Its a franchise that didnt need a reboot, but here we are with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. And, this second installment in director Marc Webbs take on the wise-cracking webslinger is, simply put, fun.

A director with romantic sensibilities, Webb (500 Days of Summer) wisely exploits the strength of his first movie: the chemistry between Spider-Mans alter-ego Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). They are the storys emotional anchor, and they are just plain adorable. Swooning might ensue whenever Peter kisses Gwen, especially that peck during high school graduation, or the one high atop the city with the Queensboro Bridge as a backdrop. Stone is as intelligent and energetic as ever, with more to do this go-round, while Garfield has fully grown into his red-and-blue latex suit. Hes more confident and relaxed, his senses are sharper and hes having fun that feels infectious. He playfully hums Spider-Mans theme song (its his ringtone, too) and squares off with kindly, doting Aunt May (Sally Field) over doing laundry. You turn everything red and blue, she tells him.

When we catch up with Peter, hes facing all sorts of anxieties. Besides being orphaned and burdened with guilt over the death of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), theres that promise he made to a dying Capt. Stacy (Denis Leary) to stay away from Gwen in order to keep her safe. But you cant quell the desires of first love for long. Plus, Garfield and Stone, also a couple offscreen, are too combustible to keep apart. The movie is nothing without them.

Other than one gutsy plot twist, the script, credited to four screenwriters, is largely superhero business as usual. Spider-Man has a trio of villains (Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti and Dane DeHaan) to contend with, and in telling their stories and backstories the narrative gets convoluted. But, again, the casting compensates.

Like the first movie, the sequel opens with that fateful night Peters parents disappeared, only this time told from their perspective. From there, the movie struggles to find its footing, as it sluggishly fleshes out the villains. Its never a bore, though, thanks to the pure spectacle. Its a marvel to watch Spider-Man scale walls, sling webs and flit from place to place keeping Manhattan safe from thugs and thieves. As one character says, Spider-Man is our symbol of hope.

And hope is a precious commodity with their way of life threatened by three villains, led by the terrific DeHaan (The Place Beyond the Pines) as Peters friend Harry Osborn, aka the Green Goblin. DeHaan nearly steals the whole film from Garfields sticky grip, as his character descends into desperation, thinking Spider-Man betrayed him. Hes especially strong in an early scene opposite Oscar-winner Chris Cooper as the kids ruthless father, Norman, the founder of the nefarious Oscorp Industries, where Peters father also worked. Seems papa Parker discovered how to cross-pollinate species. If his research were to fall into the wrong hands, bad things would and do happen.

As Max Dillon, the nerdy loner who becomes the angry blue-faced Electro, Foxx surprisingly supplies little juice to a guy with the power to control electricity. The character just isnt well-drawn, leaving you craving more DeHaan and less Foxx.

Then theres Giamattis Rhino, whose crazed eyes and sinister smile add needed menace. He appears in only two scenes, but enticingly promises to have a much larger role in Spidey 3.

The ensuing action is quite a rush. But its the films quieter moments that resonate loudest. Field again lends perspective and poignancy, especially in a scene where Aunt May reveals information to Peter about his father. Peters relationship with May is topped only by his romance with Gwen. Youre my boy, May tells Peter. Pass the tissues.

Per usual, Spider-Man creator Stan Lee shows up for a subtle cameo. He doesnt miss out on the fun, neither should you.

Dana Barbuto may be reached at

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action / violence). Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Sally Field, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti. Grade: B.