On the surface, there’s plenty going on in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Our hero will confront a new villain, find an old friend, struggle with romance and learn the truth about his missing father. Over the space of almost 2 1/2 hours, the movie packs in enough for five superhero flicks.
That’s a lot of bang for your buck — or 20 bucks if you spring for IMAX and 3-D, which will make this loud, busy movie feel even louder and busier. Given all that, though, why does it feel like nothing at all is going on in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”?
That’s partly on purpose. Among the current superhero franchises on the market, “Spider-Man” has staked out a comfortably irrelevant middle ground. Where the “Dark Knight” films tackled post-9/11 anxiety, and the latest “Captain America” nodded to current events with its Edward Snowden-inspired plot, the “Spider-Man” series doesn’t have a larger thematic idea in its head. Neither does “Iron Man” or “Thor,” of course, but at least those movies benefit from a charismatic Robert Downey Jr., and a kind of concussed giddiness, respectively. “Spider-Man” has a pinched and dour Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, whose spider-like powers unfortunately include a room-clearing sense of humor (“You can call me anything but late to dinner!”).
The supporting players almost make “Spider-Man 2” worth the steep admission. One is Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Peter’s smart, self-possessed girlfriend. Understated and modestly radiant, Stone makes even Garfield sparkle. Another is Dane DeHaan, who brings a heartbreaking quality to Harry Osborn, Peter’s troubled school chum. Director Marc Webb handles their scenes with a sensitivity that’s missing from the rest of the film.
The new villain is Max Dillon, a social misfit (well played by Jamie Foxx) who becomes the energy-sucking monster Electro. He’s initially compelling but, it turns out, unimportant. “Spider-Man 2” is mostly setting up the stories of Gwen and Harry for the next episode. Even for empty entertainment, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” barely satisfies.