I’ll give you a full review after the jump but let me take a moment right now to just give it to you straight: this movie is fucking awful and you shouldn’t see it. In fact I think it might be best if as few people as possible see it because if it doesn’t live up to Sony’s expectations then maybe we’ll be spared more of this crap.
The following review will contain some minor spoilers but you shouldn’t see this movie so it doesn’t matter.
Let me first say that there are a few things that I liked about this movie. Primarily that Spider-Man looks and moves and sounds aer pretty much perfect. The suit is the best that has made it to screen so far and the web slinging is superb; it doesn’t just look awesome it looks fun and Spider-Man looks like he’s having a great time doing it. This is something the last film did well also and that Sam Raimi’s films never really captured for me.
In addition the way Spider-Man moves when he’s fighting is spot on and when he’s cracking wise it’s quick-witted and funny and in a happy change from the last film he doesn’t just come off as an asshole and a bully.
Also, Andrew Garfield is a great actor and so is Emma Stone and they do have good chemistry together on-screen. This is where the list of things I like ends though because what chemistry they have must come from the fact that they are dating in real life. The dialogue in their scenes together is terrible and from scene to scene they behave completely differently towards each other. Sometimes this because some time has passed but the scenes and montages in between don’t convey that.
Peter’s relationship with Aunt May is similar;y inconsistent, she clearly cares but her dialogue in some scenes implies she knows that Peter is Spider-Man and in others that she clearly has no idea about anything. There’s a sub plot about her taking “nursing classes” in secret so she can raise money to send Peter to college… well I say sub plot but really it’s only three scenes: One where we hear her talking on the phone to someone (no idea who) asking to keep it a secret from Peter, one where she confesses it during a breakdown to Peter (and he doesn’t react to the news) and one at the end where she seems to be the head nurse in an ER somewhere. It’s ridiculous.
Sally Field is a great actress but great acting mixed with terrible writing is still terrible.
And then we come to the villains. There are three, but only two have any real screen time. Rhino only shows up at the very start and the very end of the movie so let’s put him aside for a moment.
Jamie Foxx’s Electro looks kind of cool at first but the more he’s on-screen the more ridiculous everything about him gets. Foxx is completely over the top with his performance and the character is reduced to being a miserable nerd stereotype, the awful kind who takes every positive human interaction he has as a life changing event. Then when he’s Electro he has a dubstep inner monologue at one point. Yeah, that’s a thing that happens and honestly if they didn’t abandon it after the one time they used it I think I might have at least respected the attempt more.
Dane DeHaan is a promising young actor but his performance here is embarrassing. He mugs for the camera like he’s in the 1960s Batman TV show and not a movie in 2014. The character himself is problematic enough because we have no investment in him. He’s Peter’s best friend but since he wasn’t in the last movie he doesn’t have enough time to go through a full progression of us caring about him in the slightest to empathizing with his feeling betrayed.
The problems here I feel really boil down to two main things. Marc Webb, love him or hate him, doesn’t seem to be a strong or established enough director to say no to Sony’s meddling. We complain about Spider-Man 3 being a mess but Raimi at least managed to keep a coherent story going and even give us reason to empathize with the characters. All this movie does is advertise Sony products and future films. Kind of ironic since VAIO Laptops aren’t made any more and one image of a huge advertisement for Blu-Ray crashing to the ground in a ball of flame may actually be prescient if you think about it but more annoyingly the entire point of this film seems to be to advertise that there are going to be more of these films. It pre-spoils the origin of basically all the members of the Sinister Six!
The other problem is the writing. It’s Kurtzman and Orci again and along with Jeff Pinkner, a friend from their TV days. This explains a lot really because they aren’t very good writers. Each scene feels disconnected from the ones preceding it and the three stories that are going on don’t ever really gel. The Peter and Gwen story is so different in tone from the villains story that when they overlap it’s jarring.
They also seem to think that “comic book” means “cartoony” because that what all the villains are: cartoon caricatures of real characters. Paul Giamatti’s Rhino, who again only shows up at the beginning and end of the film for a total of about 30 seconds, yells in a terrible eastern European accent and gets his pants pulled down by Spider-Man. There’s an evil scientist at a mental institution who is played as a camp nazi scientist. Electro makes parts of a power station play the song “the itsy bitsy spider” during their final battle. No, seriously, these are all things that happens in this movie.
Characterization isn’t the only problem. After the first battle with Electro in which Spider-Man gets zapped with electricity a whole lot but seems to suffer little damage, Peter is shown watching a bystander on TV explain that his suit must be rubberised. HOW IS THAT AN ACCEPTABLE FORM OF EXPOSITION?
And then there’s Spider-Man’s origin which is explained in this film, in a scene in Richard Parker’s secret lab which is in a subway car hidden underneath the tracks of an abandoned subway station and hydraulically lifted from under them and Jebus H. Christmas this is stupid, as being that Peter is the only one who could be Spider-Man, thus removing his every man relatability and replacing it with the laziest destiny bullshit they could possibly think of, undermining basically everything that makes Spider-Man an interesting character in the first place.
I need to stop. The more I think about this movie the angrier I get. I really honestly want this movie to fail. I really want Sony to be forced to give Spider-Man up because they are doing it wrong. The best thing that could happen as of today is that Sony could lose the rights to Spider-Man back to Marvel and then Marvel could put him in the vault for at least a decade. At this point Spider-Man feels kinda ruined to me because I can’t see any way to get these movies back on track.
So don’t see this movie. Please don’t see this movie. It’s a special kind of terrible, the kind that ruins a beloved character for a lifelong fan.