If you can toss out all of the preconceived misjudgements of "too many characters/villains" and "trying too hard to compete with Disney's Marvel movies," there's an amazing Spider-Man to be found at the heart of 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2.' Made for fans of 'The Amazing Spider-Man' and anyone who loves big budget blockbusters or strong superhero flicks.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

It’s nearly impossible to talk about the Amazing Spider-Man series without mentioning Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. Let me preface my review of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 by reminding you that I thoroughly enjoyed the Raimi versions (even Spider-Man 3). They were fun. I own the set. We are all in agreement on that. Having said that, I love Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man series in a completely different way. It’s not fair to compare the two because they’re so drastically different. The tone, style and characters are unlike one another. It’s pointless to get hung up on the contrast. If you can get past that, you’ll see them as I see them: amazing. And The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is no different.

If you’ll remember from my review, I love The Amazing Spider-Man. The emoting mood won me over. I forgave it for its flimsy Lizard villain plot and wholly accepted its origins tale. While The Amazing Spider-Man 2 still suffers from a slightly weak – but improved – villain plot, its mood and amount of emotion is even stronger. For me, this is the better of the two – and that’s saying a lot considering how much I love the first.

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone return as the leading lovers Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Gwen Stacey, respectively. The Amazing Spider-Man ended with Gwen’s police chief dad (Dennis Leary) dying after helping Spider-Man defeat The Lizard. In his last words, he made Peter promise to stay away from Gwen in order to keep her out of harm’s way. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens an untold amount of time after that. Peter is still with Gwen, but he’s torn about breaking his promise to her late father. This guilt is the root of Peter and Gwen’s rocky relationship. Director Marc Webb nailed realistic cinematic romance with his debut feature film (500) Days of Summer and he’s brought that same deep level of emotion to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. No comic book adaptation has yet done what Webb accomplishes here.

At the same time as Peter and Gwen’s romantic troubles, we have two other plot elements bubbling up. First, there’s Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), a selfish outcast Oscorp employee who longs to be noticed, popular and needed. When an electric accident turns him into a monster, Spider-Man – who just so happens to be Max’s hero – shows up to save the bystanders. As Spider-Man saves the day, Max (aka Electo) feels belittled by Spider-Man and swears vengeance.

Second, there’s the story of Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). When Peter’s parents died, Harry was the best friend there to console him. Now, with Harry losing his father, Peter returns the favor. But as he reconnects with his age-old friend, he sees what really lies in Harry’s heart and has to make some big decisions. Don’t worry – there’s never a cheesy teenage love triangle.

All three of these story elements – Peter and Gwen’s relationship, Spider-Man and Electro’s battles, and Peter and Harry’s friendship – all build up together very well. The sore thumb of the three is the Electro stuff, but it’s forgivable for two reasons: one, the action is amazing; and, two, the emotional build-up created by the other relationship bits is so strong that the violent action that results from Electro carries some truly heavy weight. Your heart will be thumping because of the emotional investment and connection that you’ve made with these characters. Everything that happens during this 142-minute movie is absolutely worth it because of that.

The Amazing Spider-Man is a perfect way to kick off the cinematic blockbuster season. It’s a solid, well-rounded comic book movie that’s much better than anything Disney’s Marvel has put out since The Avengers.

(Photo credit: Sony Pictures)

4 1/2 out of 5

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