Face-Off: Spider-Man vs. The Amazing Spider-Man

Ah, very nice of you to see you all swing by this week for the newest Face-Off! I assure you, this week will have you caught up in a web of excitement. Are these spider puns doing anything for you, or are they driving you up the wall? Don't worry, they all have a purpose, as this week we will celebrate the release of SPIDER-MAN:HOMECOMING with a competition between the first entries in the previous SPIDER-MAN iterations: SPIDER-MAN and THE AMAZING-SPIDER-MAN.

The former completely smashed all expectations back in 2002, with the Sam Raimi-directed superhero flick with Tobey Maguire earning buckets of cash and becoming a global phenomenon. The latter was Sony's response to SPIDER-MAN 3's poor reception, which was basically, "Start it all over again, but make it, like, cooler!" The reboot with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man earned solid reviews and made a decent amount of money, but was it really able to stand up to the original? The proceeding battle will give us our answer!

Put on you best tights, and lets swing right into it.

Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson
Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin
James Franco as Harry Osborn
Rosemary Harris as Aunt May
Cliff Robertson as Uncle Ben
J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson
Joe Manganiello as Flash Thompson
Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brant

Shout Out: Bruce Campbell as the Ring Announcer
Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
Sally Field as Aunt May
Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben
Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors/The Lizard
Denis Leary as Captain Stacy
Irrfan Khan as Rajit Ratha
Much like Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi started off directing cult horror films before crossing over into blockbuster territory. Also like Jackson, you can tell his heart really lies in the stories he devoured as a youth, especially comic books. Raimi brought that passion to SPIDER-MAN and with it a clear, focused vision that this should be a lively, accessible, endlessly enjoyable comic book movie even non-fans can enjoy. It has it's cheesey moments, but that's classic Raimi flair at work. You can take the director out of B-movies, but you can't take the B-movie out of the director...so my Snapple cap said.
Marc Webb shot to fame after his breakout hit, (500) DAYS OF SUMMER won over critics and audiences. He seemed like an odd choice to helm the SPIDER-MAN reboot though, as he seemed better suited for smaller character-driven films. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN proved his skills are more in-line with character work, as the interplay among the cast is easily the movie's best quality. When examining his style it's best to look at how naturally he gets his performers to flow when working together, whether it's in a heavy dramatic scene between Peter and Ben, or whenever the infectious duo of Peter and Gwen are on-screen.
A classic superhero origin through and through. Nerdy Peter Parker is outcast from everyone else in school - sans his one friend, Harry Osborne, and earning sympathy from his next-door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson. However, his life takes a whole different direction when he's bitten by a genetically altered spider, giving him the powers of, well, a spider. He can swing on webs, climbs up walls, and kick the crap out of his bullies. He's not the only one who goes through some changes, as the business tycoon Norman Osborne transforms into the evil Green Goblin after a science experiment gone wrong (dun, dun DUUN!!). Raimi kept the story as close to its roots as he could: Straightforward, a classic tale of good vs. evil, and packing enough heart and character development to spare. It may seem outdated now, but this hero's tale origin is sweet and action packed.
The reboot tried to do a more grounded spin on the origin, but ultimately it hits all the same beats as the original. The only real difference when it comes to the origin of Spider-Man is the inclusion about what happened to Peter's parents. Though an interesting aspect of the character's life, as the story moves on the angle gets downgraded to merely an "Act One" plot device, the main story migrating into more typical origin fare. After that it's basically the first SPIDER-MAN with a new paint job...a sleek one, however.
You'll notice there's no checkmark above this paragraph, and by no means should that be taken as me saying I don't like Maguire's take on Parker/Spidey. In this first movie he's innocent, sweet, vulnerable and, when in the suit, somewhat funny. I totally buy him as the kind of guy who has spent his life looking out the window, seeing the girl next door, and always being too scared to ever talk to her. But we are judging this performance on the merits of the first SPIDER-MAN movie, and in this one I think Maguire still has some - ahem - cobwebs to shake off. He exhibits the aforementioned qualities very well, but this being the first movie he sometimes seems a little...stiff. This might be because of the script, which doesn't give him a lot to do other than discover his powers and swoon over Mary Jane. Maguire doesn't get the chance to really flex his muscles until SPIDER-MAN 2, dishing up a performance that could've easily landed him the victory here.
As for Garfield's take on the character we get a different side of the coin. More isolated than Maguire's Parker, Garfield keeps his emotional barriers up by projecting this laid back, I-don't-need-anyone demeanor, lacing it with this gentle smart-assery. When he finally dons the suit that trademark Spidey humor and confidence comes shining through. Even though he has these emotional shields up they effortlessly collapse whenever he's in the presence of Gwen Stacy. Overall, this take on the character is more layered than Maguire's, and Garfield brings him to life with soul and awkward charm. He's far more akin to the teenage Spidey fans have come to love with than Maguire's, and even though his movies aren't as beloved as the original series, there's something suitably amazing about Garfield as Parker.

