‘Spider-Man 2’ less than the sum of its parts

By Christopher K. Conner

Two years after Sony Pictures reset the Spider-Man movie franchise, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” comes to the screen on a slow weekend for the cinema. Perhaps none of the big movie houses wanted to compete with Marvel properties. That’s understandable given the run Stan Lee is having.

Reprising his role in 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Andrew Garfield returns to the red and blue spandex in this sequel. Emma Stone returns as Gwen Stacy, the only student smarter than Peter Parker.

The film begins at Peter and Gwen’s high school graduation. As usual, Peter is called to don the spider suit making him late to the proceedings. A gang of Russian mafia toughs has hijacked a shipment of explosively radioactive material belonging to the ubiquitous corporation Oscorp. Spider-Man captures the bad guys, saves a few dozen lives and manages to make it back to graduation in time to accept his diploma.

Something is bothering Peter, though. He is plagued by visions of Gwen’s deceased father. At the end of the first movie, Peter promised Captain Stacy that he would stay away from Gwen because as Spider-Man he would make enemies that might come after her.

Separately, both Spider-Man and Gwen have encounters with the little-known and slightly unstable Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx). Being saved by Spider-Man and lacking any friends of his own, Max develops an obsession with the webslinger that borders on madness. When Max is left to repair a broken power line alone, he falls into a tank of bioengineered electric eels and apparently dies.

Desperate to avoid a scandal, Max is purged from the company records, but before his body can be destroyed, he revives and undergoes a change that leaves his physical form something like solid electricity. Not understanding what happened to him, Max wanders the streets searching drawn to concentrations of electricity.

When Spider-Man tries talking to him, Max believes that Spider-Man has betrayed him and goes on a rampage. Ultimately defeated by Spider-Man, Max ends up at a high-security prison where experiments on him are lead by Oscorp scientists.

After thee recent death of his father, Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) takes control of Oscorp and finds that he cannot trust any of his advisers. A childhood friend, Peter Parker, comes to visit him, sensing that Harry might need a friend.

The two rekindle their friendship and Harry admits to Peter that he has the same disease that killed his father. He asks Peter to contact Spider-Man and see if the costumed vigilante will give him a sample of blood. The process that created Spider-Man might allow Harry’s own body to fight off the disease. Peter agrees, but when Spider-Man shows up, he refuses to the transfusion because it might do more damage to Harry.

Learning that, while the hybrid spiders were all destroyed, they were milked of venom beforehand, Harry tries to find the secret projects division of Oscorp, hoping that the venom can cure his condition. Instead, Harry is framed by his advisers for trying to cover up the death of Max Dillon, Harry hatches a plan to free Dillon from his confinement in exchange for getting back to Oscorp.

Given access to the city’s power grid, the stage is set for a battle between Max Dillon, now going by the name Electro, and Spider-Man while at Oscorp, Harry undergoes a transformation of his own.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a long movie, not just in running time, but in pacing. Several lengthy fight scenes, and lots of CGI exhibition were broken up by overdone character development.

Garfield is still a better Peter Parker than previous actors, Emma Stone is nearly a perfect Gwen Stacy. It’s too bad Jamie Foxx plays an almost too nerdy and comically desperate Max Dillon. Given the inherent creepiness of Dane DeHann, it would have been a good idea to take the Max character in a more serious direction. As it is, the two proto-villains are so far apart on their convergence doesn’t work very well.

Much like “The Amazing Spider-Man” something is missing in the chemistry of the film. Each part works, but together the film is less than the sum of its parts. This Electro is vastly more impressive visually than the 70’s comic version, by the way. Too bad the root character was so over the top.

Compared to some of the other Marvel films, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” could have measured up better. On the other hand, it could have been much worse.

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