"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (PG-13) *** (out of four)
Andrew Garfield does everything a spider can to elevate "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," an entertaining sequel to the 2012 reboot of the Marvel comic book-turned-movie series. The action is thrilling and the story is packed with human emotion, yet at 2 hours and 22 minutes, one gets the feeling director Marc Webb was pressured to cram too much into one film; the same thing, ironically, that led to the undoing of the third Tobey Maguire "Spider-Man" film, directed by Sam Raimi in 2007.
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" begins by exploring the fate of Peter Parker's (Garfield) parents, Oscorp scientist Richard (Campbell Scott) and his wife, Mary (Embeth Davidtz), who were forced to leave a young Peter in the care of Richard's brother, Ben (Martin Sheen) and his aunt, May (Sally Field) at the beginning of the 2012 film. A groundbreaking, secret creation by Richard Parker is at the core of a through-line that holds together the whole narrative of the new film, which not only introduces three villains – Electro (Jamie Foxx), Harry Osborne/Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and Rhino (Paul Giamatti) – but delves into the complicated relationship between Peter and his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).
Like he did in the 2012 film, Garfield perfectly embodies Spider-Man and Peter, from the wisecracking webslinger who toys with the bad guys, to an emotionally-damaged teen overwrought with guilt over past losses and fear of the fate his loved ones could suffer because of his superhero status. The best scenes, emotionally, are anchored by Garfield, the charming Stone and the always brilliant Field, and cast newcomer DeHaan brings a high creep factor as the tortured son of billionaire scientist Norman Osborne (Chris Cooper).
The special effects are spectacular as expected, but sometimes become too manic as the crash-boom-bang factor is amped up to the hilt. On the whole, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is much darker than the first film, so parents of the youngest kids who insist on seeing one of the big-screen's most identifiable superheroes should be forewarned.
Tim Lammers is a veteran entertainment reporter and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. He annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films for BringMeTheNews, “KARE 11 News at 11” and 96.3 K-TWIN, among other radio stations.