Meet Peter Parker: Bus Catcher

The Osborns

Peter and Mary Jane have a moment.

Bug Bite

The Transformation

The Green Goblin is born.

Peter Parker 2.0

Mary Jane to Pete: "Nice reflexes!"

Peter kicks some Flash ass.


Pete: "Go web! Fly! Up, up, and away web! Shazaam! Go! Go! Go web go!"

A Moment in the Backyard

Web Practice

Uncle Ben to Pete: "Remember, with great power comes great responsibility."

Ring Announcer: "What's your name, kid?"
    Pete: "The Human Spider."
    Ring Announcer: "The Human Spider? That's it? That's the best you've got?"
    Pete: "Yeah."
    Ring Announcer: "Oh, that sucks!"

Spider-Man vs. Bonesaw

Pete lets the thief go.

Goodbye, Uncle Ben

Spidey on the Hunt

Pete gets his revenge.

Green Goblin Attacks

Becoming the Hero

Peter Parker the Photographer

Goblin attacks the festival.

Goblin: "Out am I?!"

Spidey vs. Goblin

Goblin to Spidey: "I chose my path, you chose the way of the hero. And they found you amusing for a while, the people of this city. But the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying."

Brawl in the Rain

The Upside Down Kiss

Spidey vs. Goblin Round Two

Spidey shows off his MATRIX moves

Dodging the Family

Goblin attacks Aunt May.

Pete and MJ Connect

Goblin's Sadistic Choice

Goblin: "The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout. Down came the Goblin and took the spider out."

Spidey vs. Goblin Round Three

Pete: "Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: 'With great power comes great responsibility.' This is my gift, my curse. Who am I? I'm Spider-man."

Meet a different Peter Parker

Going through dad's things.

Peter Parker a.k.a. Rodrigo Gueverra

Bug Bite 2: The Bitening

Subway Rumble

The Transformation 2

Humiliating Flash

The Death of Uncle Ben 2

Hunting the Killer/Building the Web-Shooters

Back Seat Driver

Spider-Man: "Is that a knife? Is that a real knife?"
    Car Jacker: "Yes, it's a real knife."
    Spider-Man: "My weakness! Small knives! Anything but knives!"

Dinner with the Stacy's

Rooftop Lovebirds

Gwen: "Oh, I'm in trouble."

Heroism on the Bridge

Rumble in Toilet Water

Gwen tends to a wounded Pete

Gwen to Pete: "Easy, bug boy."

School Hall Brawl

Spider-Man to Gwen (who hung up on him): "You motherhubber!"

Spider-Man Downed

Identity Revealed

Climax at Oscorp

Cpt. Stacy to Pete: "Leave Gwen out of it."

