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'The Amazing Spider-Man 2:' Caught in a tangled web

Spidey swings into action in "The Amazing Spider Man 2" with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
Spidey swings into action in "The Amazing Spider Man 2" with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
Columbia Pictures

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Rating:
Star3
Star
Star
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Star

The teenage Spider-Man is back in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” web-slinging all over NYC while trying to balance a more mature romance with his increasingly intensive superhero calling.

Brit Andrew Garfield returns as recent high school graduate Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Although still entirely smitten with long-time girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (the fabulously plucky Emma Stone), Peter tirelessly feels compelled to protect New York City from the villains du jour, causing quality time with Gwen to be often cut short. Further complicating the continued development of the Peter-Gwen relationship, is Peter’s repeated haunting visions (in a very “I-see-dead-people” kind of way) of Gwen’s father, Police Captain Stacy (in an uncredited appearance by Denis Leary), that supposedly remind Peter to keep Gwen away from his dangerous crime-fighting lifestyle.

Soon though, youthful musings on relationships give way to serious threats: an electrifying new villain emerges from seemingly nowhere, Electro (Jaime Foxx); an important friend from Peter’s past, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) reappears with a serious issue; and Osborn Industries (which almost, in part, contributed to all of NYC’s denizens becoming human-lizard hybrids in the last film) is still -- gasp! -- into some shady, not-so-ethical dealings. Peter feels forced to figure out what will come first: his relationship with Gwen or his superhero duties.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is basically a very tangled web, connecting disjointed plot points of unequal quality. Yes, there are, indeed, some fascinating, stupefying fight scenes that zip through the urban landscape with lightning speed. And, yet, even in the midst of all the special effects’ eye candy, the film succeeds most during its quieter scenes that reveal the appealing charm of both Garfield and Stone. The chemistry between the real-life couple is apparent in their comedic banter, sly looks, and pining for each other, sucking viewers into caring more about the relationship of these two lead characters than those in other many recent superhero flicks (hey, I’m looking at you, Thor, and earth girlfriend, Jane).

However, the couple’s scenes together are abruptly torn apart by any number of half-realized plot points involving Aunt May’s (Sally Field) new position; unfulfilling cameos that seem to go nowhere by the likes of Chris Cooper, B.J. Novak (of “The Office”), and Felicity Jones (“Like Crazy” and HBO’s “Girls”); and the protracted investigation about the secrets surrounding Peter’s parents. So, too, is Electro only partially embodied. Yes, Foxx looks super cool as the nerdy-fellow-turned-wrathful creature, but his performance is more wooden than electric, and the audience never feels that almost-palpable evil gravitas that makes the best anti-heroes memorable.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a long-winded, 142-minutes of brief poignant romance interspersed with flashy fights and mediocre subplots. Ultimately, Stone and Garfield’s performances steal the show from the grandstanding villains, enhancing the film’s watchability greatly. (In their next pairing, though, Garfield and Stone should just cut out the interrupting action and go straight into a “Hepburn and Tracy”-style rom-com.) Although the film finally seems to come together in its third act, the final villain-Spidey showdown, it feels “too little, too late” to have waited for the film to gel as a cohesive whole. “The Amazing Spider-Man” is rated 3 of 5 stars.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” is rated PG-13 for “sequences of sci-fi action/violence” that may be difficult, at times, for younger viewers.

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