moviebuff801: Remake Comparison: Spider-Man (2002) vs. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Posted: July 15, 2013 by moviebuff801 in Retrospectives

Following in the footsteps of my fellow reviewers on this site, PG Cooper and HT Scuyler, I’ve decided to do something different for my next post; that being a Remake Comparison/Movie Battle.  I also drew inspiration from the Nostalgia Critic’s comparison of Batman and The Dark Knight, especially in determining the categories.

Today’s topic of discussion, or rather battle, is the pros and cons of two big superhero adaptations about an equally big superhero: Spider-Man (2002) vs. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).  Of course, the latter has gained something of a notorious  reputation for rebooting a franchise that didn’t necessarily need a reboot just a mere five years after Spider-Man 3.  OK, yeah, that movie was pretty bad, but was it bad enough to call for an outright rebuilding from the ground up?  Sure, Sam Raimi’s films aren’t without their problems, but was one bad movie really enough to kick him, and the cast, out?  Of course, Sony rebooting the franchise mainly had to do with them retaining the rights to the character so they could keep making more films.  I mean, it’s not like people could ever get sick of Spider-Man; he seems to be quite an enduring character, no matter the generation.  But is The Amazing Spider-Man really anything more than just a blatant cash-grab, or does it still manage to be a good movie despite retreading familiar territory?  Well, let’s dive right in and find out.

I’ll be covering these films by comparing them in five different categories, and the film with the most “wins” by the end will be the film I think is superior.  And just for the record: I’ve never read the Spider-Man comics, so any analysis of stuff like characterization will be based solely on how well-done they are in the context of each movie and how they measure up against the other.  Also, this is entirely personal opinion, but still open for discussion.  And, obviously, expect spoilers for each film.

So, let’s get to the first category:

BEST HERO

The main hero in both films, of course, is Spider-Man himself, whose alter-ego is high school student Peter Parker.  In director Sam Raimi’s film, he was played by Tobey Maguire and in director Marc Webb’s reboot by Andrew Garfield.  But which one of these guys gave the more effective performance overall?

Tobey Maguire – Spider-Man (2002): First of all, I’m talking about Maguire’s performance in the first film alone, and not the sequels.  Believe me, if I were including Spider-Man 3 here, this section of the debate wouldn’t even be an issue.  But let’s talk about this performance.  Overall, it’s pretty solid, and written with a good amount of heart and empathy.  For the most part, Maguire is good — he hits all the main dramatic notes he needs to and sells them pretty well.  His embodiment of Peter’s more nerdy/socially awkward qualities does tend to fall on the clichéd side more often than not, though, making for some moments where we just roll our eyes slightly at him.  Then again, perhaps that was the intention, because when you encounter this kind of person in real life, that tends to be the usual reaction.  Maguire also does a decent job of communicating his longing for Mary Jane, as well as his inner conflict when she’s dating his best friend Harry.  Also, Maguire does a good job of getting you to care about Peter’s struggles.

However, Maguire’s performance can also come off as quite awkward.  Maybe the writing has something to do with that, but this movie has a number of moments where Maguire’s acting just feels…off, whether it be a line delivery or a facial expression.  Speaking of which, those wide-eyed looks of his can sometimes resemble a deer caught in headlights, and it can prove distracting.  But most of all, it feels as if Maguire is letting the conventions of a nerdy character control his performance, sometimes resulting in the kind of line deliveries that come off as just plain silly.  To a degree, that works for the character, but Maguire can go pretty overboard with it on a few occasions.  And, I hate to say it, but Maguire is pretty bland as Spider-Man.  His attempts to give his costumed alter-ego charm don’t work so well and it serves to sort of blend together both personalities.  I see no real difference beyond acts of heroism between Peter Parker and Spider-Man, as played by Tobey Maguire, and whenever I think back on this film, I remember Peter Parker better than I do Spider-Man, and that’s not a good thing when the title of your movie is Spider-Man.

