Minor spoilers ahead
Whether it was the extravagant cinematography, the animated and over-saturated 'Bam," "Pow," feeling during the fight scenes or simply the cool usage of superpowers, "Amazing Spider-Man 2" serves as a great reminder of why we fell in love with comic book movies in the first place.
It's hard to balance the realistic approach that the genre has embraced through the past several years with the fun, zippy, comical tone that it deserves, but "Amazing Spider-Man 2" does just that. There is more than enough substance in the story progression (albeit a bit awkwardly paced, though even that is true to comic books) and characters, but the mystique that makes comic books cool still permeates throughout the film. It's okay that Electro gets his powers during an accident while he's submerged in water with eels while getting electrocuted. There is nothing wrong with Electro jumping in and out of the power grids and syphoning an entire city's power supply. In fact, Electro's powers were some of the most dangerous of any villain seen on the big screen in a while.
The presentation serves the vision of director Marc Webb, who also was at the helm of the first Amazing Spider-Man film, quite ably. The cinematography honed in well on Harry Osborn as he went through his transformation into Green Goblin, or on Max Dillon as he struggled to transition into Electro. There were several slow-motion, almost still shots, during these moments that would've made for great comic strip panels. And the music was very metallic and looming in all the right spots.
Outside of the flashy, CG-heavy scenes that are inevitable in blockbusters these days, there were still plenty of great exchanges of dialogue, acting and meat to the story to more than keep things interesting. Peter Parker's investigation to what happened to his dad (stemming from the first movie) uncovers classic conspiracies about government that never seem to get old (not in my book, anyway, though it was disappointing that weapons were the bottom line instead of something a little more original). This quest of Parker's leads to delightful discoveries of secrets and reveals truths about his father that alter perception in both clever and apologetic ways.
But perhaps some of the film's more intimate, vulnerable scenes were the most compelling. Webb and the film's screenwriters did a great, focused job of dropping everything else to focus on these developmental moments with great taste and delicate care.
In one such scene, Parker and Osborn, who are childhood friends, share an uncomfortable scene in which Parker empathizes with Osborn, who just lost his father, too. There's truly a sense of repair with their friendship after they lighten up a little and escape to catch up for old times' sake.
In another, Parker and Gwen Stacey go through heavy, emotional stages of their relationship, which is having difficulty handling the stresses that come while a superhero and his or her loved one are together. The ever-present fear of losing Stacey proves unbearable, and not in the cliche way that past Spider-Man movies have handled this scenario. Here, Andrew Garfield's rendition actually generates emotional and psychological struggles.
Garfield, by the way, seemed like he was showing off in this movie. His range cannot be denied; Garfield has shown great potential to become one of the very best actors of his generation. His humor hit all the right notes, but was not forced. He was angry, but not in that immature, school-boy way. He was distraught while maintaining a tough exterior, but he wasn't emotionally cut off. He and Emma Stone's chemistry only grew from the first film (as their real-life relationship undoubtedly has).
The only problem with the heavy scenes was the timing of some of them. They would slow the movie to a halt, which isn't all that bad, but the overall flow of these story lines was incoherent. At times, it felt like there were two movies going on at once. While that's fine, more development of the characters and/or plot were needed, which would've been a difficult task considering the amount already packed into the film. Heck, the third villain of the movie (Rhino) serve more as a teaser for the next installment.
On that note, I'm excited to see where they go with the 'Amazing' franchise. There were teases of the Doc-Oc, Vulture and even Mysterio, who starts the villain group known as "Sinister Six" in the comics. The Lizard in the first movie also was a part of that group, so hopefully they get the whole band together. On an interesting sidenote, the end-credit scene of the first 'Amazing Spider-Man' now seems a little out of place. It wasn't addressed in the sequel, and the timing may have some inconsistencies. Regardless, there's a bright future for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.