Movie review: “Spider-Man” sequel spins mostly solid web

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From the May 1, 2014 edition

If the 2012 reboot of Spider-Man felt like a sign we were reaching critical mass with superhero movies — just five years after Sam Raimi’s Spidey trilogy — it was still rather entertaining, even if it felt like a retread.

Two years later and we get “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” The sequel isn’t quite as amazing, but it manages to be more than solid, despite some typical sequel pitfalls.

After the events of the first film, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is really getting into the swing of this Spider-Man gig, balancing nabbing baddies with spending time with his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Still, Peter struggles with the guilt of his promise to Gwen’s dying father to leave her alone for her own safety.

Of course, as is the custom with superhero movie sequels, you have to up the ante with bad guys. Here, we get the emergence of a nebbish OsCorp scientist who becomes the electrified villain Electro (Jamie Foxx), as well as the seeds of eventual villainy in Peter’s friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan).

Director Marc Webb (“(500) Days of Summer”) returns to helm the sequel, and he again shows himself adept at handling both the action set piece and the more heart-tugging moments of the Peter-Gwen romance.

It helps that real-life couple Garfield and Stone exude enough charm to overlook some of the script’s flaws. If other things feel too familiar, at least Garfield’s performance is really starting to separate him from Tobey Maguire’s Peter/Spidey.

Most of the bad news comes from familiar sources for these sequels. A too-many-cooks script (a total of nine writing credits) sets a lot of plates spinning — developing stories with Peter’s late father, etc.

The biggest victim is Foxx, who gets an underdeveloped villain and too few chances to show his acting prowess (this is, after all, an Oscar-winning actor). Electro does deliver a lot of top-notch visual fireworks, though.

Despite a lengthy running time, Webb keeps the pace moving, especially in the third act. This “Spider-Man” is a notch behind the first reboot, but it will sate the fans’ hunger, especially setting up bigger and better things for the next installment.

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures