A special Amazing Spider-Man 2 extended preview event was held for NYC film journalists today, in coordination with the release of a new Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer (which you can watch below). In addition to the new 3D trailer, we were treated to additional 3D footage from the film – including the first 15 minutes, which revealed quite a bit about how this sequel will be very different from its predecessor.

Below you’ll find a general, SPOILER-FREE impression of the footage that was screened, detailing what is in store for both fans, casual moviegoers and those not-yet-converted naysayers, once Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits theaters on May 2nd. For those who want the full breakdown of what we saw and learned about ASM2, check out the link below, explaining the footage in all its spoiler glory.

Footage Review (Spoiler-Free)

LET’S BE CLEAR: This is the most advanced and visually accomplished Spider-Man film to date; there’s no denying it, and it looks pretty amazing in 3D (no pun). Anyone who watched previous Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailers and thought that they looked cartoony, or like a video game, or that the suit didn’t look right – have no fear. Fully rendered, in 3D, this CGI Spidey holds up better than ever – down to the immaculately rendered creases in his uniform, which flap in the wind with convincing realism. He moves, fights and banters like the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book character truly come to fluid life – though that last part can be attributed to the sharp wit of actor Andrew Garfield behind the mask.

It’s almost like director Marc Webb (who was in attendance for a Q&A) took every criticism of the first film to heart and went into this sequel determined to best his critics. By his own admission, Batman Begins realism maybe wasn’t the best approach for Amazing Spider-Man, and embracing the fantastical elements of the character has allowed him to do things technically and cinematically that are creative and effective for creating some impressive comic book action sequences. He also brings back some of the more artistic flourishes that DID work in the first film: namely those first-person perspective shots of wall-crawling and web-slinging that make 3D totally worthwhile.

Some Classic Spidey Slapstick

We saw one major set piece (a previously released Times Square clip, now played out in full) and a few minor ones – and all of the sequences were impressive in their total comprehension of the Spider-Man character and universe. Webb even incorporates visual gags you might expect from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series, without going all Joel Schumacher campy.

We only got a small dose of the slapstick Spidey humor, but it was needed; this is definitely a darker and more serious Spider-Man film than we’ve ever seen. Right from the opening sequence, it’s clear that a larger narrative is now driving things – and on the whole, this feels like a more confident and prepared sophomore effort from Webb and Co., who clearly want to erase the memory of their freshman failings.  The story that was revealed was also more streamlined and focused than the first movie – it’s going to have a lot of moving parts, but there seems to be a solid command of narrative direction, and an understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

One thing that still works is the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as the principal leads. We got to see a scene with them, and they’re pretty much as adorable as ever, with both actors (a real life offscreen couple) now settled into the iconic roles, having (largely) proven themselves the first go-around. Garfield is definitely Spider-Man now, if there was any doubt; from the physicality to the attitude he is Peter Parker, and a lot of the NYC hipster stuff seems to have been toned down in favor of just nailing the character.

As for the villains: Paul Giamatti hams it up good, and Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn (only briefly teased) will seemingly deliver something worthwhile – but for all the controversy, it’s Jamie Foxx’s Electro who is the most surprisingly effective. Starting as a slightly unhinged engineer and devolving into a frazzled (no pun) freak with ego issues, movie Electro is probably the most intriguing, powerful (and scary) version of the character we’ve seen yet. The changes to canon seem to be worth it, in this case. A battle between Spider-Man and Electro is pretty epic to behold – as are Electro’s powers in general.

Finally, the soundtrack: Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) rounded up Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr from The Smiths and others to create something very unique in terms of a blockbuster superhero movie soundtrack. It’s probably going to be slightly contentious amongst viewers, but it is interesting. For example: elements of the soundtrack are used to echo a character’s crazy inner monologue. Interesting stuff indeed…

VERDICT: Amazing Spider-Man 2 is definitely a contender standing on level with those other big comic book movies coming out in 2014. The marketing may have cemented a low expectation in mind, but the actual product is (yep, going for it) pretty amazing.

MORE: ASM2 Extended Footage SPOILERS


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