Andrew Garfield – The Amazing Spider-Man (2012): Andrew Garfield, on the other hand, doesn’t run into that problem.  He makes sure that he gives both Peter Parker and Spider-Man their own distinct personalities, taking to heart the idea of an alter-ego.  While he’s not wearing the mask in this movie, Peter is more timid and soft-spoken overall, while he really lets loose and becomes more confident when he’s Spider-Man.  But more importantly, both parts of Andrew Garfield’s performance feel more natural than Tobey Maguire’s, especially his portrayal of Peter Parker.  Garfield definitely hits all the nerdy and socially awkward notes of the character, but is more understated about it.  Whereas with Tobey Maguire, the more geeky aspects of Peter fall into the more traditional tropes, Garfield’s performance instead takes a different approach.  Garfield shows Peter’s more socially awkward traits in ways that feel more real.  For example, he stumbles around with words a lot, sometimes gives brief or one-word responses in school around people he wouldn’t normally talk to, and uses the word “yeah” often.  That, to me, communicates Peter’s character in a much stronger way.  Also, unlike Maguire’s version, Garfield’s Peter isn’t afraid to stand up for other students being picked on, which we see on two different occasions.  It’s a nice way of foreshadowing how he’ll become a more literal hero later on, but still subtle enough that it wouldn’t be a big indicator of his secret identity.  Another thing is that Garfield’s performance feels more like an actual teenager, as opposed to Maguire’s, which is still serviceable but also comes off as more of an archetype than this one.  Suffice it to say I feel that Andrew Garfield’s version of this character is not only the stronger one, but also the more memorable.

WINNER: Andrew Garfield – The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

 

BEST VILLAIN

What good is a hero without a strong villain for them to go up against and be challenged by?  In Sam Raimi’s film, the foil was the maniacal Green Goblin, played by Willem Dafoe.  In the reboot, it was The Lizard, as portrayed by Rhys Ifans.  But which green meanie gave Spidey more of a struggle?

Green Goblin – Spider-Man (2002): The Green Goblin is perhaps the most well-known Spider-Man villain, almost like the Joker to his Batman.  And the fact that Raimi got Willem Dafoe to play the part is very inspired.  Like Spider-Man himself, Green Goblin has an alter-ego, and that’s Norman Osbourne, but it’s more of a Jekyll and Hyde situation.  Consequently, Dafoe has to give two performances in one, and it’s something he nails.  He’s believable as the calm and controlled Norman, and especially teeth-gnashingly sinister as The Green Goblin.  You can tell Dafoe is having a blast in the part, and he’s just as fun to watch.  However, there’s one big problem with how the character is brought to life in this film: his design.  Seriously, how can you take someone seriously in a suit that makes them look like a reject Power Rangers villain?

I remember the look of this character from the animated series in the 90’s, and he looked awesome that way; downright frightening.  As much money as was spent on this movie, couldn’t they have at least put more effort into the look of the villain?  However, I’m not simply judging the look of these villains; I’m judging their effectiveness as characters.

As a character in the film, The Green Goblin more than gets the job done.  Not only does he have a definite presence in the story, but he also poses a true threat for Spider-Man.  After their first encounter in the film, The Green Goblin makes it his sole purpose to destroy Spider-Man, which he makes abundantly clear through his actions.  Once The Green Goblin finds out Peter’s secret identity, nobody close to him is safe.  Rather than having a big plot to destroy the city, The Green Goblin is more interested in tearing down his enemy’s life, and that’s much more threatening.  He comes REALLY close to killing Spider-Man as well, and the way Dafoe just goes all-out with the part makes The Green Goblin an incredibly memorable character.

The Lizard – The Amazing Spider-Man (2012): In the 2012 movie, our villain is The Lizard, whose alter-ego is Dr. Curt Connors.  The first thing to note about this guy is how much more understated he is, and that’s owed to the nuances of the performance by Rhys Ifans.  In this movie, we spend more time getting to know the person before he becomes the villain, unlike in the Raimi film where Norman makes the transformation not even half an hour in.  This allows Ifans to make Dr. Connors a more interesting character; he feels more complex than Norman Osbourne, who, for all we knew before his transformation, was just a typical inattentive father and a typical intellectual scientist.  With Curt Connors, we’re able to get a better understanding of who he is beforehand and as a result, we can see his reasoning for taking the injection that accidentally turns him into a giant lizard man.  And just like Norman Osbourne in the other film, he forms a relationship with Peter along the way.

