If you're reading this, it stands to reason you've read the first part. If not, please do. Thanks. Now for the sequel-slash-continuation!
'Hard to say. I've argued that Garfield's Spider-Man is motivated almost solely by personal need and guilt - first to find Ben's killer, then to stop the Lizard he helped create and, finally, to protect New York while really protecting Gwen in the process. In fairness, though, the heroism of Spider-Man is actually something that Webb's sequel probably does better, first and foremost because a third of the movie isn't about Peter Parker quitting altogether.
Capped off later by the little boy's bravery before the Rhino, the earlier scene in which Spider-Man rescues him from the bullies in the alley and then fixes and gushes over his wind turbine for school is just classic and something we really haven't seen from any superhero in movies yet (not even IRON MAN 3, in my opinion). It is pure Spider-Man from 1963-on and that, I think, is what counts for most audiences and especially the true fans.
On the whole, I think the heroism of Spider-Man in Raimi's films comes from a slightly purer and more overtly well-intended place. Maguire's Parker/Spider-Man isn't embraced by the public and doesn't become full of himself until the third and final film of that series. However, as these two sequels go, I have to hand it to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 for showing a more overtly heroic Spider-Man that even works well with cops and fire fighters.
While I'm clearly partial towards Raimi's originals, I have to hand it to Webb's movies in this department as well, if only because of the aforementioned chemistry between the lead actors. Even when it worked, it was never really clear why Mary Jane's feelings towards Peter Parker would change so drastically and abruptly, since it only really happens after Maguire's love struck monologue about how M.J. makes him feel in Aunt May's hospital room.
In the 2004 sequel, you kind of just have to accept at face value that M.J. truly loves Peter in order to then understand why she is so hurt by his refusal to officially enter a romantic relationship. Things like the kiss in the rain in the first Raimi film give the romance an iconic look and feel appropriate to the series' overall tone, but even Peter's/Spider-Man's big reveal at the end and Mary Jane's doorway speech about wanting to take risks with Peter instead of being sheltered against them don't add up to the kind of satisfying and BELIEVABLE relationship that is had by Garfield's Parker and Stone's Stacy in the new films.
For many, the best part of the romance between Peter and MJ in Raimi's films is, in fact, in SPIDER-MAN 2 and that final scene's exchange between Peter and MJ in his apartment before she watches him, still in her wedding dress, swing out into the city to once again save the day. Nevertheless, I found it both effective and bold the way Raimi chose to end that particular romance in the last scene of the otherwise disappointing SPIDER-MAN 3. There's no dialogue, only Mary Jane in a club singing an old lounge song as Peter stands there, internalizing every word; yet their quiet dance with somber faces immediately before and between the song and the credits says everything you need to know about them - that even though they might not have been able to help their mutual attraction, it never meant that their actual romance was meant to be. And in fact, it isn't, not even in the comics.
Though the story structure in Webb's sequel and franchise is intended to be more complex, I believe as I think most do that Raimi's was better. Both sequels' story structures operate on multiple levels. Besides Spider-Man's heroism and Peter's romance, you also have the villains and their motivating stories as well as the effects and obstacles of supporting characters like Aunt May, Jameson, Captain Stacy and even Harry Osborn. In the new franchise, we've also had added the highly contentious sub-plot about what happened to Peter's biological parents - spies in the original 1970's comics - which I think is miscast to begin with and has hopefully served its intended purpose by now.
That said, Raimi's 2004 sequel arguably balances them better. Even when one or more sequences drag on the pacing a little, such as the one in which Peter tries so hard to arrive on time to see Mary Jane's play, but doesn't due to a crime he has to stop on the way, it still retains the charm of the overall film and even uses the time to savor that charm and wonder. One of the problems I've had with both of Webb's SPIDER-MAN films is that, except for the relationship between Peter and Gwen and maybe the visual of the Spider-Man suit, itself, the movies are decidedly lacking in charm and wonder. The intentional visual and thematic darkness of the first movie, in particular - which occasionally feels forced and is rightfully toned down in the sequel - stands in a slightly uncomfortable contrast with the mostly entertaining wisecracking and playfulness of the Spider-Man character in these new films. Raimi's villains are definitely better developed, with Doc Ock standing out due to the casting as well as the enhanced back story and parallels with Peter Parker. As with the action, I think that judging the franchises and their sequels in categories like this largely comes down to what you prefer most as part of the audience. If you're more concerned with a plot's complexity and ambition, then I think you can hand it to this year's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. If you're like me, though, and prefer a plot that makes a little more sense and better integrates more developed characters, then Raimi's second Spider-Man movie only emphasizes what at least the first two and part of the third Raimi movie(s) get(s) right.
By now, my preference for Raimi is not only obvious, but old as dirt and probably borders on the annoying. Nevertheless, I think there's a certain reverence and even timeliness about the Raimi films that will give it an edge over the current iteration. Perhaps it's not altogether fair since that sequel and its franchise was the first for this character and his superhero world, but just the inadvertent timing of it - as a superhero story taking place in New York beginning mere months after 9/11 - lends it a feel good vibe and, arguably, even a certain post-9/11, New York-centric patriotism that is in full display towards the end of the first film from 2002 in which New Yorkers are throwing garbage off the Brooklyn Bridge at the Green Goblin and one yells, "You mess with Spidey, you mess with New York!"
Though I've used this word far too often in reference to the Raimi films (never mind the one sequel in question), the blend of familiarity in the settings and some of the region-specific characterizations with the, um... MYTHIC overall feel just seems more in line with the magic of the Spider-Man story as Stan Lee originally envisioned it. More specifically, there is evidence to suggest that director Marc Webb might be in the unfortunate position of having his opportunity at bat with such a big character and franchise get usurped and swallowed up by the studio's and producers' ambition and, perhaps, greed.
The formulaic nature and approach to the film business and to these kinds of movies, especially, is just an inevitability that most accept and either embrace or try to overlook if possible. Still, modern audiences and critics alike can tell when the reach exceeds the grasp in movies like this, and I think the obviousness of this phenomena is unfortunately significant in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. A few, yet significant things change from the first film to the second, beginning with the Spider-Man costume (albeit for the better, as most would agree) and extending to the purely visual scale of a movie and franchise which never leaves New York, let alone Manhattan and Queens. Sometimes this is good, but that often depends upon why those changes are implemented and, in this case, I don't think the changes in this year's Spider-Man sequel can be chalked up solely to the prerogative of a filmmaker with a vision... which, for me, would have been preferable.
Maybe Marc Webb has a vision that he thinks he is or is at least trying to carry forth from the one first presented in 2012, but I don't think he has the all-encompassing passion for the material that Raimi had and which not only landed Raimi the job of first bringing Spidey to the screen, but also helped him take the films to new heights - even when, as on SPIDER-MAN 2, there were unexpected obstacles and delays and even one or two too many cooks in the kitchen when it came to developing and writing the all important script.