Those who remember the sequels to Tim Burton’s “Batman” have a tendency to flinch, and with good reason, when superhero sequels have more than one villain. Hasn’t one per movie always been enough for James Bond? The good news is that Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” pulls it off - for the most part.
Director Marc Webb’s sequel to his own reboot of the “Spider-Man” series is a soaring, exhilarating thrill ride that effectively maximizes the 3D format to the point of threatening air sickness. First installment stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Sally Field return in fine form, and the chemistry between Garfield and Stone is still palpable, even if they’re beginning to look a little long in the tooth to be recent high school graduates. A welcome addition to the cast is Dane DeHaan (“True Blood,” “In Treatment,” “Chronicle,” “The Place Beyond the Pines”) taking on the role of Peter Parker’s rich friend Harry Osborn. DeHaan, one of the most interesting young actors on the scene today actually looks young enough for his role, to which he brings a fascinating mix of pathos and reptilian charm.
Jamie Foxx’s initial appearance as Max Dillon, who through the miracle of comic book science is eventually turned into the literal human dynamo Electro, uncomfortably recalls Jim Carrey’s early scenes in the late, unlamented “Batman Forever.” Later, Fox is overshadowed by the special effects necessary to bring his character to life. The script wants us to view Dillon/Electro as tragic - heavy-lifting it doesn’t quite have the dramatic muscles to bring off.
A lot of writers worked on the screenplay, including Abrams camp go-to guys Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, as well as fellow Abrams alum Jeff Pinkner (who’s worked on the Abrams TV series “Alias” and “Fringe”) and James Vanderbilt (“The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Zodiac,” “White House Down”). Despite some entertaining dialogue, the result is untidy, sprawling and far too long, even with telltale signs that a lot of cutting has already taken place. (The studio admitted months ago that Shailene Woodley was cast as Mary Jane Watson, only to have all her scenes end up on the cutting room floor.)
Also missing is the sense of a clear directorial vision which characterized “The Amazing Spider-Man.” There are moments when Webb’s distinctive sensibilities surface, but there is something a little hodgepodgey about the product. Webb, who comes out of indies and is an all-around unlikely choice to be helming four-quadrant, studio tentpoles, successfully rebooted Sony’s “Spider-Man” franchise, perceived as in trouble after Sam Raimi’s threequel was generally disliked by critics and audiences alike. He pulled it off in spades, shooting in 3D with a fresh, new cast, but more importantly with a better script than this.
Not that this movie is by any means a failure - the pacing is generally brisk, the action is exciting and the visual effects are by and large dazzling, with good property damage. The 3D helps Electro’s lightning bolts look more realistic than the average lightning and ray blast effects. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has the best web-swinging of any Spider-Man movie to date. The music, credited to Hans Zimmer with Pharrell Williams and Johnny Marr, is a mixed bag, some of which is excellent. Cinematographer Daniel Mindel is quickly becoming a hot commodity after two “Star Trek” movies and “Mission: Impossible III” for J.J. Abrams, and “Spy Game” for the late Tony Scott. His work here is handsome, undiminished by the 3D. The IMAX 3D presentation is glorious.
Fans worried about the presence of three villains can relax. That bit of sleight-of-hand is accomplished fairly deftly. Although there will be no spoilers here, the filmmakers tip their hand on one major plot development too early, and there is some unnecessary second act meandering. Paul Giamatti, as Aleksei Sytsevich/The Rhino, is wasted.