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Critics Adore Tobey, Kirsten and Spidey

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No wonder Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were beaming at Tuesday night’s Spider-Man 2 premiere in Los Angeles: Early trade reviews for the summer blockbuster are terrific.

Variety calls it “crackerjack entertainment from start to finish … the pleasure is doubled” compared to the original, while the Hollywood Reporter lavishly praises veteran Julia and Ordinary People screenwriter Alvin Sargent for infusing the sequel with an emotional complexity that the first installment was lacking.

The sequel, which opens June 30 and is set two years later than the original, deals with the growing romantic relationship between Peter Parker (Maguire) and Mary Jane (Dunst) and Peter’s struggle to balance his superhero identity with that of being a student. Alfred Molina plays the tentacled villain, Doc Ock (as in Octopus).

Always keeping its eye on the potential bottom line, Variety predicts that Spider-Man 2 will make even more money than its 2002 predecessor, which grossed $404 million in North America and a total $822 million internationally.

At the premiere, Maguire told reporters that he shares plenty in common with his screen character. “I relate to Peter Parker in that he has got to ask questions of himself, like, you know, who am I, what’s my purpose…?” said the star, who turns 29 on Sunday.

As for Dunst’s take on the matter of her character’s relationship with Peter, the 22-year-old said: “In the last movie, he kind of decides for them that we can only be friends, and in this movie she really decides for them at the end, so she’s just a much more confident woman, and smarter and wiser.”