By Jill Serjeant
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Spider-Man is having a blast, swinging, somersaulting and wise-cracking his way around the skyscrapers and streets of New York, trouncing bullies and fighting crime.
Being Peter Parker however is much more difficult, especially when it comes to love. And it's Peter's conflicted, earth-bound romance with teen girlfriend Gwen Stacy that drives "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," opening in U.S. movie theaters on Friday. The film has already made $132 million at the international box office.
"I didn't know how big a deal the love story aspect would be. But it is. It is the heart of Peter and the heart of his story," said British-American actor Andrew Garfield, who dons the iconic super-hero's blue and red suit for a second time.
"It's his Kryptonite. Love - his desire to be an ordinary guy connected to a woman, a loved one - is a really big yearning for Peter that he struggles with in terms of the sacrifice he has to make as Spider-Man," the actor told Reuters.
Columbia Pictures' "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" reunites Garfield with Emma Stone as Gwen and director Marc Webb in another action-packed tale of the Marvel comic book crime fighter.
This time, Peter re-connects with old school chum Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) and takes on some of his most formidable foes - Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Harry's villainous alter-ego the Green Goblin - in his mission to protect New York from the evil designs of powerful conglomerate Oscorp.
"Spider-Man is really good at being Spider-Man," Webb said. "In the last movie he was learning the ropes, and this time he has really embraced that part of himself."
That Spider-Man will eventually triumph in the high-octane 3D aerial battles and exploding buildings during the 142-minute movie is hardly in doubt.
But amid the noise and destruction, an unusually tender romance more common to smaller, low budget movies is played out between Peter and Gwen as they graduate high school and take on the challenges of adult life.
"It's like you are watching an intimate story played out on a very big landscape," said Garfield.
Naturally, it helps that Garfield, 31, and Stone, 25, have been quietly dating in real life since meeting on the "Amazing Spider-Man" set three years ago.
Webb, who directed the 2009 offbeat romantic comedy "(500) Days of Summer," said he always hoped to fully embrace the early comic book story of brainy science student Gwen as Peter's first true love, and he struck lucky with his cast.
"Andrew and Emma are the kind of actors that can improvise and there is an authenticity to that dynamic. It is fun to watch people watch the movie. When they come on screen together, people sort of sit back and smile," Webb said.
"It is playful, it is what you want relationships to be like. There is banter and humor but underneath that there is a real affection."
The on-again, off-again romance, and Peter's promise to Gwen's recently dead father to stay away from his girlfriend for her own safety, provides as much dramatic tension in the movie as Spider-Man's battles with his larger-than-life foes.
"It's what allows you to access Spider-Man and the drama that comes from him trying to separate his life as Spider-Man from Peter Parker. His inability to do that is hopefully what gives the story its power," Webb said.
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2," which was made by Sony Corp's Columbia Pictures unit for a reported budget of about $200 million, is projected to make $102 million in its opening weekend, according to movie tracker Boxoffice.com.
Its 2012 predecessor "The Amazing Spider-Man," took a total of $752 million at the global box-office to become the 7th biggest movie worldwide of that year.
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Diane Craft)