Mildly Amazing

The webslinger is back, but with less zing

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a hard movie to unpack.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is the cowled hero of N.Y.C, but he lives humbly with his pesky aunt (Sally Field). He begins to learn that his parents were Silkwooded by the evil Osborn corporation; meanwhile he renews his friendship with the troubled young Osborn heir, Harry (Dane DeHaan, the film’s standout). Peter’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), is getting fed up with Peter’s inability to show up on time. That’s when a monster made of electricity turns up to devastate the power grid.

But Jamie Foxx’s characterization of Max Dillon, who becomes the villain Electro, isn’t much; he stumbles into the movie like Richard Pryor stumbled into Superman III. Maybe it’s just hard to identify with the problem of getting dunked in a tank full of mutated electric eels on your birthday. Max is written as an underappreciated nerd, and Foxx hams it with thick specs and a pocket protector as overstuffed as this plot.

Peter Parker is an emotional wreck, an orphan thrice over, if you count Uncle Ben; when unmasked, he’s frequently in tears. For the love scenes, director Marc Webb was likely hoping for something as off-the-cuff as the banter between Tony and Pepper in the Iron Man films. It doesn’t work; when Peter isn’t blocked, he’s babbling.

Despite the addition of a Dr. Girlfriend (“Felicia” played by Felicity Jones) for Osborn, the film’s real slow-down for romance is played between Peter and Harry. They’re walking around a carousel, skipping stones by the waterside, and asking each other searching questions: “I try not to think about it.” “How’s that working out for you?”—all this before the ultimate reveal that they, alas, can never be friends.

The action sequences were thought out, anyway, expertly pre-vised and animated to turn Spider-Man every which way but inside-out. Show me a second where Spider-Man does the old Buster Keaton stunt of grabbing the end of a passing vehicle and flying away, and I’m happy.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ opens Friday, May 2, in wide release.

Sonoma County Library