Reel Experiences with Robert Humanick: Under-rated superhero sequel swings onto home video

Like any number of recent big-budget movies – particularly those of the superhero/sequel variety – “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” bites off more than it can properly chew, with too many underdeveloped antagonists and frequently on-the-nose dialogue that makes the mistake of speaking directly to the themes at play. Such are the tangible, easily forgivable problems in what was otherwise one of the stronger releases of the summer season, especially surprising after the uninspired reboot that preceded it. This superhero movie takes chances with the material that pay off, even when they misfire.

Director Marc Webb’s sleight of hand, more assured this time around, helps to elevate this sequel above the predictable beats of what might otherwise be typical popcorn product. There’s a purely visual element to the storytelling that escapes many films of the genre – or, at least, everything but their action scenes. The camera engages with the characters, almost a participant itself in the dialogue, and there are times when the melodrama, aided by the raw expressiveness of the cast, has a purity reminiscent of silent movies.

This sense of storytelling purpose extends to the CGI-aided spectacle, which, even at its most overblown, has a distinct sense of choreography and space, and feels as though it holds real weight. This integrity is thanks, in part, to the decision to shoot the movie on 35mm celluloid, which allows for a fluidity of movement that digital cannot yet quite replicate. That the script makes apparent the thorny internal struggles of its characters – with love, with money, with personal agency – adds depth to their surface conflicts, even when specific motivations seem murky. Uneven but unexpectedly powerful, it’s a spectacle that gives you something to take with you after the lights go up.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is available to rent and own on Tuesday, Aug. 19.

Robert Humanick is a contributing writer for slantmagazine.com. Follow Rob on Twitter @rhumanick