"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" doesn't swing into U.S. theaters until May 2, but early reviews have begun trickling out as the superhero sequel readies its international rollout. So far, most film critics agree that director Marc Webb's second installment is somewhat overstuffed but benefits greatly from the sparks that fly between Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man/Peter Parker) and Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy).
Variety's Guy Lodge says that although "Amazing Spider-Man 2" feels redundant, coming just five years after Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 3," the movie "acrobatically spins enough sound and fury to distract from the issue, while the tinderbox chemistry between leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone delights once more."
It's a "bloated but enjoyable outing," introducing new villains in the form of Jamie Foxx's Electro — "an elaborately conceived antagonist, though the naturally dynamic Foxx never seems comfortable with the workplace-wallflower characterization" — and Dane DeHaan's Harry Osborn, which his "louche, faintly lascivious performance makes worthwhile."
Leslie Felperin of the Hollywood Reporter says the sequel offers "a more intricately woven skein of action, effects, character development and cheesy one-liners" than the first film. "The plot gets itself tangled up in multiple villain strands, but in the main, this installment is emotionally weightier and more satisfying than its predecessor."
Most appealing is the chemistry of the central couple: "In truth, none of the many subplots or action sequences, zesty though they are, have as much combustible power as the scenes featuring Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Gwen, benefiting here as did the previous film from the fizzy, tangible chemistry between Garfield and Stone."
Tim Robey of the Telegraph agrees that Webb "again shows a better feel for the relationships than he does for juggling all the overlapping story elements. At times, with its many villains, this [film] veers perilously close to the overplotted trouble zone of Sam Raimi's 'Spider-Man 3' and Christopher Nolan's 'The Dark Knight Rises.'"
Robey adds, "The thing is, all the electricity Webb needs is right before him, in the continued perfect match of his leads. … They light the film up with a sparkle and sadness it couldn't live without."
The Guardian's Xan Brooks says that Webb "cuts a few corners and takes the occasional liberty. The most hazardous of these, I think, is the decision to beef-up the backstory of Peter Parker's parents, if only because it conjures our lowly orphaned hero into a gilded little prince and monkeys with an origins story previously defined by those robustly American themes of self-renewal and reinvention."
On the whole, though, "'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' turns out to be so savvy, punchy and dashing that it won't be denied. It's the thread that won't break and the yarn which still binds."
Indiewire's Oliver Lyttelton offers a dissenting opinion, writing that the sequel "doesn't just double down on what didn't work in the first film, it manages to undo some of the good qualities of the original as well. The result is a film that kicks off the summer blockbuster season with a resounding thud."
It's "wildly overstuffed" and "way too long," Lyttelton adds, "and worst of all, it's not really about anything. … The various villains and side characters don't add up to anything thematically coherent, beyond 'these guys will look cool as toys.'"
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