Is it ironic for a spider to be done in by too many strands? According to film critics, the predicament for Marc Webb’s superhero sequel “The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is that it’s overstuffed with plot lines, set pieces and villains, although stars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone do their best to give the movie heart.
The Times’ Betsy Sharkey writes, “‘The Occasionally Amazing Spider-Man 2' might be a better way to think of the not-always-spectacular but sometimes satisfying Spider-Man sequel.” (That’s the problem with superlatives in titles — they’re asking for trouble.) She adds that “Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone remain the best things about the reimagined superhero franchise.”
But although Webb and his team deliver “a great many sticky stunts involving building-hopping, crime-stopping and the crashing and crushing of roughly a million cars,” Sharkey says, “there are only so many ways to spin that web before it stops being cool.”
Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post agrees, declaring “ASM 2" a “strenuously chipper but nonetheless saggy, baggy and mostly ho-hum addition to the Spider-Man canon.” She adds, “Granted, there are at least two genuinely breathtaking set pieces to be admired here .... But those moments are nearly lost within an unforgivably long assemblage that never coalesces into a compelling story.”
The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis offers a more positive reivew, calling the new movie “a sequel that, until a late, lamentably foolish turn, balances blockbuster bombast with human-scale drama, child-friendly comedy and gushers of tears.” Garfield “fits the role, suit and moist sniffling fine,” and Stone “has the zing of a screwball heroine.”
But while the scenes of Spidey swinging through the urban canyons of New York are enjoyable, Dargis says, “Once he comes down to earth … the movie does, too, with scenes of heavy destruction that quickly grow monotonous.”
Ty Burr of the Boston Globe writes that “‘Spider-Man 2' differentiates itself by injecting shaggy mumblecore naturalism into the veins of its pop-Wagnerian genre. The transformation doesn’t take … but points for trying. And it definitely counts as an improvement over 2012’s ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ whose chief distinction was that it was the sloppiest, least inspired, most cynical franchise reboot ever.”
Burr adds, “I’m still not convinced we needed a new ‘Spider-Man’ series, but at least this installment is interestingly mediocre instead of actively bad.”
USA Today’s Claudia Puig gives “ASM 2" solid marks. “Garfield makes an appealing, multidimensional teen superhero,” she writes, and “his potent chemistry with Emma Stone, as Gwen Stacy, is the propulsive force behind this sequel.”
Puig also says the “aerial sequences are often thrilling,” “the heady teen romance keeps us riveted,” and “Peter’s effort to learn more about his family is fascinating.” While the movie is “overlong and grows hectic at times,” it also “cleverly balances lighthearted thrills and emotional heft.”
One of the harshest reviews comes courtesy of Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal. “How bad is this one, though?” he writes. “Amazingly so. Villainy abounds, but the villains are strident contrivances,” and “Webb’s direction is so coarse, and the production’s tone is so variable, that the Marvel hero soon comes off as a wise guy, then as bipolar, at the very least.”
Morgenstern’s coup de grace: “This franchise needs more than a reset. It’s ripe for retirement.”
Of course, that’s not happening anytime soon. At least two more “Amazing Spider-Man” sequels and two additional spin-offs (about the villains Venom and the Sinister Six) are already in the works.