But once Connors becomes The Lizard, the character loses some of the intrigue.  The Lizard himself is a pretty bland villain.  While he arguably poses more of a physical threat for Spider-Man than The Green Goblin, there are aspects of him that don’t make sense.  Such as the scene where he hears voices.  The movie never makes it clear if the serum Connors took made him go insane, and the voices are a representation of that, or if Connors was already a little crazy, and the serum just enhanced that.  Plus, while the character’s ideal from his first scene of “believing in a world without weakness” is definitely the catalyst for his grand plan in the Third Act, it’s still disappointingly typical comic book villain stuff, given how much more complex Connors is in the film’s first half.  Not to mention, there’s just something not as intimidating about a creature that’s obviously CGI.  So, while I’d argue The Lizard has the better build-up, The Green Goblin is a more effective and intimidating villain.

WINNER: The Green Goblin – Spider-Man (2002)

 

BEST SUPPORTING CAST

Every superhero needs loved ones around them to save and/or keep their secret identity from, so let’s take a look at which film had the better supporting cast.

Spider-Man (2002): The most predominant character besides Spidey and The Green Goblin is of course Mary Jane Watson, the girl that Peter’s loved “since before he even liked girls.”  The portrayal of her by Kirsten Dunst is fine overall; Dunst definitely captures that “girl next door” quality nicely, and comes off as genuinely compassionate in her scenes with Peter.  She makes it clear WHY Peter would be interested in her in the first place.  But then, the second hour comes along, and…Mary Jane is mostly reduced to a screaming damsel in distress, signifying she’s only there to be captured by the bad guy, then promptly rescued by Spider-Man.  Her most memorable moment in the entire film is the upside-down kiss she shares with Spidey.  Yeah, a lot of help you are, Mary Jane.  Similarly, while Aunt May is a nice and sweet character, she’s essentially just there to offer words of encouragement and be put in danger.

On the other hand, though, I think the portrayals of Uncle Ben and Harry Osbourne are pretty strong.  The dynamic between Peter and Uncle Ben in this movie is fleshed out well-enough that when Uncle Ben’s death occurs, you really feel it.  And Harry provides enough support for Peter as a friend, and when he starts dating Mary Jane behind Peter’s back, it creates some nice subtle tension between the two guys, and that’s a particular aspect that Marc Webb’s film didn’t have.  And lastly, who can forget J. Jonah Jameson?  Character actor JK Simmons brings him marvelously to life, and even with such little screen time in the movie, he leaves a lasting impression.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012): The love interest in this film is Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone.  And, I’m gonna come right out and say it: I love this character because she’s pretty much the anti-Mary Jane.  She’s smart, tough and attractive — two of those qualities Mary Jane not necessarily isn’t, but these qualities are just stronger in Gwen.  For example, Gwen actually helps Peter out in the climax of this film.  Rather than just be a damsel in distress, Gwen actually uses her skills to help Spider-Man defeat The Lizard, plus she sprays friggin’ flames in the villain’s face when threatened!  That’s awesome; you go, girl!  Also, Gwen’s chemistry with Peter is more electric than what Mary Jane has with him in Raimi’s film.  You see these two kids interact, and you WANT them to be together, mainly because Stone’s interpretation is just so strong and compelling.  Between Mary Jane and Gwen, I definitely prefer Gwen.

For the most part, Aunt May and Uncle Ben have slightly more interesting roles here, but Uncle Ben’s is undercut by the fact that his death here is treated more like an afterthought.  But I like how here, Peter and Aunt May’s relationship feels more strained after that incident than it does in Raimi’s film.  However, Denis Leary’s role as Gwen’s cop father who chases after Spider-Man feels pretty standard and doesn’t nearly have the same impact of, say, Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films.  And, Irrfan Khan’s role as a douche bag scientist for OsCorp is pretty throwaway mostly.

In the end, Raimi’s film wins by a Harry and a J. Jonah.

WINNER: Spider-Man (2002)

 

BEST ACTION

Action sequences are as important a part of any superhero movie as the characters, because, well, these ARE superhero movies, after all!  But which of these films were more exciting in that regard?

