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‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’ lights the fuse on summer

Before diving too far in my review of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” I want to talk a little bit about perception and experience. Whether we like it or not, we all look at the world through lenses — how we want the world to be, or what we’re afraid it might become.

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation.

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation.

For example, I saw “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” at the 13th Street Warren Theatre in Wichita this past weekend. For those who have never been to the Warren: the balcony features to-your-seat meal and drink service, heated seats and, most importantly, a very old-timey focus on the “movie-going experience.” As a film reviewer who sees a lot of movies, they experience is very often lost on me, it’s routine. Shaking up that perception can mean everything. I am deeply in love with the first half hour of “Amazing Spider-Man 2” for two reasons; it features very high quality Spider-Man excitement, and I was completely jazzed about the experience of being “at the movies.”

Therein lies the key, in this reviewer’s opinion, to the sustained survival of the film industry. In the not-too-distant future, new release films will likely be available to download and watch from the comfort of our homes. The question then becomes, why, oh why, would we ever submit ourselves to going to a crowded theater full of inconsiderate young people when we can sit on our couches? The only viable answer to that question is the theater experience and how that changes our perception and enjoyment of a movie. If that experience exists, and is worth the cost, many people will continue to choose it. If not, services like Netflix might be looking at the cinema industry in the rearview mirror.

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Despite what the previews and reviews might suggest, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is a very strong, if not the strongest, entry in the “Spider-Man” franchise.

Andrew Garfield returns as Peter Parker/Spider-Man to wonderful effect. Garfield absolutely nails the “make fun of villains while dispatching them” bit that is one of the core pieces of the Spider-Man character. Coupled with stunning CGI effects, Garfield’s Spider-Man is stunning.

Nearly without exception, the cast of the “Amazing Spider-Man” series far surpasses the cast of the first “Spider-Man” set of films. Emma Stone is more likable than Kirsten Dunst, relative newcomer Dane DeHann is already a far better actor than James Franco will ever be; and, to this reviewer’s delight, Toby Maguire is nowhere to be found.

“Amazing Spider-Man 2” is not without its flaws. While it handles it infinitely better, “Amazing Spider-Man 2” is as over-saturated with villains as “Spider-Man 3” was. In some ways, however, the density of material is a good thing. Garfield thrives on interactive scenes — whether it’s villains, bystanders, love interests or family members, Garfield’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man is a completely different, and decidedly stronger, character in the presence of others that when he’s alone.

There are a few dull scenes, and there is some cheese, and while  “Amazing Spider-Man 2” may not have amazing oozing out of the walls, it certainly has more than its fair share. I think this is a wonderful kick-off movie to the summer movie season – definitely a better start than last year’s moderately disappointing “Iron Man 3.”

Here are my recommendations: Go see “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” enter the theater looking for fun, not depth, and take a trip sometime to see a movie at the Warren Theatres in Wichita.

5 of 6 stars

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