Critics sound off on Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone's reunion tour with the webslinging superhero
Sam Raimi's “Spider-Man 2” was considered one of the best comic book movies ever made at the time of its release — and it's still held in high regard today.
So does director Marc Webb's “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” achieve the same status as its predecessor?
According to the critics, not so much.
Andrew Garfield reprises his role as the webslinger in Webb's follow-up to his 2012 reboot. He struggles to protect girlfriend Emma Stone from Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) — a villainous duo hellbent on making it very hard for Spidey to save everyone he cares about.
“Amazing Spider-Man 2” opened overseas first, and now U.S. critics are starting to weigh in on Sony's tentpole. The movie currently has a healthy 72 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but the response seems less positive than the aggregate site would have you believe.
Rocchi agrees with his peers that the chemistry between Garfield and Stone is a highlight, but argues that it's not enough to overcome a ”two-and-a-half-hour running time that encompasses three costume-clad villains, two shadowy string-pullers, four distinct climaxes and … every single cliché of big-budget franchise screenwriting.”
“This latest series effort continues down the road of choosing long-term corporate strategy over present-moment storytelling,” Rocchi wrote. “More intent on setting up Sony's already-announced spin-offs than it is in telling a clean, clear story.”
The New York Post's Kyle Smith agrees with TheWrap, aiming his vitriol heavily at co-screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.
“[The dialogue] is the calling card of transgalactic hacks Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the screenwriters who belong back in B-TV like ‘Alias’ and ‘Xena: Warrior Princess.' Alex, Rob: At the banquet of Hollywood, you're the Cheez Whiz.”
Not even the film's expensive computer graphics escaped Smith's wrath: “The effects are often lackluster, especially in an insipid, useless closing battle and in a mid-movie spectacle in which Times Square gets destroyed and it looks like the CGI program was set to ‘rough draft.'”
“Spider-Man 2's” climatic showdown fared better with Smith, but not by much: “It raises the movie to the level of ‘not a total waste of time’ and yields the single emotionally resonant moment, nicely told by Webb, in the only few seconds that have any visual poetry whatsoever.”
Leslie Felperin from The Hollywood Reporter was one of the few critics to single out the effectiveness of Jamie Foxx's performance.
“Even under all the prosthetic make-up and visual effects,” she wrote, “Foxx manages to project a literally white-hot rage and damaged psyche that threatens to upstage the core romantic plot about Peter and Gwen's relationship.”
HitFix's Drew McWeeny was less kind, calling out the similarities that Foxx's nerdy scientist has with Jim Carrey's pre-Riddler alter ego in 1995's underwhelming “Batman Forever” — a character that suffers from a lack of narrative bandwidth to properly set up his arc from obsessive Spidey-fan to high-voltage baddie.
“That's what happens when you jam the story so full of incident and fan-service that there's no room left for the breathing space that is essential for making a movie that really works,” McWeeny wrote. “There are scenes that digress so much, theoretically trying to make all these bits and pieces hold together thematically, servicing each of the film's storylines with a check mark on a list, that they feel like they were cut in from another movie.”
Somehow, The Village Voice's Alan Scherstuhl managed to find enough good qualities in the film to give it a passing grade — but not by much.
“Never a disaster but only fitfully inspired, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2' doesn't quite end well, but it does end promisingly,” Scherstuhl wrote, “with hints of a huge supervillain team-up to come.”
From story issues to character shortcomings, the consensus seems to be that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is burdened with the same — but different — issues that plagued the series’ first installment.
We'll see if the critics’ reservations hurt Spidey's box office when the film hits U.S. multiplexes May 2.