Spider-Man (2002): Both of these films are origin stories, and superhero origin films tend to not have action as spectacular as any sequels, mainly because the focus is more on establishing the characters and universe.  Then again, there’s Man of Steel, but I digress.  In Raimi’s film, the action really doesn’t kick in until the second hour, and even then, there’s really two major sequences.  But still, the action in this film is pretty effective for the most part.  The climax especially has some real emotional stakes behind it, and a good thing about Raimi’s action sequences is that they don’t overstay their welcome.  However, there is one pretty big downside to them, and I think you can all guess what that is: the special effects.  These special effects are pretty bad, let’s face it.  A lot of the action requires shots of Spider-Man leaping or swinging through the air, and the simple fact of the matter is that there’s never a scene where we’re convinced that this is an actual person, and not a computer-generated one.  That serves to distance us from the action, because it takes away from the danger.  Now, I know this movie was made at a time where special effects weren’t quite as clean as they are now, but there’s just no getting around that these effects haven’t aged well.  In fact, I’m pretty sure they weren’t any better than when the movie was first released.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012): The Marc Webb version, however, has the advantage of better special effects, but it’s not just that.  Raimi’s movie had action that had an emotional undercurrent on more than one occasion, and that’s all well and good, but I’m not really sure if I can call any of it exciting.  The action in this movie, on the other hand, has that quality.  As I mentioned earlier, The Lizard poses a real physical threat to Spider-Man, and that in turn leads to action sequences later in the film that are energetic and fun to watch, like the battle in the high school.  But most of all, I really like the climax, because there’s not just one obstacle for Spider-Man to overcome.  First, he has to deal with a bunch of SWAT officers, then get to OsCorp with a bullet in his leg, and then on top of that, stop The Lizard from unleashing his virus on the city.  In Raimi’s film, the climax was pretty cut-and-dry, but here, there’s more to it, and as always, Spider-Man gets really busted up in the process.  Even if it copies a dramatic beat near the end from the 2002 movie, this film’s climax manages to feel bigger and more exciting at the same time.

WINNER: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

 

BEST STORY/STORYTELLING

Alright, so it’s all tied up right now, and here we are on the last and arguably most important category.  These films have the same basic origin story, but the real question is, which one tells it the most effectively?  Let’s find out.

Spider-Man (2002): I know I mentioned earlier that Tobey Maguire’s performance can come off as awkward, and I really do attribute that to the writing.  David Koepp’s script has some REALLY cheesy dialogue and scenes spaced throughout, but what makes that even more frustrating is that the film also has a good number of genuinely good scenes, too.  Obviously, this movie was made before Christopher Nolan came on the superhero scene and steered the genre in a different direction, so I won’t hold this TOO MUCH against the movie, but these kinds of scenes are still there to roll your eyes at.  However, I do have to acknowledge that this screenplay has a nice flow and structure, but at the same time, what bothers me about this is that certain elements of the story feel rushed.  Overall, it feels like Raimi and co. wanted to get Spider-Man on-screen as quickly as possible.  But, there’s one thing this film does WAY better than the reboot, and that’s Uncle Ben’s death.  Here, it’s actually a MOMENT, and we really feel it, which leads me to another point.  David Koepp may condense the build-up somewhat, but the man makes sure the film still has emotion.  Whenever something big happens in this movie, it matters.  As far as origin stories go, this movie is still pretty well-told at the end of the day, though.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012): Okay, so let’s get this out of the way: yeah, Uncle Ben’s death scene is rushed in this one and doesn’t have the same impact.  But, BUT, here’s the thing…this movie may spend more time on the events leading up to Peter donning the red-and-blue spandex, however the storytelling feels more organic.  It all comes down to the fact that Sam Raimi’s movie seemed like it wanted to be more of a Spider-Man story, but Marc Webb’s film feels like it wants to be both a Peter Parker and a Spider-Man movie, kind of in the same way Batman Begins is both a Bruce Wayne and Batman story.  The whole foundation of this movie is really the characters and their relationships, and spending time to develop those pays off in the second hour when things start to get crazy.  To be fair, Raimi’s film did that as well, but again, that felt more like a bare-minimum approach.  Marc Webb has more confidence in these characters, and the screenplay accordingly allows them to grow more naturally.  Here, Peter’s character feels more defined.  For example, in the 2002 movie, we just hear Peter’s a genius, and assume so because he wears glasses and knows weird facts about the different breeds of spiders.  In this movie, we actually see his smarts in action, and the writers also manage to tie that into how he perfects aspects of his suit.

Speaking of, in this movie, there’s more of a reveal of Spider-Man the first time he wears the suit.  In the previous film, one minute he’s Peter Parker, and the next, he’s suddenly Spider-Man.

Also, this film has some nice, subtle touches that make it stand out more.  Such as, after Uncle Ben dies, the school bully approaches Peter, and Peter thinks it’s just so he can pick on him some more.  But no, the bully just wants to say how sorry he is for Peter.  That’s something we did NOT see in the other movie.

But, most of all, as this movie gets closer to the end, it appears as if it’s going to do the EXACT same thing the Raimi movie did at the end, and anybody who’s seen both knows what I’m talking about.  When I saw this movie for the first time, I was saying in my head, “Don’t you DARE do this again, because you’ve been so smart about it up until now!”  And the film came VERY close to doing it…then cleared everything up with just one line of dialogue.  I can’t tell you how relieved I was at that.

Overall, while The Amazing Spider-Man may retread territory already covered in Spider-Man, I feel the former tells this story more effectively than the latter.  It has better characters, better development, it manages to be emotional without being in-your-face about it, and is a better movie in my opinion.

WINNER: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

That means, with a score of 3-2, the victory goes to…

But that’s not to say I think Raimi’s version is a BAD film; it’s still a competent and well-made movie for the most part.  And while I by no means think the reboot is great, I just can’t deny I find it to be more effective.

Spider-Man: **1/2 /****

The Amazing Spider-Man: ***/****

So, do you agree/disagree?  Sound off in the comments below.

Comments
  1. themovievampire says:

    Nah man. The first Spider-Man has issues and doesn’t hold up spectacularly, but it more or less ushered in a major genre that’s still going strong. The Amazing Spider-Man on the other hand is just lame, it regurgitates the same old origin story all over again in its first half and then leads into a fight against a boring CGI villain in its second half.

    • moviebuff801 says:

      But that’s the thing — the first Spider-Man has issues and doesn’t hold up spectacularly. The Amazing Spider-Man ISN’T without its faults, but it still manages to tell the origin story in an overall cleaner and more compelling fashion, and whatever problems it has ultimately don’t bother me as much as the ones in the Raimi film do. Plus, it’s held up better in the few times I’ve watched it since my theater viewing last July.

      And, I pointed out that it has a boring CGI villain. ;)

  2. Good comparison. I enjoyed both movies, but Amazing Spider-Man gets my vote as the best of the two.

  3. I don’t think it’s fair to say TASM holds up better the original film. TASM is only a year old compared to Spider-Man being 11 years. Give TASM 10 years. Give it 5 years. I don’t think this film is going to have any longevity or lasting relevance in film history or the history of the superhero genre. It feels too much like a big budget 2 hour pilot than a standalone film. I don’t think Garfield is all that special in the role and Emma Stone is more of a personality than an actress. The “cocoa scene” is a pretty awkward attempt at comedy. I like Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben and I think the relationship between him and Peter is the only character stuff that works emotionally or thematically. The rest of the script is a mess thematically and structurally. It has no idea what story it wants to tell and spends most of the time setting up plot lines for future films without exploring them in this film. I saw the film twice in theatres and liked more of it back then. But the hatred against the Raimi films and the fact the two lead actors really upset me and makes it difficult to watch the film makes me more critical of this film than I would be otherwise. For me, I’d put up Spider-Man 2 as still the best of the Spider-Man films so far. It’s more thematically well rounded and just a lot more fun than TASM.

    • moviebuff801 says:

      Well, I’m certainly not saying TASM is great enough to rank up there with the best of the superhero genre; it still has its problems. The only Spider-Man movie so far that has been that good is Spider-Man 2. But I’ll still gladly take TASM over Spider-Man and ESPECIALLY Spider-Man 3. I just find Spider-Man to be a bit too clunky in areas where I feel TASM was a bit cleaner. As for Emma Stone, I appreciate how her character remained consistent throughout the film, whereas Mary Jane essentially turned into your typical damsel in distress halfway through the picture.

      Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

  4. ramp says:

    Yeah I think Amazing Spider-man is a bit more faithful to the comic than Spider-man – but I did enjoy both.
    It was great to finally see webs that didn’t look like rope – as on the old TV series :-D

    • moviebuff801 says:

      I’m not familiar at all with the Spider-Man comics, so I’ll take your word for that. ;)

  5. Totally agree! Well, kind of! That supporting cast part? I think that both are quite equal! I’m a huge fan of Amazing Spiderman and Andrew Garfield being Spiderman…he’s a lot more convincing than Tobey Maguire :)
    Can’t wait for Amazing Spiderman 2!!

    • moviebuff801 says:

      Garfield is more natural in the role, and does a better balancing act between both character personalities, that’s for sure. Agreed about The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

  6. They both have different strengths and weaknesses, close one :D

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