Two years after Andrew Garfield made his debut as Peter Parker, Spidey is back in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” and like the sequel itself, he’s much more comfortable in his own skin.
Picking up as Peter and his first love, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) are graduating from high school, everything is in a state of flux.
Still haunted by the death of her late father’s (Denis Leary) dying words, Peter is flailing a bit in his relationship, but he’s slowly earning the city’s respect as the masked crime-fighting vigilante.
During a routine outing, Spider-Man saves Mark (Jamie Foxx), a bumbling-but-brilliant Oscorp employee who just wants to be seen.
His kind words convert the man into an unsettling Spidey devotee before a lab accident leads to a much bigger transformation, into the electricity-absorbing Electro.
The terrifically-rendered Electro quickly becomes a modern-day Frankenstein’s monster, becoming the villain the world assumes he is, accompanied by some groan-inducing expository dialogue and a regrettable dubstep soundtrack that will inevitably age the film in a few short years.
Raising the bar in its use of CGI, the combat scenes between Spider-Man and Electro are visually innovative in a way that is nothing short of astonishing, potentially at the cost of the makeup budget for one of the film’s other baddies.
Speaking of which, despite initial fears of a sequel overloaded with villains, the nearly two-and-a-half hour movie is nothing of the sort.
While much of “The Amazing Spider-Man” felt a bit like a rehash of the first Tobey Maguire-led “Spider-Man,” necessitated by the title character’s origin story, the follow-up also pays off the 2012 blockbuster’s most interesting subplot: the disappearance of Peter’s parents.
During his obsessive search for truth, Peter is reintroduced to his childhood friend, Harry Osborn, who was shuffled off the boarding school nearly a decade ago.
Dane DeHaan plays the latest iteration of Harry, a flamboyant, hard-edged teen who is handed a great deal of power (and responsibility) due to his estranged father’s failing health.
Both sons of Oscorp’s founding fathers, family secrets have entangled the boys’ futures together, all while creating deep cracks in the foundation of their friendship.
“Spider-Man” succeeds in large part as a superhero movie simply because it would still make a powerful coming-of-age story if stripped of all its comic book elements.
Peter’s complicated feelings for Gwen and the pain and confusion that stems from his parents’ abandonment ring true in a way that often feels hollow within the genre.
Wisely hinting at “sinister” things to come, this solid second entry forces Peter to gather his strength in the face of profound loss, as there are surely even greater adversaries to come.
Rated PG-13, in theaters Friday.