After "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," it's still hard to discern the artistic motivation behind reviving Spider-Man so soon after Sam Raimi's trilogy.
But that criticism is so 2012 and there's no doubt that this sequel marks an improvement over the first Marc Webb-Andrew Garfield collaboration.
That's because it dispenses with the same-old origin story and lodges itself in classic superhero movie terrain -- diving into the loneliness and overwhelming sense of responsibility that makes life with a super power so difficult.
The film finds Peter Parker (Garfield) struggling with his feelings for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), dealing with lingering parental abandonment issues and grappling with the villainous Electro (Jamie Foxx), who feeds on New York's electrical grid.
The plot is mostly secondary. Electro is a distraction, although the sort of frenzied, paranoid internal monologue that serves as his calling-card soundtrack is a nice touch. The best scenes, villain-wise, feature the jealous, paranoid Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan), who looks set to serve as Spider-Man's arch nemesis going forward.
The movie sports the requisite impressive swinging scenes, with Peter soaring down avenues and across cavernous skyscrapers. The vertigo-inducing effects resonate in 3-D; the picture is as close to one of those virtual reality simulation rides that you'll get on the big screen.
It's a fun, glossy time at the multiplex, playing with the popular science conventions that are the hallmark of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's creation. It's also, in quiet scenes of contemplation, something more: a film about what it means to be a hero.