The more time that goes by after watching the second entry into the "Spider-Man" reboot, the more it becomes abundantly clear that director Marc Webb and his team clearly understand everything that makes Spider-Man what he is. He is courageous yet conflicted. He is not defined by his losses but how he bounces back. He mocks adversity to its face and he never gives up. They have taken these core values and amplified them as compared to the previous trilogy by Sam Raimi.
Are the effects and camera moves any different? Not really. It certainly isn't the quality of the new rogues gallery. The main villains have been the Lizard and Electro, a far cry from the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. The key to the new series has been its tone. Every move, every line just look and sound the way Spider-Man should. There are still some goofy moments as the performances of Jamie Foxx (Electro) and Marton Csokas (the utterly ridiculous Dr. Kafka) are prime examples. Foxx's take on Max Dillon (pre-superpowers) is understandable as the 180 degree attitude change after his transformation works wonderfully.
There are a few things in this film that could have been done differently. Denis Leary's Captain Stacy returns as a hallucination, reminding Peter Parker to stay away from his daughter Gwen. Once, maybe twice, would have been enough. But he's in the film more than Paul Giamatti. There are also things that happen differently than what's expected as far as the comics lore goes that work better than expected. Making Harry Osborn the Green Goblin is a good example. His father, Norman, dies (but off camera, hmm). Dane DeHaan seemed like an odd casting for Harry but, by the end, you seen what an inspired choice it is. Making Spider-Man's soon-to-be arch nemesis someone his own age is way more poetic than him fighting a whole bunch of middle-aged men.
At the center of this film and series is the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Garfield plays up the wise-cracking, laughing in the face of danger when web-slinging but, out of the suit and facing Stone's Gwen Stacy, he is noticeably shaken and uncertain. He is far more afraid of loving this young woman and losing her than he is any supervillain. His Peter Parker is affected by her in a way he is like he is with no other character. This is in stark contrast to Tobey Maguire's aloof Parker who was so laid back he may as well have been asleep. You got the feeling that Mary Jane wasn't really all that important to him.
Stone has been more to Peter than Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane was, and that's by design. Gwen is every bit Peter's equal. She is Peter's intellectual equal, if not superior. She hasn't just been the damsel Spidey has to swing in and save. In both pictures, she has been a key to stopping the maniacs plaguing the city. In this picture, it is made certain that the two teenagers mean the world to each other. They are partners. Aunt May, played masterfully by Sally Field, is the other side of the same coin. Peter loves her just as much and, unlike most film superheroes, isn't afraid to express it.
Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a beating heart that is repeatedly manipulated, broken, mended, then stepped on. Viewers are riding along with our young leads on their emotional rollercoaster. The fact that there are a Doctor Manhattan-looking guy and an air-gliding demon wreaking havoc is just a bonus.