It’s a Marvel Universe world, and we just live in it. Did I miss out on the public clamor for a cinematic reboot of the Spider-Man origin story in 2012, a mere decade after Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire delivered a perfectly good rendition in 2002 – not to mention their 2004 reteaming for Spider-Man 2? Now we have before us The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which reunites director Marc Webb and actor Andrew Garfield as the titular web-slinger. Like the duo’s 2012 offering, The Amazing Spider-Man, this new film is a good example of how sometimes more can really be less.
The new film hits all the marks it’s supposed to, and does so with competent ease. What’s lacking is inspiration, surprise, and real wit. Peter Parker (Garfield), whose secret identity is Spider-Man, still struggles with the conflict that arises between his responsibilities as a crime-fighter and being a good boyfriend to sweetheart Gwen Stacy (Stone). Even as the movie opens, he’s on the phone making excuses to Gwen, the school valedictorian, for being late to their graduation ceremony because he’s busy flinging bad guys around in midtown traffic. Garfield and Stone are fully game for their roles. Solid new additions come in the form of Dane DeHaan as Peter’s old pal Harry Osborn (aka Green Goblin) and Jamie Foxx as the put-upon electrical engineer Max Dillon who transforms into the rage-fueled Electro during an industrial accident at Oscorp – the nefarious company that everyone seems to work for and was run by Harry’s recently deceased dad (played by the uncredited but always welcome Chris Cooper).
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. There just seems to be too much of it. Lengthy sequences of vertiginous superhero smackdowns pass with barely a gasp of surprise or startled amazement emanating from the audience. There are no plot turns or character developments that serve to keep us glued to our seats. The characters are, perhaps, overly familiar by this point – but that really hasn’t impeded Marvel print and screen fans in the past. Although handsomely mounted, this latest star in the Marvel Universe is not a leading light. But it probably has enough juice to keep the galaxy spinning until something more original comes along and knocks it out of orbit.