Now, that’s more like it! A complete improvement over 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man”, with director Marc Webb now officially freed of the shackles of the origin story. Andrew Garfield continues his excellent portrayal in the title role, and Emma Stone has gelled nicely into her performance of Gwen Stacy. I’ll even admit to being wildly off-base with my two years ago assertion that I would never warm to Sally Field as Aunt May. She’s actually grown into the role beautifully, and is even given a bit of working-class gravitas a la “Norma Rae”. In fact, my only real regret is that the timetable for 3D showings didn’t cooperate with my weekend schedule, or that of my 9-year-old son. So much of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is geared to that extra dimension device, that I’m certain it would have played far superior to its use in either the recent “Godzilla” or “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” movies. Oh well, Que Sera, Sera. Btw, my 3rd grader has bestowed upon Spidey’s latest adventures, the highly recommended rating of “awesome!”. I believe the grade schooler set has no superior designation.
When we left our webslinger two years back, he was recovering from his battle with Dr. Conners/the Lizard, the super-villian who fatally wounded Captain Stacy—father of Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s girlfriend, Gwen. Prior to his demise, Captain Stacy forces Peter to vow to steer clear of his daughter to maintain her safety. After a brief prologue involving Parker’s absentee scientist parents(Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz, adding to their truncated portrayals from the 2012 installment), there’s an exciting truck chase and capture involving criminal Aleksei Sytsevich(Paul Giamatti, with a wonderful bookend tandem of scenes, that sets up another Spidey enemy). During our hero’s pursuit of the bad guy, he’s haunted by visions of Gwen’s dad(Denis Leary, “back” from the grave). Peter’s relationship with Gwen is constantly hampered by Spidey’s pledge to the now deceased Capt. Stacy, and—like the 2012 film—ample time is devoted to the Gwen/Peter romance. Meanwhile, Spider-Man has quickly rescued a nerdy OsCorp employee named Max Dillon(a fine Jamie Fox, saddled with the Riddler’s back story from 1995’s “Batman Forever”), during the Systevich pursuit. Before long, Dillon becomes Electro after an Oscorp late night accident, and Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn returns to assume the mantle of his dying father(Chris Cooper!). It all leads to a gutsy denouement, that ably sets up Spider-Man’s future escapades .
Hey, despite all the neat, dark stuff involving Foxx’s Electro character, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” still could’ve used a little bit of streamlining. In fact, it’s even a little bit lengthier than the last film(142 minutes compared to 2012’s 136)! And occasionally it seems that the four credited story writers are trying to cram wayyy too much in to this early “summer” blockbuster. But, lo and behold, it all mostly works! The major critics unfairly dismissed 2013’s solid “The Lone Ranger”, and many are making an identical error here. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has maintained some strong box office numbers, but the mixed response has hurt its cash a bit in the U.S. I especially enjoyed Marc Webb’s unhurried confidence this time around, and his improved diligence regarding the action scenes. Also, his various freeze frame shots to accentuate Spidey’s derring-do works like gangbusters here. The Academy Award-winning Foxx was an inspired choice for Max Dillon/Electro, and ditto Dane DeHaan as Harry to wash all of that Franco business out of our mouths. And I’ll continue to heap praise on the exceptional work turned in by star, Andrew Garfield—a different(and possibly superior)hero from the one turned in last decade from Mr. Tobey Maguire. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” offers everything a comic book movie should, and you’d be foolish to dismiss it. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. Grade: B