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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

As far as I know, Yogi Berra never joined his fellow Manhattan icon Ed Koch in taking up a late-life career as a movie critic. But under different circumstances he did provide the perfect tag line for this, the movie kicking off this summer’s megabudget multiplex blockbuster season: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

When the decision was made a few years ago to reboot the Spider-Man series, fans reasonably responded, “Already?” Not only were Sam Raimi’s three films with the character generally considered the most successful comic book adaptions to date, they were less than a decade old. But while 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man looked like it was going to be establishing a different foundation for Peter Parker, this sequel offers only cosmetic changes to the old story. (Blame writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, whose fingerprints are all over some of the most ill-conceived popcorn movies of the past decade, including Transformers, Mission Impossible III, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Cowboys and Aliens.)

Also unlike its immediate predecessor, which tried to keep Spider-Man plausibly acrobatic, this sequel goes whole hog with digital effects. After you see Spider-Man stop a skidding bus by putting his back against it and digging his feet into the cobblestone street, you lose any connection with him as a vulnerable human being. As “Electro,” the villain of the film, Jamie Foxx all but disappears (as does the gap in his teeth): I came out of the movie utterly unable to remember if he had been killed or not. Sally Field has one good scene as Peter’s Aunt May, trying to explain why she’s trying to protect him, but otherwise this is not an actor’s movie.

It’s two and a half hours of things exploding for no good reason other than that the effects guys know how to do it. There’s no real dramatic development, just (spoiler alert) an unexpected demise that feels arbitrary and unnecessary, as if the writers were desperate to make some kind of human contact. If this is setting a template for the summer to come, the box office is in for a real beating.

Watch the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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