The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ***

Is it worth $15? Yes

It’s a telling sign that the most appealing parts of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” have nothing to do with visual effects, action, spandex or spiders. Instead the highlights come from the chemistry of Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, who play love interests in the film and are in love in real life. There’s an ease about them on screen as they flirt and banter that’s deliciously effervescent, and the movie is better because of it. The rest of the film is enjoyable but not all that amazing, largely a collection of effects-driven action, tender emotional moments and table setting for numerous sequels to come.

Peter and Gwen are on-again off-again as he struggles to keep his promise to Gwen’s father (Denis Leary) to stay away from her, all for the sake of her own protection. The main villain is Electro, who starts out as a loser named Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) who just wants a friend. He has the power to channel electric energy at his whim, making him extremely powerful and dangerous in a bustling Metropolis like New York City. Max, like Gwen, works at a genetics manufacturing company called Oscorp, which is run by 20 year-old Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) after his father Norman (Chris Cooper) dies. Harry and Peter are also old school chums, which leads to dynamic complications later in the film. Director Marc Webb, returning after “The Amazing Spider-Man” was a global success in 2012, also includes Aunt May (Sally Field) and Peter’s parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) in subplots that feel genuinely organic to the story. In a project with this much going on, that’s a true compliment.

The action scenes are high-flying, glossy showcases of visual effects magic, and they are impressive in 3-D. However, those with vertigo or who are prone to motion sickness should know that at times the camera dives from atop a high rise building straight down to the ground, which can make the viewer a bit woozy. The intention is to simulate Spider-Man’s flight, and the end result is that of a theme park motion simulation ride, which makes it fun. The fight scenes, production and costume design, and other technical elements look superb.

But for all the millions paid to various visual effects companies to render the film’s main selling point, it’s fascinating that the main highlight of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is Garfield, who’s truly grown into the role of Peter/Spider-Man. Whereas in the last film Garfield was a bit tentative and restrained, just like Spider-Man as he got used to his new power and responsibility, here, again just like Spider-Man, Garfield is comfortable enough in Spidey’s spandex to joke around and have plenty of fun with the role. He’s charming, charismatic, smart and likable, and is even more so in all regards when paired with Stone. Given that this is a superhero movie it’s expected that Stone take a backseat as the boys have fun and rescue her damsel-in-distress femme, but she makes the most of her screen time by providing laughs, beauty and grounded reason. She’s appealing in all ways a supporting female needs to be to play her role effectively.

The last 15 minutes of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” play like a shameless extended teaser for Spidey’s future adventures, which means an awful lot feels tacked on within the already lengthy 142 minute running time. This is not a surprise given that the studio and filmmakers know audiences demand “more, bigger and better” with all sequels, but it also does the film a disservice. Still, this is a movie in which you get your money’s worth and will leave satisfied.

Did you know?

“The Amazing Spider-Man 3” is scheduled to open June 10, 2016; a “Sinister Six” spinoff, which would highlight Spider-Man’s archenemies, is also planned.

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