This is going to be a negative review of the movie, so to balance it out, I will talk about the stuff I liked.
- First of all, whenever Garfield was in the suit, I liked him as Spider-Man. The humor, the fun, the heroics, it was all there. The suit looked fantastic too, and it is easily the best looking Spidey costume put to film thus far. His interactions with the kid, though brief and serving little purpose to the story, were nice and captured the kind of heart that the character is supposed to have. Even his interactions with Gwen were better when he was in costume.
- I liked Aunt May. Yes, I miss Rosemary Harris from the Raimi films, and they don't give her nearly enough here, but Sally Field is actually quite nice in the role, and when they give her material, she is actually nice to watch and listen to.
- The action scenes are largely CGI spectacles, and using slow motion to simulate the Spider Sense was a bit too Zack Snyder-ish at times, but the action scenes are mostly fun. The Battle in Times Square was certainly enjoyable with the action, the lighting, and the heroics & fun of Spidey during the fight.
- And this is a small thing, but I never felt too strongly about organic or mechanical web shooters. To me, I am fine with either one, and the advantage of the organic web shooters in the Raimi films was that it basically meant there was less exposition to worry about. However, if you are going to have the mechanical web-shooters, doing what they did by having Electro's powers fry them was a really cool way to play with the concept. Spider-Man would then have to prepare differently than he would for any other foe, and I like that. Yeah, Peter having to Youtube science lessons when he's supposed to be smart seemed lame, especially when Gwen gave him an answer off the top of her head, but at least the Mechanical web-shooters played a part in the story that fit both the hero & the villain and affected the strategy of the fight in some one. Again, it is a minor detail, but I liked that and I am trying to think up some nice things to say.
The negatives? Oh boy how do I put this? I will start of by saying that this movie has the flaws of Spider-Man 3, Iron Man 2, & Man of Steel, but with very little to none of the upside. Spider-Man 3 balanced way too many stories, villains, & plot threads, but at least it had some good moments (Birth of Sandman for example) and flowed better than it had any right too given the circumstances. This movie offered nothing overly memorable and was an even messier story, if you can believe that.
Iron Man 2 was largely just a big set up for The Avengers, and setting up the future at the expense of the present isn't good, but at least I had fun with RDJ owning the role. This movie largely just felt like a set up for The Sinister Six, so much so that it felt like this movie couldn't stand on its own and there wasn't much to enjoy to make up for it.
Man of Steel gets criticized for its handling of the character, the obvious Jesus symbolism, the odd use of the McGuffin, and silly moments like the Tornado sequence, a hammy villain, and kind of a jumbled story that tries to balance too much. And to be honest, some of those complaints are fair. But at least I got to see a likeable Superman with tremendous battles between powerful Kryptonians and I liked the views of his childhood as well, and to be honest, I liked this version of Krypton too. For Amazing Spider-Man 2, the story is split into several different plot threads that are jumbled together, but with none of them working for me.
As I said in my initial reaction post, this movie felt like it was actually five movies, but all spliced together. You have a Spider-Man Vs. Electro movie, a friends become enemies story between Peter & Harry, a mystery story with Peter finding out about his parents that also serves as kind of a continuation of the origin for Spidey, a Sinister Six set up movie, and all the while, it is all tied in with the Peter/Gwen romance, and for me personally, NONE of those stories worked at all. So I guess I'll just give reviews of all those story threads and talk about why they didn't work for me.
Lets start with The Sinister Six set up stuff. First of all, Sony are fools for including Rhino in the trailers and marketing for the film. His cameo was so brief, it only served to make the trailers seem misleading. If they had left him out entirely, he would have been a nice surprise for fans. Either way though, Giomatti was pretty obnoxious in the role and the character's presence amounted to little more than a toy advert + Sinister Six foreshadowing.
Also, how many references to other Spidey characters did they shoehorn into this thing? I'd call them Easter Eggs, but they were so obvious that it felt like they wanted to beat us over the head with it. Ravencroft, Smythe, Felicia (say her name enough times Harry?), and the room where they went through the equipment for all the villains. (speaking of overusing references, how many flipping times did they use the Spider-Man theme as a cell phone ring?). It felt like they were constantly beating us over the head with foreshadowing and references, and hey, if the movie was better, maybe I'd forgive it, but I didn't enjoy the story this movie was trying to tell, so them constantly reminding me that better stuff is coming isn't going to make it OK. It is like with Wrestlemania 27. Yeah yeah, I know you're doing Cena/Rock next year, but that doesn't mean the Mania you sacrificed to set it up was somehow good on its own.
