Two years ago, “The Amazing Spider-Man” was a competent, polished reboot devoid of personality, supplanting Sam Raimi’s orignal “Spider-Man” series, which conversely had a great deal of personality, even if it was sometimes a bit loony.
Director Marc Webb, whose only other feature was “(500) Days of Summer” — a delightful, bittersweet romance with a few laughs, a few songs and a lot of emotion — was plucked seemingly at random. But with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” it slowly becomes apparent what Webb is doing.
His version of Peter Parker, again played by Andrew Garfield, is incapable of suppressing his feelings. He’s by turns jubilant, heartbroken, cocksure and tormented, and he’s never boring.
Peter’s moments, and his interactions as a human with other humans, make “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” worth experiencing.
He has a loving, yet cautious, relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). He grabs the face of his sweet Aunt May (Sally Field) in his hands as he says, “You’re my everything!”
His room is even full of energy, with movie posters for “Blow Up” and “Dogtown and Z-Boys” making way for a frenzied map of clues left behind by Peter’s father.
Surely, if Webb could have gotten away with a musical number starring Garfield, he would not have hesitated.
But when it comes to the comic book stuff, the action and the villains, Webb seems bored. The movie opens with an awful scene, a flashback further explaining the fates of Peter’s parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) that disintegrates into a shaky-cam melee.
When future bad guy Electro first appears, he is nerdy engineer Max (Jamie Foxx) with a bad combover, and Webb clearly has some affection for him. But when an accident gives Max evil powers, he becomes a flat, monotone special effect.
The same goes for Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who at first has some satisfyingly slithery line readings, but eventually descends into angry sneering.
The swinging Spidey fights seem designed more for speed than precision, as if Webb simply wanted to get them out of the way. The best parts come when the hero pauses to banter either with a villain or with a rescued passerby. He’s the coolest dork ever.
If only the rules of superhero filmmaking allowed more room to play, to try smaller, less bombastic stories, like the comics sometimes do. How about Peter battling the flu, or income-tax forms, or noisy neighbors? Those or a million other ideas, like Spidey’s webs, could really stick.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ★★★
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Jamie Foxx
Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, James Vanderbilt
Directed by Marc Webb
Running time 2 hours, 22 minutes