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'Spider-Man Two' not completely 'Amazing'

Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti and Dane DeHaan play villains, but can't contribute quite enough energy to the flagging franchise.

Andrew Garfield , as Peter Parker/Spidey, is having a bittersweet time with Emma Stone, as Gwen.
Andrew Garfield , as Peter Parker/Spidey, is having a bittersweet time with Emma Stone, as Gwen.Read more

PERHAPS the fertile imagination of Stan Lee could conjure a villain with the power to bend time into a recurring loop.

The fellow could use his Groundhog Day abilities to rob armored cars, or whatever, and while this was going on the rest of us could be forced to experience the same thing, over and over.

Much as we now experience the "Spider-Man" movies, reboots of reboots of a character done to near-perfection, and very recently, by Sam Raimi.

Case in point: "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," a long, low-energy movie, that begins with Spider-Man policing New York successfully, but failing in his relationship with Gwen (Emma Stone).

Both, by the way, are graduating from high school. Gwen is valedictorian, and no wonder. She's what . . . 30?

An offer to study in England cements her split with Peter Parker, who accepts it because his Spidey senses tell him his crime-fighting activities will endanger her.

And, of course, that's true. Gwen's interning at a sinister corporation now run by the founder's unstable heir (Dane DeHaan), whose firm has stolen the electrical-grid ideas of a nerdy and inscreasingly angry technician (Jamie Foxx). Both men end up using Gwen to settle perceived grudges with Spider-Man - the bare bones of a plot that is needlessly, endlessly complicated.

"Spider-Man 2" requires two hours to hash it all out before unleashing its half-hour effects extravaganza that gives us new versions of Electro and Green Goblin. (Paul Giamatti makes a brief appearance as Rhino, affecting a Russian accent that lapses at times into Italian).

The movie's stand-out visual achievement, though, has nothing to do with it's ho-hum hero-villain confrontations. It's a technically, visually well-engineered staging of Gwen and Peter's final scene, inspired by one of Lee's most notorious panels. And one of the rare moments when the movie feels like it finds the right tone - overall, its mix of humor and pathos is mostly awkward.

We've all been spoiled a bit by the confidence and energy of the "Avengers" movies, or the "Batman" movies as helmed by Chris Nolan. These series have found clever ways to make the characters newly relevant, with sly references to terror, the recession, the surveillance state, the NSA, etc.

"Spider-Man" seems to exist only because the studio would otherwise lose the option to make more. Maybe the latter wouldn't be the worst thing in the comics world. A long hiatus and fresh creative thinking might help.