Next lets talk about the Peter/Gwen romance. I hated it in the last movie, but for different reasons. In the first movie, it was very reminiscent of Twilight, with them just making goo-goo eyes at each other and spouting awful dialogue. Here, it was bad in that it was overly cutesy. Remember that Seinfeld episode? "You're schmoopie! No you're schmoopie!". I hate couples like that. Not that I disapprove of public shows of affection or anything like that, but it just feels like fake idealized love that children would have. Why on Earth would Peter walk into oncoming traffic? He is so starstruck by Gwen that he was just wander into the middle of a busy street? That makes him both an idiot and a jerk. That isn't cute. And how many freaking times did they break up and get back together? The last movie ended with them breaking up, and now they are back together, and then they go back and forth like 12 times, so much so, that I completely lost track of whether or not they were an item. And Gwen's entire purpose in this story is to die. I guess that has always been the character's purpose, but her valedictorian speech felt like a eulogy rather than a speech a teenager would give, and her being "the only one that knows how to work the grid" (IE, the only one that knows how to push a button apparently) was just a weak excuse to have her there for Goblin to toss her around and lead to her death. Gwen was here just so she could die.
And then there is the unintentional hilarity that was the disapproving ghost of Dennis Leary. I won't say it was Wicker-Man "visions of a girl getting hit by a train" funny, but it was in the same ballpark. Every time he popped up on screen, I just started laughing. It was just so awkward.
Now I am going to elaborate on the story about Peter's parents and I guess that would be a good time to talk about Peter himself. Like I said, I liked him in the suit. Out of the suit? I couldn't stand him. He wasn't the creepy, stalker, jerk he was in the last movie (not as much anyway). He was just annoying and weird. The heavier accent, the way he would stutter (that scene with him & Gwen heading into the Oxford interview was embarrassing), the weird chart he made in his room while moping around to music, and the fact that he didn't seem to care about Uncle Ben at all (wasn't he supposed to still be looking for Ben's killer? What happened to that?) just made me not like this guy. I was getting some severe "Bro" vibes while watching him too, and that isn't what I want Peter Parker to be. Oh and isn't Peter supposed to be a brilliant scientific mind? So why does he need to look up science tips on Youtube?
As for his parents, that whole subplot was completely pointless with the "revelation" being weak sauce at best. Why did there have to be an underground science railroad? What more information did Peter ultimately learn that was vital? And I hated that Peter's DNA was the ONLY one that would work with the Spiders because it makes it feel like he was destined to be Spider-Man. I always liked the idea that Spider-Man was an accident and it could have happened to anyone, and Peter was just the one in the right place and right time. Also, the first 10 minutes of the movie with Peter's parents running away felt like it could have come from any other film. They could have at least had Norman Osbourne as The Green Goblin be the one to take the plane down. To me, Peter's parents shouldn't be included unless you tie them to SHIELD, which Sony can't do for obvious reasons, so why even bother?
Now lets jump into the Harry/Goblin portion of the movie. First of all movie, shame on you for wasting Chris Cooper. He could have been a great Norman Osbourne and you had him die after only using him for one scene. Secondly, I thought Harry was nothing short of ludicrous. The hair, the way he talked, the hammy dialogue...I didn't know whether to cringe or applaud it for its hilarity. His line "You're a fraud Spider-Man!" had me in stitches, and I am sure that wasn't the intention.
When it comes to Harry, probably no other story in the film suffers from the rushed and overly crowded nature of this film. First of all, Peter spent the last movie trying to infiltrate Oscopr and learn all he can about them...so why did it only come up now that Harry & Peter were childhood friends? You'd think that would have come up in the last movie. And once scene later, BOOM, theya re best buddies! Harry is also estranged from his dad and sick with whatever the hereditary Goblin disease is. All of that is handled in one quick scene. And man, did Norman's speech have a placebo effect on him or what because he showed signs of that sickness pretty darn quick. And that scene where Spider-Man says he can't help him was dumb. Why would Spider-Man even show up just to tell Harry he can't help him? Why even bother? Why not offer a solution. Peter is supposed to be smart (these movies haven't really shown us that too much, but hey) and as I said before, Harry's outburst was hilariously bad. As for The Green Gobling, he literally shows up at the end as The Green Goblin just to kill Gwen. That was so rushed that I felt almost nothing for any of the characters involved by the end of the very quick scene. And the Goblin make up looked pretty silly too. Harry's entire story felt like they took Harry from all three of Raimi's films and just crammed it all down together into one rushed underdeveloped mess.
Finally, lets get to Electro...oh my. So the guy is a social weirdo nerdy type (why was he dressed like Norbit) who gets mutated on his birthday? That's the extent of the back story for their villain? The origins of the villains in the 90s Batman show & even the 90s Spider-Man show were more fleshed out and interesting than this. This is another example of just being horribly rushed. The idea of an overly obsessed Spidey fan turning evil & all powerful isn't a bad idea (think Trish Stratus/Mickie James) and probably could carry its own movie, but again, it is so rushed that I felt like it wasn't even that important. Electro gets his powers fairly quick, and then gets captured and goes away for a long portion of the film and largely just becomes a side character. Some people said the same thing about Whiplash in Iron Man 2, and yes, that is somewhat fair, but at least he maintains an active role in the story. Electro severs little purpose because he has almost nothing to do with any of the other 12 stories that are going on. The design?? That was also disappointing because he looks way too much like Dr. Manhattan, so much so that it doesn't feel like its own original design.
And the less said about Dr. Kafka, the better, ha ha.