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Review Roundup: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Belongs to Emma Stone

However you feel about the new Spider-Man movie and, okay, about 56 percent of critics felt it was derivative and unnecessary  you’ll likely agree on one thing: Real-life lovebirds Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are pretty darn cute. According to the critics, the romantic-comedy elements were the film’s saving grace, Emma Stone is a national treasure, and the duo has some of the best onscreen chemistry since Tracy and Hepburn. Even our own David Edelstein wrote, "The new 'franchise' was evidently necessary for Sony to make in order to continue squeezing money from the character, and by my lights got by with it for one reason: the breathy, funny, damnably charming Emma Stone." As for the action sequences? Eh, not so much. As NPR’s Ian Buckwalter titled his piece, “Such A Lovely Couple, If Only The Supervillains Would Leave Them Alone.” Here's what the critics are saying:

As played by Emma Stone, who has the zing of a screwball heroine and the depthless eyes of an anime character, Gwen brightens “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” a sequel that, until a late, lamentably foolish turn, balances blockbuster bombast with human-scale drama, child-friendly comedy and gushers of tears. —Manohla Dargis, New York Times 

Stone [once again] delivers a winning and mostly believable performance as the smart, self-possessed Gwen. —Ann Hornaday, Washington Post 

Stone’s Gwen remains a breath of fresh air for women in comic book movies; she has smarts and spirit and agency without needing to be a quip-slinging badass, and her intuitive chemistry with Garfield remains as much of a joy to watch as it was in 2012. —Emma Dibdin, Total Film

Ms. Stone is so endearing, and engaging, and all sorts of good things movie stars are supposed to be, that she keeps tempting us to see her character as something more than the silly prop Gwen inevitably is. —Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

[Garfield's] potent chemistry with Emma Stone, as Gwen Stacy, is the propulsive force behind this sequel to 2012's Amazing Spider-Man. —Claudia Puig, USA Today

With likeable-as-a-lollipop Emma Stone onboard again as love interest Gwen Stacy, who gets a lot more to do during this go-round, Spider-Man arguably has a stronger cross-gender pull than the average comic-book property. —Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

Actually, it’s Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy who has the hero tripping over his words. That’s understandable, since Stone has the eyes, the intelligence, and that great gravelly voice to get you to buy into all this nonsense. —Ty Burr, Boston Globe 

Stone's Gwen is flinty, flirty and super-smart. Though she is forever being swept off her feet, quite literally, she never swoons. Together they give the film heart and a true romance-styled love that fits the fantasy of this make-believe world. —Betsy Sharkey, L.A. Times 

The supporting players almost make "Spider-Man 2" worth the steep admission. One is Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Peter's smart, self-possessed girlfriend. Understated and modestly radiant, Stone makes even Garfield sparkle. —Rafer Guzman, Newsday

As for Stone, she's just so darned charming. And though it's again a stretch to imagine her as a high school student, heck, we'll take it. —Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press

Stone is both glamour-girl gorgeous and heartbreakingly normal. —Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News 

Stone has a knack for giving a just-OK line a dry Rosalind Russell snap, and her character, the valedictorian and molecular-biology whiz Gwen Stacy, does get in a few amusing retorts. —Dana Stevens, Slate

Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker has rangy charm and there is a genuine romantic spark between him and Emma Stone, as sharp as ever playing Gwen Stacy. —Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

But their bond and their attraction are too intense to ignore, and anybody in the audience can see that this relationship just seems right. Garfield and Stone's rapport is appealing and unmistakable. They're physically at home with each other, and their conversations feel extemporaneous. Garfield and Stone are a couple offscreen, and here's a case where a real-life romance enhances the performances and benefits the movie. —Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

He’s comfortably in his element with the love story between Garfield’s charming Parker and Emma Stone’s adorable Gwen Stacy. Their scenes together light up the screen with a movie-star wattage no other sequences possess. —Colin Covert, Star Tribune

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have chemistry that seems almost absurd. —Drew McWeeny, HitFix

And his chemistry with his real-life love interest, Emma Stone, fills the films with a giddy, swoony energy that makes even the non-romantic parts more exciting. They’re so good together that the whole movie feels kinda romantic, charged with a youthful spirit that revives a character made so mopish and dull by Tobey Maguire. —Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair 

Garfield and Stone are, just as in the first film, a highlight; it makes you wish the two would find almost any other project to be in, so that their funny, warm interactions wouldn't have to be perpetually interrupted by Kurtzman and Orci's by-now worn-out versions of world-threatening peril. —James Rocchi, the Wrap

Wedged among the endless introductions, the flashy light shows, and the groundwork for future sequels are the occasional grace notes, most of them courtesy of Garfield and Stone. It’s no surprise that the director of (500) Days Of Summer most excels at the romantic side of Spider-Man, the scenes of playful rapport between the superhero and the geeky dream girl he’s somehow snagged. —A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club

As Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone don't just have chemistry on screen. They've got a rare Hepburn-and-Tracy-esque naturalism that flits from awkwardness to ease to unquestioned devotion in the space of a few shared glances. They don't just have spark, they have a buzzing, crackling electricity with power enough to light the New York City skyline. —Ian Buckwalter, NPR

Peter (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) are a couple as adorable as a box of kittens. —Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

Garfield and Stone are of course way too old to play high-school seniors (she’s 25), but they have terrific chemistry, and the forces pushing them together (love) and pulling them apart (life) never feel abstract or artificial. It’s as if there’s a New York rom-com – and a pretty good one! – in the middle of this movie trying to get out. —Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

Which may seem like an odd thing to say, considering that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone — a couple in real life — not surprisingly have a charming chemistry together. When Peter Parker (Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Stone) are together, and Peter is in his street clothes, things go pretty well. —Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

When the two are handed a bit of banter, they seem delighted, and it’s easy to wish they were in a romantic comedy. —Tom Long, Detroit News

“And every scene between Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter’s sharp and assured girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, leaps off the screen. These are the real 3-D effects, the ones created by the flirty sparks between these two actors.” —Christy Lemire, Roger Ebert.com “Director Marc Webb, who achieved fame for his rom-com (500) Days of Summer was picked for the Spider-Man reboot film on the strength of his gift for the romantic elements, and that remain his strongest hand here. The performances here are consistently more interesting than the plot. Garfield and Stone have a fidgety, endearing chemistry – her sunny manner and dirty little laugh seem to cause his busy hairdo and eyebrows to look ever more alarmed. —Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail

These two feel so much at once that all the emotion bunches up in their faces, like they're about to sneeze; both then take turns bending over, expelling a raw giggle, sneaking a frisky glance at the other. It's like the most crushed-out moments of first-rate indie romances The Spectacular Now or Webb's own(500) Days of Summer but woven, with some emotional coherence, into a movie where a lightning-coughing Jamie Foxx kablooeys Times Square in an emo rage. —Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

Its one abiding strength is Stone and Garfield’s comic-romantic chemistry: She’s thrillingly sharp and direct; he’s smart, goofy and funky. They’re like Hepburn and Tracy crossed with Martin and Lewis. —Michael Sragow, Orange Country Register 

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is a decent superhero franchise product, lent some personality by Andrew Garfield's skyscraper hair and the actor's easy, push-pull rapport with co-star Emma Stone. —Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

Thankfully, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were much easier to buy as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy when the franchise was rebooted, having genuine chemistry that made it easier to buy their relationship in the first movie. That continues to be the heart and core of the sequel, even if the amount of time spent on that relationship tends to drag the sequel down. —Marc Webb, ComingSoon.net

It doesn't hurt that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have excellent chemistry and are skilled, natural actors. Their give and take and superb dialogue turn The Amazing Spider-Man 2 into a terrific love story. It's deep and three-dimensional, and quite unusual for a flick based on a Marvel comic book character. —Gary Wolcott, Tri City Herald

[In] the intimate moments between Peter and Gwen .. the actors hold their ground so well it’s like we’ve been transported, ever so briefly, into a Preston Sturges movie. —Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Garfield and Stone continue to make a winning, plausibly playful screen couple, though the latter’s role is disappointingly curtailed until a finale that encouragingly places her in the thick of the action, only to penalize the character for her feminine pluck. —Guy Lodge, Variety 

In real life, Garfield is coupled with Emma Stone, who plays aspiring scientist Gwen Stacy, so they have a playful on-screen chemistry. —Joe Williams, St. Louis Post Dispatch

Adorable real-life couple Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone lead the charm offensive, as good guy Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his occasional gal Gwen Stacy. They play very well together, but their most impressive thespian feat may be in convincing us that Garfield, 30, and Stone, 25, can do characters who are graduating from high school. —Peter Howell, The Toronto Star 

The script, by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Je Pinkner, has them speak impossibly cute dialogue about breaking up to make up, but Garfield and Stone (lovers onscreen and off) make you believe they mean it. No small feat. —Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Garfield is even better with real-life girlfriend Emma Stone as Peter’s best gal Gwen Stacy. Their scenes together, even with Garfield in costume, crackle with giddy teenage desire. —Joe Gross, Austin American-Statesman 

The bumps in Peter and Gwen’s romance feel contrived, but when they’re together, Garfield and Stone have strong chemistry, giving their somewhat dopey dialogue the ring of wittier banter. —Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly 

Garfield and Stone, who were the heart of the first film, remain well-cast and charming. They have chemistry in spades (unsurprising, as they're a real-life couple), and that still shines through on the screen, far more of a special effect than anything the VFX whizzes can come up with. —Oliver Lyttelton, Playlist

Even if you took away all the superhero stuff, you’d watch these two in anything. —Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

Photo: Niko Tavernise/Columbia Pictures