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Face-Off: Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man 2

03.07.2013by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face-Off, we anticipated the release of 21 and Over with a match between two comedies that echoed the new release's alcohol filled premise in their own ways in Superbad and The Hangover. While The Hangover won the article's verdict, our readers chimed back singing a different tune giving Superbad the edge. As I stated, both were great comedies that had their own justifiable reasons for scoring the victory.

This week, in anticipation of the release of Sam Raimi's latest outing Oz: The Great and Powerful, we've decided to show love to him by putting together a match between the first two big screen Spider-Man films. Raimi's first Spider-Man film, like the first X-Men contributed to the resurgence of the dominance comic book films had over the box office. Sam followed that up with what is arguably not only the best of the theatrical Spider-Man films, but to many stands today as one of the best comic book films to hit the scene so far. Do you agree with the latter? Or are you going to surprise us with the opinion that the first was more your cup of tea? Let's discuss.
Story
After being bitten by a radioactive spider, teenager Peter Parker decides to use his new found powers to earn some money to impress a certain red-headed hottie. After the night ends in unspeakable tragedy, Parker dons the identity of Spider-Man to infest the city with webs while making up for it by contributing to ridding said city of crime. Meanwhile, after another freak accident a new menace brews close to Parker, future enmity seems inevitable. I'm a sucker for a good origin story, and except for a few artistic liberties I think Raimi nailed it. The story flowed so naturally, it's hard to nitpick about the flaws some people have found in it years later.
Peter Parker has found it hard to juggle life between being regular old Peter and his extraordinary alter ego as Spider-Man. His crime fighting ways have directly affected his personal life, and the poor schmuck questions whether he can handle it anymore. After (you guessed it) another freak accident involving an acquaintance of Peter's, he has no choice but to suck it up and continue with his "responsibility" to the city. The drama was definitely amped up in this sequel, I dug Peter's struggle with the various people in his life here, as opposed to going full emo in the third film. A lot of that praise needs to be credited to the cast, who gave their best performances here.
Action
Is it bad that the element of action I geeked out most over was Peter's cage match with the late great "Macho Man" Randy Savage? He got his ass handed to him while at the same time we see him getting a hang of how to incorporate his powers into battle. Other notable action breaks are the mayhem the Goblin causes at the city parade, the sequence in the burning building that resulted in Goblin learning Spider-Man's identity, and the final fight in which Spidey got the sh*it beat out of him. All that aside, I'm still standing by the cage match being pretty much the best damn thing in the whole film. Oooooh yeaaah!
Bigger...and better! These are the words that describe the action sequences in Spider-Man 2. The fight sequence in the train and what followed stands as one of the best things I've seen in a comic book film. It was Doc Ock letting Spidey know that he had his work cut out for him. A less hectic, but still pleasing debut for Doc Ock saw him robbing a bank. While the train sequence alone awards the sequel this category, I have to say I was more pleased with the final battle between Spidey and the Green Goblin in the first film. Am I alone in this? Just seemed a bit more personal and climactic.
Villain
Willem Defoe chewed the scenery in every single scene he was in, as he often does and was the epitome of what we call "cheese". You can tell he really had a blast portraying Norman Osbourne gone crazy, the dude was just insane. I dug the sequences between a conflicted Norman and the crazed Green Goblin alter ego, range yo. Some people let themselves be pulled out of the performance from displeasure with Green Goblin's character design (in which he looked more like a villain suited for a Power Rangers episode). What mattered to me was the man behind the suit, and the man behind the suit delivered.
Much of the universal praise Spider-Man 2 received, can be attributed to Alfred Molina's portrayal of Doctor Octopus and it's much deserved. he role has been described as menacing, complex, and even sympathetic. Doc Ock was all this and more in my humble opinion. Loved that he started out as a man we were rooting for, but after losing his wife and gaining a new...well...deformity, gained a twisted view of what needed to be done and was willing to do whatever he had to, to obtain it. We're 4 official Spider-Man films in, and Doc Ock has maintained his top spot? Disagree? Harry Osborn, who had a lot of meat to chew on in this sequel as an evolving villain. The fact that they didn't do the character justice in the third film is for another discussion.
Overall
I can remember the hype me and my father felt when that first teaser for the film hit theaters, and I remember not being disappointed after seeing the film. It did the character of Spider-Man justice, it had drama, it had it's moment of lightness, it had a great villain (shitty costume design and all), it introduced us to J.K. Simmons' OWNING the role of J. Jonah Jameson, and it had Kirsten Dunst in a wet shirt. Bottom line, to its credit the first film holds a special place in my heart for being the first glimpse I got of Spider-Man on the big screen. It was a magical experience, and the film holds up.
Spider-Man 2 getting as much praise as it did, and the legacy it carved for itself as one of the best comic book films of all time was no fluke. It had all the elements that makes a film of this kind great. It's in this film I bought into the drama and the struggle of Peter Parker most, it had the brilliant performances to compliment it. As previously mentioned, I was a big fan of Franco's complex performance as Harry Osborn in this film...his best work in the trilogy. We all can imagine relating to the pressure the savior of a city would have on us, the weight it would carry. That's what makes this film great, and it's what made many comic book films that came after it great. It set a bar.
Spider-Man 2
There you have it ladies and gentlemen, Spider-Man 2 stands as the best of Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy...all the elements came together and damn near made perfection. The first film was a great introduction for the character, but the sequel went above and beyond. But I've been surprised with opinions before, and maybe it will happen again. So it's time for you schmoes to chime in.

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which Spider-Man film is your favorite?
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