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Movie review: ‘Spider-Man 2’ juggles love story, trio of over-the-top villains

Dennis King Modified: May 4, 2014 at 6:20 am •  Published: May 3, 2014

Andrew Garfield
Andrew Garfield

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” casts a very wide web – looping in three crackling arch-villains and some minor evil-doers, a sweetly tortured love story involving broody Peter Parker/Spidey and brainy-cute Gwen Stacy, a dizzying CGI arsenal of swinging acrobatic effects and physics-defying fights and a swooping, eye-dazzling Cook’s tour of Manhattan landmarks.

It’s all by way of cobbling together a new chapter of the Marvel Comics superhero saga that’s stuffed to the gills and dangerously close to being overcooked as it attempts to be all things to all movie fans. In the hands of the opportunely named returning director Marc Webb, the movie maintains a delicate balance. As he did in 2012’s first film, Webb manages this so-called “rebooting” of the franchise by juggling some tried-and-true foundation elements and origin details with a few new wrinkles in an effort to satisfy super-picky comic-book fanatics and to court the more casual crowd of summer popcorn munchers.

For the most part Webb succeeds, although at a cost of making a film that feels overlong, overplotted and narratively mechanical.

The emotional linchpin of the story is Peter Parker (30-year-old Andrew Garfield) juggling his upcoming high-school graduation and superhero duties as Spider-Man with his burning ardor for perky Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, the very definition of perk) and keeping in mind his oath to her dying police-chief father to shield her from danger by breaking off their relationship.

This time out, Garfield seems to have settled easily into the duel role, and he swaggers and swings through the big action scenes with athletic aplomb, while still projecting a funny, sexy, awkward boyishness that makes Parker so appealing. Matching him quip for quip and sparking up some surefire romantic energy – perhaps fueled by the actors’ widely publicized off-screen romance – is cupcake-cute Stone, whose essential, earthy allure makes Gwen’s eventual fate (comic-book fans will know what we mean) all the more distressing.

And plodding through this romantic storyline are three iconic Marvel villains (well, maybe two and a half). Jamie Foxx shows up as the geeky Oscorp engineer Max Dillon, a needy invisible man who initially idolizes Spider-Man and then turns villain as he’s transformed into the pulsating, neon-blue Electro by an industrial accident involving electric eels. And the silky sinister Dane DeHaan is appropriately creepy as Parker’s preppy childhood friend and Oscorp scion Harry Osborn, whose dire secret illness leads him to eventually follow his late father’s fated path to become the Green Goblin.

Late in the action, an amusing Paul Giamatti lumbers in like a stray from the upcoming “Godzilla,” decked out in a mechanical dinosaur suit. He’s a Russian gangster nicknamed The Rhino, and his brief appearance in this already villain-heavy saga seems aimed entirely at setting the table for “The Amazing Spider-Man 3.” With that film and two more Marvel sagas (involving Venom and The Sinister Six) on the drawing boards, this unwieldy yet entertaining contraption could just prove a prelude to better things.

- Dennis King

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

 

PG-13

2:22

2 ½  stars

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan

(Sequences of sci-fi action/violence)