[The following Amazing Spider-Man 2 review excerpts are SPOILER-FREE.]
Spider-Man 3 is generally regarded to be the weakest link in Sam Raimi's chain of films about the eponymous Marvel superhero, though it also wasn't so much of a comic book movie franchise-killer on par with, say, Batman & Robin. However, for reasons that had more to do with concerns about the growing cost of Raimi's Spider-Man series than diminishing artistic merits, the web-slinger's cinematic property was rebooted five years thereafter, with The Amazing Spider-Man.
For that reason, director Marc Webb's Spider-Man film reboot started off on the wrong foot with a number of fans, even before they had seen a single frame of footage; that TASM was sandwiched between two bonafide superhero movie "events" - The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises - didn't help either. Nevertheless, Webb's movie was a success at the box office and earned an overall respectable critical reception (read our review), which is why Sony is releasing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 this year and has big plans for the future of this franchise.
One thing should be obvious by now, assuming that you've been paying attention to the Amazing Spider-Man 2 marketing: this sequel is far bigger than its predecessor, with regard to every aspect of the film (emotional stakes, action, villain count, etc.). We all ought to know by now that "bigger" doesn't necessarily equate to a great blockbuster sequel, so it raises the question: is Marc Webb's new Spider-Man installment better, worse, or the same quality as the first chapter in his take on the Peter Parker story?
The first wave of Amazing Spider-Man 2 reviews has hit the 'Net, and so far the critical consensus is perhaps best summarized by the following spoiler-free review excerpt (click the link for the full review):
2012's The Amazing Spider-Man has its passionate defenders... but it sure took its sweet time gluing the radial spokes of its web into place. Now that effort pays off with its sequel, a more intricately woven skein of action, effects, character development and cheesy one-liners... 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.
Our impressions of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 footage that was shown during an extended preview were similar, in that the material that was revealed likewise pointed to a superhero movie that benefits from its director having more confidence, as well as increased certainty about what sort of film he's making (e.g. a grand-scale pulpy yarn with costumed heroes battling larger-than-life menaces).
There is a downside to that, though, which is that Webb's new superhero movie ends up being a little too big for its britches - at least, that's what most of the first reviews for Amazing Spider-Man 2 would have you believe:
But while this lengthy (much too lengthy in truth) sequel delivers plenty to enjoy there is a niggling suspicion that it succeeds thanks to goodwill and the charm of its leads rather than a smart script and controlled sense of direction... The Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes close to losing its way due to its overly-plotted baddies and the need for spectacular pyrotechnics...
[Director Marc] Webb comes into his element as we approach the latter stages... striking a strong balance between frivolity and sincerity, which is no easy task. His job is made easier by an array of impressive performances, as Garfield shines as our titular protagonist... There is a brilliant chemistry between Garfield and Stone too, so natural and playfully flirtatious...
Jumping off from that point - the aforementioned "brilliant chemistry" between real-life couple Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, playing Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man 2, is cited as being the glue that keeps this stuffed superhero movie sequel together (as well as the true "heart" of the film), according to the critics thus far.
The swiftly delivered “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” finds no solution to that redundancy, but it 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.
Marc Webb, returning after the last installment, 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 one veers perilously close to the overplotted trouble zone of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3... The thing is, all the electricity Webb needs is right before him, in the continued perfect match of his leads.
That Amazing Spider-Man is better at building the comic book movie franchise - laying the groundwork for later installments - than providing a satisfying stand-alone experience is a common complaint. It comes as little surprise to hear that similar issues are being taken with the sequel (see below), considering how many additional chapters and/or spinoffs to the series have already begun moving down the pipeline.
[The] Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems more like an exercise in calculated franchise architecture than its does a cohesive stand-alone blockbuster... Despite the uneven nature of the whole endeavour, praise needs to go to Garfield for holding it all together.
Sony seems to have taken the lesson from the mammoth success of "The Avengers" that people want an abundance of characters in their superhero movies, but the script... flits around from plotline to plotline shapelessly, and the result is something bloated... It's a film of many scenes, but not much structure, of many events, but no real plot...
On the whole, though, it sounds as though Webb brings enough in the way of innovation to the table in Amazing Spider-Man 2 that the film should win over the majority of everyday moviegoers - or, at least, those who are down with this particular rendition of the Spider-Man saga (introduced in the previous installment):
Marc Webb's spring blockbuster is the sequel to the reboot of the movie adaptation of the original Marvel comic-books, which is another way of saying it's a copy of a copy. But if the Spider-Man tale is about anything, it's about gawky youth and surging powers. And the film-makers know this and keep the tone skittish and fresh.
Are you encouraged/discouraged by the initial critical buzz for Amazing Spider-Man 2? Be sure and let us know in the comments (and look for Screen Rant's official review when the film opens in U.S. theaters)!
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in U.S. theaters on May 2nd, 2014.
Source: See the aforementioned links