When Spider-Man first swung into cinemas in 2002, his was a simpler world. But in a post-Avengers
landscape, gee-whiz goofball Peter Parker has been deemed outdated, which means that in The Amazing Spider-Man 2
, he’s not just sidled with great power and responsibility. He’s burdened by a cinematic universe teeming with spinoffs. Coupled with sequel-itis, that means everything must be bigger, louder and capable of feeding an endless franchise. Action-wise, that’s great. Andrew Garfield, all spindly limbs and corny one-liners, brings joy to the eye-popping action. Matching him is Emma Stone, whose Gwen Stacy is less a damsel in distress than a Watson to Garfield’s web-slinging Holmes. Alas, the flaws are also bigger, among them Peter’s emo angst and wedged-in plot elements that reek of franchise-building. The great Dane DeHaan, as the infamous Harry Osborn, gets about 20 minutes for an arc that took Sam Raimi and James Franco three movies to develop. Paul Giamatti and Felicity Jones pop in for extended cameos that serve simply to tease future roles. The ghost of Gwen’s dad shows up. A shadowy conspiracy unfolds. And none of it jells. Yet even with all the spinoff egg-laying and a tone that jackknifes between Joel Schumacher camp and Christopher Nolan grit, there’s a great bag of popcorn here. Were the fat trimmed and the villains allowed to hold their own, the effects and imaginative action would carry the film. But as it is, this is a placeholder that frustrates as much as it entertains.