It seems as though the promotional onslaught for "Amazing Spider-Man 2" started at the tail end of the release of the first "Amazing Spider-Man." After all, that film, which successfully rebooted the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire series, this time with Andrew Garfield in the title role and "(500) Days of Summer" director Marc Webb behind the camera, came out less than two years ago -- over July 4th weekend, 2012. Considering the elaborate visual effects that go into these kinds of films (and equally elaborate marketing campaigns), work on the sequel probably did start before the first one ended, and the even more insurmountable job of selling the movie began shortly thereafter.
Still, it's less than two years later and the movie feels very much like the start of its own franchise, in earnest. Emma Stone returns as Gwen Stacy, as does Sally Field as Aunt May (and, in a ghostly capacity, Denis Leary as Gwen's dead police chief father), but the vibe is different and everyone seems to be having much more fun. This time Spider-Man faces off against sparkly blue villain Electro (Jamie Foxx), as well as the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and Rhino (Paul Giamatti).
But does this translate to the rare superior sequel, or does this sequel get caught up in the same sticky webs that the first film did? Read on to find out, true believers.
1. It's Better Than the First Movie
The first "Amazing Spider-Man" movie was less than stellar, although, at that point, a reboot of a popular franchise, so soon after the initial series had ended (2007!), felt worse than redundant; it was downright confusing. (It didn't help that a leaden screenplay weighed it down.) This time, things feel looser, with more emphasis on the comic elements of this comic book movie. And even if the movie isn't the most memorable (and, indeed, it isn't), there are at least a handful of sequences that stick with you long after the credits have rolled.
2. There's a Lot of Unnecessary 'Universe Building'
One of the things that frees up "Amazing Spider-Man 2" is the fact that everyone, including the producers and the movie-going public, knows that there will be more films in the series. And not only more films, but an entire, spider-centered universe that will encompass sequels and spin-offs. So that means that, during the course of this movie, a lot of groundwork is being laid for these future installments, which unfortunately eats up a lot of screen time. It would be OK if there was a clear way that these elements were going to pay off down the line, but so much of this Spider-franchise is a question mark, so who knows when (and if) this stuff will ever be resolved.
3. A Bunch of Big Stars Have Tiny Roles
Expect to say, "Wait... they're in this?" a bunch of times throughout the course of "Amazing Spider-Man 2." Besides Paul Giamatti, who is introduced during the movie's first big action sequence and doesn't return until right before the credits roll, expect to see B.J. Novak (from "The Office" and "Inglourious Basterds"), Felicity Jones, Marton Csokas, Chris Cooper, Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz pop up for roles lasting only a few moments. Yes, their characters play important roles, but certainly not in this movie. Maybe the most egregious micro-casting stunt is Sarah Gaddon, who has appeared in David Cronenberg's "Dangerous Method" and "Cosmopolis" and had a great role in this year's psychological thriller "Enemy," appears in "Amazing Spider-Man 2"... as the Oscorp computer.
4. Jamie Foxx Is Basically a Genie
There aren't a whole lot of particularly memorable villains in the "Spider-Man" canon (which makes the fact that subsequent spin-off films are based on these villains even more hilarious). But Electro, the villain Jamie Foxx plays in the film, has always been a fan favorite. This is a character who can control electricity and shoot bolts of lighting at our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. But in "Amazing Spider-Man 2," he's refashioned as a kind of incandescent god, a spirited genie that can travel via outlets in the wall and, in one of the more striking images in the movie, overtake an entire building, broadcasting his face in florescent lights. His powers aren't exactly specified and by the time the movie was over, I was more puzzled than anything else. Still, Jamie Foxx as an electric blue genie is definitely not something you're going to see in, say, "Neighbors."
5. You Can Tell Dane DeHaan's Mood by His Hair
In "Amazing Spider-Man 2," Dane DeHaan plays Harry Osborn, who becomes the Green Goblin at a young age. (The Osborns are afflicted with some kind of horrible, incurable disease.) Much like Benedict Cumberbatch's Khan from last year's "Star Trek Into Darkness," the general mood of Harry Osborn/Green Goblin can be ascertained by looking at his hair. If he is mellow and feeling good, then his hair is brushed on top of his forehead, completing the "18th century fop" look that Harry is deeply committed to. When he's angry and in full on demonic hobgoblin mode, it's swept back into a furious swirl. So, keep an eye on that 'do, everybody.
6. 'Captain America 2' Is Better
When it comes back to what superhero movie to go see on the big screen, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is still tops. That movie is more measured and funnier and has some black characters and some women who get to do more than be the damsel in distress. So, keep that in mind.
7. The Score Is Insane
And by that I mean bonkers. The score for "Amazing Spider-Man 2" was composed by Hans Zimmer and, amongst others, Johnny Marr from The Smiths, chart-topping producer Pharrell Williams, and Dutch DJ Junkie XL. A friend called it a "dub step opera" after watching the movie and it's hard to argue with him. In fact, it's a little hard to even explain what this thing sounds like. At one point, a spooky voice takes over and articulates the inner psychological monologue of Jamie Foxx's character. It's hard to follow and insanely bizarre. And the Spider-Man character still doesn't have a decent theme.
8. Seeing It in IMAX 3D Is Probably the Way to Go
Not only do you want to see the giant action set pieces on the biggest screen possible, with the sharpest stereoscopic processes around, but don't you want to hear the crazy score in bone-rattling surround sound? I thought so. (And yes, it's worth the extra money.)
9. The Chemistry Between the Leads Is Still the Best Part
Just like in the last film, the chemistry between leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is still the very best part of the movie. These two are in love in real life, and they're in love in the movie. And while their relationship goes through some rough patches throughout the course of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," their commitment to each other endures. In a movie where a character is literally comprised of a ball of lightning, it's the chemistry between Garfield and Stone that gives off the most sparks. It's electric.
10. You Don't Need to Stick Around After the Credits
Instead of having a teaser for the next installment of the Spider-franchise (which, at this point, could be one of a number of properties), at the conclusion of "Amazing Spider-Man 2," a sequence from next month's "X-Men: Days of Future Past" plays. The reasoning behind this has to do with complicated contractual negotiations related to director Marc Webb, who was slated to make a movie for Fox after completing his obligations on the first "Amazing Spider-Man." When it became necessary for development to begin almost immediately on the sequel, Sony and Fox arranged for the placement of an "X-Men: Days of Future Past" stinger at the end of "Amazing Spider-Man 2."
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" swings into theaters May 2.