Does the film industry think audiences are happy to watch the same movie over and over again? If The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is anything to go by, then the answer’s yes.

It’s not that this sequel is especially bad, but it is very familiar. Back in 2012, just five years after the close of Sam Raimi’s trilogy, the world questioned whether Spider-Man was even ready for a reboot. Director Marc Webb responded with a reinvented origin story that felt fresh and current largely due to some top notch social awkwardness between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) that seemed worthy of a Judd Apatow movie.

© 2013 - Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

© 2013 – Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Webb’s sequel is a different story. The hero’s self-conscious adolescence that made the 2012 reboot so appealing is here, but barely. Webb seems to have forgotten just how young his central characters are. In his stylish office, Peter Parker’s best bud knocks back the bourbon like he’s Don Draper while running a multi-national corporation, Oscorp. Witty beyond their years, the banter between Parker and long-time pal turned nemesis, Harry Osborn (Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan), is sharp and entertaining but clearly a fantasy. For a series that grounds its believability in the ordinariness of its hero, this is a problem.

With his romantic entanglement now blistering with self-doubt, the youthful exuberance of Spider-Man is limited to pulling baddies’ trousers down. The reboot’s neat comic-book quips are almost entirely lost. Yet this take on Spider-Man is no dark, DC Comics affair and sticks rigidly to its light tone even when a little cheerlessness might surprise. Webb’s sequel does throw in a bold moment but fails to linger on it and, when this feels like the film’s natural close, undermines the drama in favour of cheesy positivity.

© 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

© 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The by numbers plot is a disjointed affair crammed with villains and back stories that never fuse quite as neatly as they should. Webb injects more origin story as he scrabbles for an emotional hook but while this re-examination of Peter’s parents may placate eager fans, there’s not sufficient time to get lost in the story before the film must return to its two – yes two – villains and their competition for screen time.

For all its flaws, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does make a genuine attempt to create three-dimensional bad guys. An accident at the Oscorp lab leaves social outcast Max (Jamie Foxx) with a serious, luminous, electrocuting problem. Hinging on a desire to be noticed, his switch from good to evil is a tad clunky, but his innocence makes him a clear underdog candidate. There’s a strong possibility some viewers might even will him on – and not simply in hope of bringing this lacklustre sequel to an end.

“DeHaan is merely a shadow of his Chronicle badass”

Meanwhile, Osborn aka Green Goblin needs a cure for an inherited disease and a bad-guy alliance is formed. Even with a run time of 142 minutes there’s little space to flesh everyone out and as Osborn hovers above Spider-Man on a futuristic skateboard, DeHaan is merely a shadow of his Chronicle badass. As if that wasn’t enough, a criminally underused Felicity Jones is thrown into the mix as Osborn’s indecipherable assistant.

The result of all this overstuffing? A measly scattering of predictable action sequences – a plane crash, a car chase, a CGI-heavy final showdown – that never quite deliver the thrills they should. Spider-Man’s is not much of a super-power – running, jumping and shooting webs – but while the reboot made it feel every bit as Amazing as the title suggests, here Webb seems to run out of ideas. The unveiling of Max, aka Electro’s, raw electric power in Times Square should make eyes pop with wonder, but the scene ends just when it’s getting started.

© 2013 - Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

© 2013 – Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Ultimately it’s the quality of the performances that rescue The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from the realms of comic-book mediocrity. The spark between Parker and Gwen continues to sizzle even though their overinflated relationship is so off-and-on it’s dizzying. For all the script’s verbal sparring and simmering chemistry, it’s disappointing then that ‘its complicated’ are the only words Peter can find to describe his relationship. Lucky then that an on-form Sally Field is able to infuse every one of her scenes with the emotional fire power The Amazing Spider-Man 2 so desperately strives for.

Flimsy and familiar, it’s ironic that The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s underlying message is one of hope. In-keeping with this optimism Webb offers a tantalising end of credits teaser, a nod to his audience that all is not lost.

VERDICT:    ✭ ✭ ✭    3/5

For more information see the official website

Images: © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved. All images are property of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

I’m bracing myself for a backlash on this one, so let me know your thoughts in the comments below… 🙂