Even with some impressive CGI and a talented cast, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ spins a predictable web of superhero and sequel clichés, leaving the audience with decent main characters but a story too obvious to even attempt to break new ground. We may like Spidey, played with natural ease by Andrew Garfield, yet the action scenes the movie depends on have so little actual suspense it often feels like a bloated CGI experiment in which we already know the outcome. While last summer kicked off with “Iron Man 3,” one of the most original superhero movies to come out of Hollywood in recent years, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is a sequel that couldn’t be more ordinary.
After his adventures in the 2012 reboot, Peter Parker’s life hasn’t necessarily gotten any easier just because he dominated a few bad guys. The source of his troubles remains Gwen (Emma Stone), a sharp and beautiful girl who he is supposed to avoid due to the wishes of her late father (Denis Leary). While we know that Peter is just about fall-down in love with Gwen, he’s haunted by images of her father and vows to keep his promise not to get her involved with anything.
But failing puppy love is also the least of Peter’s problems. When Peter’s old friend Harry (Dane DeHaan) comes back to New York to visit his very ill father (Chris Cooper), a new scheme is beginning to hatch as Harry realizes his destiny to follow in his father’s footsteps. After taking over as the CEO of his father’s company, OsCorp, Harry is suddenly at the top of a multi-billion dollar genetic development corporation, which could be used for nefarious purposes if someone were so inclined.
Meanwhile, more problems are arising in the form of OsCorp employee Max (Jamie Foxx), who was saved by Spider-Man early on and has since developed a bit of an obsession. Max is shown to be an outsider who is desperate to get more involved, which is exactly what he gets once he accidentally falls into a tank of electrified eels. It may not be the easiest way to get the attention of Spider-Man, but soon he has turned himself into a movable electrical grid and simply walking down the street can be a bit of a problem.
With Peter still trying to wrap his head around the possibility of Gwen heading to the U.K. for college, the pieces start to fall into place as Max (now Electro) starts accidentally wreaking havoc on the city. Not helping is the maneuvering of Harry, who Peter wants to trust but also seems a little too smooth to be a good guy. With Harry trying to secure a blood sample from Spider-Man, who is believed to personally know Peter, things start to get a little awkward for our hero as he tries to balance brewing plots and having a normal life.
But what sounds like a decent setup for an action movie turns out to be a fairly thin disguising of a shallow and predictable story. Because Garfield and Stone are so likable, it can be easy to overlook how hollow their characters turn out to be, complete with toss-away dialog that often seems to be just filler until the movie can get back to the action. Dane DeHaan also has the type of natural on-camera cool that could let him play a great villain one day, but another interpretation of the Green Goblin simply isn’t it.
Following a decent start with the 2012 reboot, director Marc Webb’s film also seems to be stuck in no man’s land as he tries to balance crafting a believable, character-based story and cramming in as much action and special effects as possible. Webb, who made the very funny and thoughtful comedy “500 Days of Summer,” helps create a few nice human moments, but the story is also constantly rushing to the next action fiasco, almost as if there’s a fear of losing the audience. And once we’re back in superhero action mode, the visuals may look great but the action itself has grown no less plausible, leaving “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ often feeling like a state-of-the-art video game that is too timid to break free of the genre limitations.
And it’s the lack of originality that ultimately sinks “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” The actors are well-chosen, the sets look great, and the effects are as convincing as you’re likely to see the rest of the summer. The problem is that we seem to have a franchise afraid to spin-off and do something on its own, instead rehashing the same evil corporation plots and villains that make the experience much more mundane than it had to be.
While the filmmakers are under some obligation to the source material, especially considering co-creator Stan Lee has a cameo, we’re deep enough into the screen life of Spider-Man that it might just be time to try something else. Like the recent “Man of Steel” rebooting of the Superman series, “Spider-Man” now has the right actor heading the franchise but is in need of a fresh vision to remind viewers why it’s supposed to be so amazing.