If the idea behind a sequel to a summer blockbuster is to up the ante in terms of bombast and intensity, then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 certainly fits the bill. This installment is bigger and better and louder and longer, featuring more villains, next generation special f/x, more captivating action sequences, and even a fully-blossomed romance between Spidey's alter ego Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).
The picture's point of departure is a flashback filling in a bit of the back story about how Peter became an orphan. We learn that his parents' (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) died aboard a doomed private plane hijacked by an assassin (Bill Heck) with an agenda, but not before his scientist father managed to email an explanatory message and critical computer file via satellite.
Fast-forward to the present, Peter and Gwen's high school graduation day. We see a frustrated Gwen searching the audience for her boyfriend as she delivers a sentimental valedictory speech at the podium.
We soon learn that he's been delayed in Manhattan where as Spider-Man he's trying to retrieve a shipment of stolen plutonium from a Russian mobster named Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti). In the middle of the chase, he coincidentally saves the life of Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), an engineer at Oscorp, the company responsible for supplying the city with electricity.
After securing the vials and apprehending the perpetrator for the police, Peter rushes off to his commencement ceremony, arriving right in the nick of time to receive his diploma. However, he has no idea that he hasn't seen the last of Aleksei and Max who are fated to return later in the adventure after a combat suit of armor and a freak accident enable them to morph into the villainous Rhino and Electro, respectively.
But first, he grudgingly ends his relationship with Gwen in deference to her dad (Denis Leary) who doesn't want his daughter dating a trouble-seeking vigilante.
Next, Peter finds himself summoned to the offices of childhood pal Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who has just inherited Oscorp Industries, but is suffering from the same hereditary affliction which claimed the life of his recently-deceased father (Chris Cooper).
Harry futilely solicits Peter's help in locating Spider-Man, hoping that a blood transfusion might cure his affliction. Of course, that ain't gonna happen. So, instead, he has to settle for the venom of genetically-altered spiders, which transforms him into another diabolical Spidey nemesis, the Green Goblin.
That makes a trio of worthy adversaries for the webslinging superhero to dispatch in creative fashion before the curtains come down. Provided you're patient enough to sit through the closing credits after 2½ hours, you'll even be treated to a tease of X-Men: Days of Future Past, opening later this month, courtesy of a Jennifer Lawrence cameo as Mystique.
A "Marvel"-ously entertaining franchise that miraculously just keeps on giving and giving!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for PG-13 for action and sci-fi violence
Running time: 142 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures
To see a trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, visit: