Andrew Garfield returns as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2.' (Niko Tavernise / Columbia Pictures)
And so the summer movie season begins — with a big sprawling superhero mess.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” follows the old dictum “If you don’t know what to give the audience, throw everything you can think of at them.” Unfortunately, that old dictum rarely works, and it certainly doesn’t here.
In this follow-up to the 2012 reboot of a franchise that’s now coughed up five films in 14 years, Spidey has to deal with girlfriend problems (as always); solve the mystery of the parents who abandoned him; help a friend battle a terminal disease; and fight not one, not two, but three super-charged bad guys while also continuing to do his standard job of foiling everyday crooks and neighborhood bullies.
With all this going on, you’d think there would be action sequences everywhere, but not so much. Things start out with a goosed-up car chase sequence, and there’s a colorful battle in the film’s middle that takes place in Times Square, but for the most part, director Marc Webb saves the big guns for the film’s grand finale. And while those fireworks are at times impressive — with the movie weighing in at 142 minutes — they take too long to arrive.
So, the story — or the stories. One involves Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) worrying that he’s putting girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in too much danger via his Spidey shenanigans. Since those shenanigans caused the death of her cop father last time around, he’s onto something.
But then Peter also is haunted by the unexplained disappearance of his parents when he was a small boy. What was his dad (Campbell Scott) up to while working as a scientist at the monolithic Oscorp?
Speaking of Oscorp, Peter’s long-gone childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) suddenly returns to New York City to take over the giant corporation when his father (Chris Cooper) dies. Harry and Peter walk around New York for an afternoon and suddenly remember they’re BFFs, so Peter is, of course, saddened to hear Harry’s dying of some genetic defect.
And then there’s the bad guys, but let’s stick with the main one. He would be Electro (Jamie Foxx), a timid electrical engineer working for Oscorp who suddenly becomes the master of all electricity when he falls into a giant vat filled with — kid you not — electric eels. No, seriously, electric eels. Suddenly Dr. Octopus seems completely feasible.
All these storylines run into and over one another while director Webb struggles — and fails — to find a consistent tone (is it any wonder?). At times the movie takes on a light, nearly silly attitude; at others, it’s all heavy mystery or life and death; and then when the action scenes hit, it’s mainly the equivalent of visual screeching.
Lost for the most part is the actual chemistry between Garfield and Stone, both of whom are fine actors caught in a comic cage. When the two are handed a bit of banter, they seem delighted, and it’s easy to wish they were in a romantic comedy.
But they’re not. They’re in a mega-budget, over-stuffed summer movie intended to spawn more mega-budget summer movies; cogs in a sprawling machine poised to march seemingly into eternity. How did Peter Parker end up swallowed by such a monster?
'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Running time: 142 minutes