected. She dumps him, but instead of drowning in sad music on his iPod — although, of course, he does that a bit — he submerges himself in crime fighting. His enemy this time is Electro (Jamie Foxx), an ignored engineer accidentally turned into a being of pure energy. But he’s no mere baddie: He’s an ignored, sympathetic if kind of batty lost soul whose first assault — a satisfying-for-New Yorkers mess-up of Times Square — starts as an accident, with Electro apologizing frantically before he starts to enjoy the havoc he wreaks.
Sam Raimi’s run of the series isn’t perfect: It was only 2/3 sharp, the third one a dogpile of characters and plots so top-heavy it seemed it might rip a black hole in the planet’s multiplexes. This one has a few too many things going on, but not so many that it asphyxiates. Dane DeHaan gets just enough screentime as sickly trust fund brat Harry Osborne that his transformation into the Green Goblin doesn’t feel shoehorned in a la Venom in “Spider-Man 3.” There’s just enough room for each plot thread to breathe, and because of that it’s not a sin that the film runs almost longer than “Goodfellas.”
The real casualty of the plotting is the Peter-Gwen business, which finds them on a tentative, flirty reconnection, exploiting the actors’ own offscreen relationship, that could stand more screentime. Still, given the super-secret — actually, not so secret, especially if you’ve ever heard of Gwen Stacy — place this is heading, the shortchanging of their scenes actually works better in retrospect. This is a sometimes sloppy film that tries to use its better parts — many of those put off till the end — to charm its way out of its occasional inability to streamline its packed plot, sometimes convincingly build characters or find a new J. Jonah Jameson (especially hard given J.K. Simmons’ ownage of the character), to say nothing of its sporadic forehead-slapping inanities. And unlike the film that preceded it, it more or less succeeds, even if it’s a mere fleecing.