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"The Amazing Spider-Man 2"
The problem with this installment of the superhero fantasy about the most famous wall creeper alive is that its generation is showing. By which I mean the method by which it was generated is big-studio formulaic that inundates us with characters and storylines to make sure we are attentive throughout its long running time. But, it keeps the legend alive.
A flashback prologue reveals Peter Parker/Spider-Man's (Andrew Garfield, "The Social Network") father, biogenetic scientist Richard Parker, making a video to express his fears about the malevolent intentions of his collaborater, Norman Osborn, and fear for his own safety. We then see how his fears were realized in an attack by an assassin aboard a private jet.
Of all the story threads running through the movie, this event sets into motion much of the evil surrounding Spiderman as well as exposing mysteries of his early years. But it's also only the beginning of a multitude of story threads and revelations as our supposed teenage hero leads the good life supressing crime in the city of New York while enjoying his personal relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, "Gangster Squad"). But, there's a problem in director Marc Webb's ("(500) Days of Summer") followup version in the "Amazing" series.
As looks go, Emma Stone outclasses our dual-identity, somewhat geeky, comic book inspired boyfriend -- even with her efforts to convey emotional connection and much bubbleheaded dialogue aimed at simulating the appropriate age level. Which has a lot to do with how the romantic melodrama evolves, and many moments for Spidy to muse on a roof about the relationship and its affect on his job when it begins to tilt away from ideal balance.
We're in more solid territory on the action side, with enough seamless CGI and mayhem caused by the super-villains and evil-doers to keep the swinger busy saving mankind and providing many a rush for those whose nerves tingle at high altitudes. Or, who love violence to the point of annihilation -- both to man and infrastructure.
Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx, "White House Down"), supervillain #1, starts out as a meek electrical engineer with big ideas for improving the city's wiring that he wants to present to his employer, the huge, sinister Oscorp company, (named for CEO Norman Osborn). Max, given to big emotional swings and a loose connection to reality, is rescued by Spider-Man during a chase with Russian mobsters led by evil Aleksei Sytsevich (grossly tattooed Paul Giamatti, "Saving Mr. Banks"). This turns into Max's adoration for his new "friend," the most famous guy in Manhattan.
Max is misunderstood and ignored by his bosses. And, though he claims to have designed the electric circuits of the city, a near-death experience (or was it an actual one?) causes him to emerge as Electro, a guy with more anger and voltage to exert his will with the current.
Electrical current now energizes him and makes him glow like volcanic magma to match his mood. For those who thought The Joker from "The Dark Knight" was destructive to the brick and mortar of Gotham, you could say Electro makes a matching impression as he burns through streets, buildings and vehicles. And, just when the repairs were finished.
Meanwhile, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, "Lincoln"), old pal of Parker's and Norman's son, (supervillain #2), seems to have been born with a rage that isn't quelled even by inheriting dad's company. Which may be a case of the apple not falling far from the tree. Sitting in the corporate owner's chair only increases his sociopathic dream of getting a sip of Spidy's blood to improve his chemical imbalance and make him the genetic demon he dreams of becoming in order to smash the good guys, starting with Spider-Man.
On the softer side of Parker/Spider-man's increasingly turbulent world to navigate is his home life with Aunty May (Sally Field, "Lincoln"), a place where the biggest conflict is over who gets to launder his clothes. But, lurking in the mist of history are family secrets -- secrets that May must now share with Peter.
Despite charm and catchy dialogue, it's in these scenes with May that the actor is most challenged to be taken as the teen he's supposed to be -- the credibility of which grows strained.
The joyous thrill-ride Parker (and the CGI team) takes us on through the skyscrapers just for the rambunctiousness of it is stimulating fun, especially for exploiting the 3D effect (if a little erratically edited at times). Webb's second take on the series -- after director Sam Raimi's three -- now requires a team of writers (4) in order, one would think, to cover all the story elements in order to pay off expectations.
At two hours and twenty minutes, you'd better believe every writer got his due. Production values are super sharp, with DP Daniel Mindel's work optimal and composer Hans Zimmer's score performed by the Magnificent Six (with Pharrell Williams) pounding and menacing in the right places.
There being no way to match the moment of Spider-man's self discovery in the first "Spider-Man," what you've got to work with here is super-hero vs super-villain in super-battles, a troubled romance, a lot of introspection about what's most important in a hero's life, and all the work you have to do to be the city's cherished protector. If you're a teen, the creative team's effort to jam so much in will fulfill you to the max while asking too much of less forgiving audiences in the age-stretching and sensory overload. POW!
At the time I write this, "The Amazing Spider-Man 3" has been announced or is rumored to be in the planning stages. It probably hinges more on how the boxoffice receipts turn out for this sequel than the word of critics. Let's call it keeping your options open. In any case, they'd better do it quickly or consider two younger leading actors.