Synopsis: After the events of The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) finds himself struggling to find balance in his life. The time he spends fighting crime takes its toll both on his own body and mind and on his relationships, particularly with his on-again-off-again girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and his Aunt May (Sally Field). Things only become more complicated when a new enemy called Electro (Jamie Foxx) begins wreaking havoc upon New York City and Peter's old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns home to take control of Oscorp, the company Peter's father worked for before his mysterious disappearance. All of these factors converge to force Spider-Man into choices he doesn't want to make and threaten to destroy the world he so badly wants to protect.
What I Liked: There are moments of true greatness within The Amazing Spider-Man 2, most of which center on the character interactions and developments. Garfield has matured into his dual role quite well and the writing for his characters here is excellent. He has a talent for an almost manic brand of wisecracking sarcasm that fits this role nicely and indeed that talent is constantly put on display. Likewise, Garfield's chemistry with Stone is palpable and the Parker-Stacy relationship is highly enjoyable every time the characters interact. While at times the dialogue is as comic-book-movie-cookie-cutter as you can get, there are spots in which screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci give the actors tremendous material to work with, such as a the touching speech that Aunt May delivers to Peter in the second act (and coming from someone who really does not like Sally Field, this is really saying something). And whereas the first film in this franchise felt like a completely unnecessary rehash (which is was), Amazing Spider-Man 2 fully sets the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire franchise aside and sets out, thankfully, on its own path. This includes a stake-raising event near the end of the film that has the potential to up the ante, in a good way, moving forward.
What I Didn't Like: As good as this movie can be in the small moments, when Peter/Spidey interacts with another character, it is just as bad when it comes to plot development and world building. There's a decisive been-there-done-that feel to most of the action sequences and the film seems incapable of maintaining momentum. Every time I started to really dig in, director Marc Webb took me away to work on a plot point I didn't care about or introduce yet another superfluous character or to stop down for a montage sequence backed by the power of Phillip Phillips. Yay! Moreover, I think Amazing Spider-Man 2 lacks identity. At times it is a fun comic book movie, at times it drifts into darker, grittier territory and at times it plays the youth adult fiction card far too heavily. As a result, the movie never feels completely committed to any one course of action and thus it suffers. No aspect of the film drives this point home harder than Hans Zimmer's HORRENDOUS score that perpetually and insufferably drives the tone of the film in the complete opposite direction of whatever is happening on screen.
My biggest complaint, however, is how ridiculously overstuffed the entire movie is. Webb BOMBARDS the audience with new character after new character over and over again which only adds to the lack of flow within the film's development. There are more characters in play here than in an episode of Game of Thrones and outside of Peter/Spidey and Stacy, none of them are well developed. One of the biggest complaints about the first Spider-Man trilogy was the overabundance of characters, both villainous and virtuous, so you would think Webb would learn from this. Instead, Amazing Spider-Man 2 falls right into the same trap, resulting in villains without any bite and leading me to the point where I really couldn't care less about any of them, I just wanted it to be over.
Conclusion: This was an extremely frustrating viewing experience, partly because of the up and down nature of the film itself and partly because you can see the foundation of something good that never quite comes to fruition. Instead of picking a path and sticking with it, Amazing Spider-Man 2 tries to appeal to everyone and as a result, I found it to be extremely uneven and somewhat forgettable in spite of a few fantastic sequences.
Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for comic book-y violence)