The big problem is that she never really did anything in the movies. She was a goal; she was defined pretty much entirely by who she was and was not dating at a given time. In the first movie, Peter pines for her while she dates Harry. In the second movie, Peter pines for her while she dates an astronaut. In the third movie, she and Peter happily date for the first half, then a really trite love triangle forms to bring tension into their relationship. The closest she came to feeling like a real character and not a goal for Peter to achieve was the beginning of the third movie, when their roles were swapped and Spider-Man was beloved by the people while MJ's acting career was on the rocks, and Peter wasn't there emotionally for her. Theeen... well, there's a reason Spider-Man 3 isn't particularly well-liked even by fans of the Raimi films.
And I guess I just don't agree with that. Ok, she's a goal, but she's the person Peter loves, and always has from a distance. He used to be too nerdy for her, and she had a pretty screwed up life (the film shows that). Plus, she was a little self obsessed early on. But then, the hero gains confidence, she matures a little, and they can finally fall in love. The point was that the Raimi films were about
Spider Man, and seen entirely from his perspective. It's not really 'supposed' to be about Mary Jane. I don't think the fact that the film doesn't cover her means she's some 'object' of sorts. I mean, the Batman films really took the character study to a new level; the Dark Knight was Joker vs Batman and action scenes thrown around that. I just don't see what you're saying as a bad thing because the movie chose to pick its focus and went with it.
Let's go back to 2002...comic book movies generally aren't major blockbusters. The Batman films got incredibly corny and embarrassingly campy. X Men in 2000 was pretty good, but not great, as it should have been called 'Wolverine and Pals', but it at least makes people realize you can make money with superheroes. Then Spiderman comes along...the film series that injects life into the genre and makes superheroes cool again, all over the world! Filmmakers aren't looking for a 'character study' here; they're looking for a BAM! POW! THWAP! blockbuster film, and Spiderman delivered on that. His success paved the way for later films to go much deeper using superheroes as a backdrop. And better yet, it came along as the Millennial generation was growing into their teens/college/adult years. Timing is everything
Now let's move ahead to Spiderman 2 in 2004...which I personally thought belonged on the Mt. Rushmore of Superhero films. You have to see it for what it was in film history at the time; they actually delved into the hero's life, showed his struggles to be heroic and STILL 'normal', gave him obstacles to overcome, moral decisions, a bad guy who had some depth, and a woman who finally loved him for who he was. Sure, other films since then have gone deeper, but Spiderman 2 did what other films of the genre really hadn't done in a long time (I'd argue Superman 2, another great movie, came closest); it paved the way for films to actually take superheroes seriously. Remember, unlike people on the Weave, most moviegoers aren't geeks/nerds, and they come to the theater thinking comic book heroes belong in Saturday morning cartoons. Spiderman 2 actually made the casual fan and filmmaker see you could Call me crazy, but I don't think you get the Dark Knight without Spiderman 2 coming out before it. People weren't willing to take superheroes seriously before that, at least not in film form.
I guess what I'm saying is that I think you're using 2012 logic to a film that paved the way for other ones. It's like complaining that special effects from today are better than those in 'A New Hope'. While true, it isn't a fair point to make; history has to be honored as part of the decision. Spidey essentially made the world realize superheroes JUST might be mainstream again
The Amazing Spiderman had plenty more time to develop Aunt May, Uncle Ben, Peter Parker, and Gwen Stacy. Why? Because they knew the audience didn't really need a refresher course. Why do we reboot things? To get a fresh, new take. The Star Trek movie is another good example; they didn't need to tell you what Klingons were, that transporters existed, that Spock was half human/half Vulcan, and since the audience came with the knowledge, they were free to use their time doing other things.
That film built off the first ones. All these modern superhero films owe Sam Raimi and Spiderman a great deal of credit because that's what paved the way for the rest of them. And that's why, while I understand what you're saying, I don't think it applies to this. There IS no Gwen Stacy if Kirsten isn't MJ first. The way has to be paved before it can be perfected; no shame in being the trailblazer
And yes, Spiderman 3 wasn't that good. Wasn't horrible, but did not live up to the lofty standards of its predecessor. And, honestly, post 'Batman Begins' in 2005, the Sam Raimi style of superhero films was getting dated. In 2007, people went to the theater expecting more from the genre now, and they didn't get it.
I suppose I'm just saying that history plays a big role. Whether we know it or not, our expectations have gotten a LOT bigger now.