Two years after Marc Webb rebooted Sony's lucrative Spider-Man series, the jury is still out over whether it was too soon to revive the franchise so quickly after Sam Raimi's third installment. The immaculate casting of Andrew Garfield as the adolescent arachnid went some way towards justifying the film's existence, but even after the second installment, Webb finds little in the way of unexplored territory.
In Garfield's second outing in the Spidey spandex, Peter Parker has rekindled his relationship with Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy, despite the dying wishes of her father. However, their happiness is short lived as the arrival of Peter's old pal, Harry Osborn and a disillusioned Oscorp employee, Max Dillon causes trouble for Spider-Man and the population of New York City.
The movie gallops out of the traps and the Spider-Man universe is instantly and effortlessly reestablished, along with the scintillating chemistry between Garfield and Stone. The sense of fun also returns, but while the strengths of the previous movie remain intact, unfortunately so do its flaws. Webb once again nails the human aspect of the story, although much of the brooding angst has been diluted in his sophomore effort. However, the action often descends into bombastic set pieces that are generic to the point of becoming tedious and it often feels more like watching a computer game than a character-driven blockbuster movie.
There is more of a comic book sensibility this time around, and while Dane Dehaan is a superbly sinister addition to the impressive cast, the gravity of Martin Sheen's Uncle Ben that anchored the first film in reality is sorely missed. The introduction of Jamie Foxx's Max is rushed and clichéd as yet another Superhero movie falls into the trap of overpopulating its cast with multiple villains.
Technically, the feel of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 appears to be modeled on Electro, with a change of direction in the look of the Spider-Man universe that leaves behind the post-Nolan realism in favour of a more fanciful aesthetic bathed in a cobalt shimmer. Hans Zimmer's score also contains electronic inflections and even Peter's fanfare has been given a synthy makeover. While this attention to detail is impressive, it makes it all the more baffling that Electro's role should turn out to be so peripheral.
The dialogue is tight and the central romance is always engaging, but the film ultimately fails to capitalise on its inherent strengths and the final act is indicative of the movie's problems. The dénouement, while visually impressive, descends into chaos as the bloated cast compete for screen time; the result of which is a frenetic, uninvolving mess of CGI pyrotechnics punctuated by poor puns and corny quips, like Prime Minister's Question Time with a budget.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will more than satisfy the multiplex audience, but those looking for something more will be disappointed by the film's failure to play to its strengths. Garfield and Stone shine once again but they are sidelined in favour of set pieces and an overly busy plot as Webb neglects to learn from the mistakes of his predecessor.