The Death of Captain Stacy

The Hero New York Needs

Basically, any time Stone and Garfield are together.
Simplicity was the name of the game for Raimi's vision of SPIDER-MAN, and for the most part that works brilliantly. However, the one area where it falters is in the look of Parker. Gone are the gadgets that Parker had in the comics (web wings, webshooters), as Raimi thought those would seem too implausible for modern audiences to grasp. Instead he kept the idea of the "organic webshooters" that James Cameron came up with when he was writing his treatment for the movie in the late 90's. It's not a terrible idea, but I can't help thinking it removed a bit of what makes Parker special, namely his immense scientific intellect. The suit itself looks great, being more on the bulky side than later incarnations, as it should be. Did you see Peter when he woke up the morning he got his powers? Someone warn Schwarzenegger he's not the buffest guy around, amiright?
The color scheme may have a bit more blue than traditional Spidey garb from the comics, but in terms of sleekness and ingenuity the costume Parker dons here is just how I picture Spider-Man to look in a real-life scenario. Fit perfectly for spider-powered aerodynamics, this Spider-Man looks at home dodging, ducking, dipping, diving and swinging around New York. With an added bonus we finally got to see the webshooters on display, and though I have nothing against the logic of the "organic webs" in the original films, the shooters go a long way in emphasizing Peter's intellect and engineering skills, which in turn gives Parker more depth. It's just a shame they tinkered with the suit for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, which looked like they tried to combine the look of the first movie's and Maguire's original costume, the result looking like a tween's cosplay outfit.
Much like with John Williams' work, you know you're listening to Danny Elfman any time a whimsical score of his kicks on. Elfman's work on SPIDER-MAN rings with the same kind of echo-y, fantastical sound he brought to Tim Burton's BATMAN movies, but gives it a more grandiose vibe. But even when Elfman's work isn't perfectly accompanying Spider-Man's swinging and crawling, his pieces still find a way to exist with such presence. Every piece comes bursting off the scene with power, each either eerie, adventurous or dynamic. Going back and listening to the soundtrack there are so many great compositions with their own personality. Truly some of his best work. Of course, it can't top the Chad Kroeger masterpiece that rolled with the credits...
James Horner's score is solid, with a few suitably heroic pieces to go with all the Spider-Maning. But overall the music is a bit more intimate, trying to work with movie's more grounded tone. As a result there's simply not a ton of life to it, especially when comparing it to Elfman's work. There really isn't that much more to say about it. And, what makes matters worse, there's no Chad Kroeger. Without that you're playing to lose.
A movie like this is only as good as the villain, and god-damn is Dafoe an awesome, scene-chewing baddie. Not only is Dafoe engaging as the tortured and defeated Norman Osborn, but he's infectiously fun as the Green Goblin, bringing a real Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde quality to the character. There's the normal Osborn, trying to keep his head on straight, and then the insane Goblin side, who knows exactly what his standing is as the villain, and who uses diabolical persuasion to lure what's left of the kind Osborn over to the darker side. Dafoe perfectly meshes Goblin's over-the-top theatrics with Norman's remaining humanity, and it's no surprise why he still stands among the better super hero movie villains.
With Lizard they tried to do something too similar to the first movie, having Ifan's play Connor like a different Jekyll/Hyde character. A working scientist compared to Osborn's businessman type, Connors becomes The Lizard after a medical experiment gone wrong. Ifans is solid as the intelligent, compassionate Connors, but the CGI lizard is just a giant green bore. Looking like a child tried to make a Play Doh version of The Joker, Lizard is about as interesting a character named "The Lizard" can be. One of his powers? Growing his tail back at a somewhat fast pace!
The heart of Peter Parker lies in his love for Mary Jane Watson. This is key to getting to the soul of the character, and Raimi makes sure the two characters get plenty of screen time. I will say the relationship between Parker and Watson in this movie is better developed than it's competitor, with screen time excellently paced throughout. But where the movie loses this bout is in the fact that Maguire and Dunst are still trying to find their chemistry. Their intimate interactions certainly move things forward, but don't amount to much beyond the two standing around and talking. There's that awesome kiss though, even if there's more about that scene that's, um, distracting. They aren't bad together, but when compared to these next two they may as well be robots learning to love.
If there's one aspect about THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (and even its sequel) that fans can all agree on is that the chemistry between Garfield and Stone as Peter and Gwen is the film's shining achievement. The duo is effortlessly charming, and in that one moment when they're alone in the school hall you can feel so intimately the two characters falling in love, and it's utterly delightful. Garfield and Stone are a perfect pair, and Webb let them do their thing, spinning us up in their web of love. Every moment they're on-screen together is infectious, and makes for probably one of the best romances in, really, all of superhero moviedom.
    Best Sound (nominated)
    Best Visual Effects (nominated)
Golden Schmoes:
    Most Overrated Movie (2nd Place)
    Best Trailer of the Year (2nd Place)
    Best Sci-Fi Movie (nominated)
    Best Special Effects (nominated)
    Best DVD of the Year (nominated
Praise Money:
    $403 million domestic ($821 million global)
Golden Schmoes:
    Biggest Disappointment (nominated)
Praise Money:
    $262 million ($757 million global)

So, in conclusion, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN gave Spider-Man fans a different take on the hero that many of them were able to rally around. However, in trying to make the movie look like a more modern take on the character it ended up following the same beats of the original, which diminished the impact (and featured a far less engaging villain and muddier plot). In the end it's a movie that made us remember why we loved the original SPIDER-MAN in the first place. Simple, effortlessly fun, brimming with heart and just the right amount of cheesy. Raimi hit the nail on the head when bringing audiences a movie anyone could have a good time with, and one that after all these years still ranks high on many people's lists of best superhero movie's ever (maybe knocked out of the ring by it's sequel). Yeah, the argument can be made that it's a little dated, but I think most people will find themselves easily swept away in the story of Peter Parker taking on the role as Spider-Man thanks to assured directions, heartfelt performances and a sweeping score. I know Christopher Nolan made grounded comic book movies cool, but SPIDER-MAN makes us remember that there's nothing wrong with a dude swinging around in red tights...as long as it's not on a Broadway stage.



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