Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan.
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.
The movie opens with a flashback to the hasty departure of Peter's parents -- played by Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz -- and his mother's perceptive question and prediction. "Did you see his face? He's never going to understand."
He hasn't, for the past decade, even as he prepares to graduate from high school, barely squeezing in one more save before donning his cap and gown and receiving his diploma. But as much as Peter is drawn to Gwen, he is haunted by a promise to her dying father to stay away from her to keep her safe.
When Gwen takes matters into her own hands, Peter turns into super Spidey, prompting questions about whether he is a Spider-Menace or even if there's more than one rescuer in New York. He soon has his gloved hands full, though, when old pal Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to see his ailing father and makes a peculiar request of Parker.
At the same time, a lonely electrical engineer, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), who is virtually invisible to strangers and co-workers alike, has the workplace accident of all accidents and is transformed into Electro.
His skin turns luminescent blue and electricity crackles through his body as his eyes glow white, and he can shoot lightning bolts from his fingers and plunge New York into darkness if he chooses. If he lacked power before, he is the very definition of it now.
Neither may present Peter with his biggest challenge, though, which gives Mr. Garfield a chance to act, as he did in movies such as "The Social Network" and "Never Let Me Go" and on Broadway opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Death of a Salesman."
Much of "Spider-Man 2" requires him to be playful or heroic or torn between his head and heart -- a divide obvious when he's clad in his red-and-blue costume, minus his mask. He and Ms. Stone, his real-life girlfriend, are so adorable together that their coupling is effortless to buy.
"Spider-Man 2," directed by returning Marc Webb but written by a different team, is not as spectacular or cohesive as the first. It plucks pieces from different comic storylines, sometimes making changes due to what one longtime fan derides as Marvel revisionism, and melds them together.
In addition to lacking the stern sass of Denis Leary as Gwen's police captain dad, it divides the villainy and doesn't so much end as (per standing operating procedure) set the stage for the next installment, but without any bonus scene at the end of the credits.
The movie is being released in 2-D, 3-D and 3-D IMAX and if you plan to see it in 3-D, make sure you go to a theater with the best 3-D projection possible. The 3-D during a preview seemed more visual clutter and distracting than a storytelling bonus, especially at the beginning when the action comes at a fast and furious pace.
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" deals with hope, love, loss, death, the burden of keeping secrets and how great power can bring great responsibility or, in the case of Oscorp Industries, great irresponsibility.
The script paraphrases the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." The trail is worn but Mr. Garfield is still capably carving his path and place in Spidey history.
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