This Spidey’s better than the last one, but not ‘amazing’

McClatchy-TribuneApril 30, 2014 

ENTER MOVIE-SPIDERMAN 4 MCT

Jamie Foxx and Andrew Garfield star in “The Amazing Spider-Man.“

NIKO TAVERNISE — Columbia Pictures

  • THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

    * * 1/2

    Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Sally Field, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti

    Director: Marc Webb

    140 minutes

    Rated PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action, violence)

If there’s a tie that binds most of the characters of the Marvel Universe together, it’s the mutability of the supposedly immutable human body. Characters are poisoned by radiation, zapped by electricity, bitten by spiders or broken, crushed, ruined or whatever.

And as Spider-Man cracks in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” just “shake it off. It’s just your bones, muscles … ”

But the real world doesn’t work like that. That’s one reason this comic book world has such a lasting appeal. Bullies are foiled, criminals are caught and great wrongs righted with supernatural intervention by supernaturally augmented humans.

“Amazing 2” is kind of about that. It’s a violent film, with blood and death in between the digitally animated brawls. Human bodies are tortured and broken, and there’s not always a web-slinger there to stop that flipping police car, that hurtling bus, that Russian psychopath or that jet that’s about to crash.

It’s not an altogether pleasant experience. Things tend to drag as director Marc Webb has problems with focus, keeping the many story threads straight and continuity (watch Gwen Stacy’s outfits). Many otherwise faceless extras pop off the screen as if he’s about to give their nameless characters the same significance as Stan Lee himself, who always has cameos in these Marvels.

But Andrew Garfield finds his voice as the character, making his second try at Peter Parker a caffeinated wise-cracker, enjoying his notoriety, talking to himself just like the guy in the comic book. He’s funny.

Peter hums Spider-Man’s theme song and hurls himself into situations with a teen’s recklessness. He almost misses his and Gwen’s (Emma Stone) high school graduation, dealing with a villain named Aleksei (Paul Giamatti).

But even though he doesn’t carry the angst of Tobey Maguire’s Spidey, Peter has problems. He sees Gwen’s late dad (Denis Leary) everywhere he looks, and remembers his promise to the dead cop to distance himself from his daughter, due to the danger. And, Peter hasn’t seen the opening scene in the movie, in which we flash back to Peter’s parents’ (Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz) grisly deaths. .

Webb’s team of screenwriters don’t find any pathos in all the computer-animated flying and fighting, not until the finale.

So while this “Spider-Man” is, if anything, more competent than the first film, it’s still not one that demands that you stick around after the credits. There’s nothing there.

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