With The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters, it’s natural to wonder whether this film or Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man is the stronger entry in the web-slinger’s canon. In hopes of putting this question to rest, I sought help from another film aficionado, my good friend Steve Zuccaro. What follows is our discussion about which Spider-Man origin film we prefer, and why. [Warning: Spoilers]
Nick DeNitto: So, let’s just hop right into it: The Amazing Spider-Man once again told us the origin story of the comic book hero, even though the first film is only 10 years old. Do you think this reboot was justified?
Steve Zuccaro: I didn’t have as much a problem with it as others had, but no, I didn’t really think this film was too necessary at this time.
ND: I’ll admit I was one of those people who cried, “Money grabbing scheme!” when the project was first announced, but after seeing it, I came around to the idea. I wasn’t entirely satisfied by Raimi’s trilogy, especially with how awful the third film turned out.
SZ: I’m a fan of Marc Webb’s previous film, (500) Days of Summer, so when I heard that he was helming the project, I decided to not be so dismissive of the film. Raimi’s films I liked fine, although the third had some ridiculous aspects to it that really detracted from the film. I’ve heard that a lot of the problems involved with that film, though, were due to producers intervening.
ND: Producers can be a death sentence for superhero films (the Wolverine film proved that). I was enthused by the idea of Webb helming this movie. I adore (500) Days of Summer, but I wasn’t sure if he would be able to handle a major superhero film. All in all, I think he handled it quite well. I do think Raimi one upped him with the tone of his Spider-Man film.
SZ: I think Webb did a good job, too. He’s a talented filmmaker, and I’m interested in seeing what he has in store. I think Raimi’s films just really caught the essence of the Spider-Man story; although, I understand that it’s subjective.
ND: It’s interesting that you put it that way, because I am not a comic book reader, and I know very little about the way things are “supposed to be” with Spider-Man’s story. Honestly, I prefer the way The Amazing Spider-Man handled the material more than Spider-Man. There was more realism in Amazing, which sometimes worked against it, particularly when The Lizard showed up. But I felt a connection to Peter Parker I didn’t feel in Raimi’s, and I think a lot of that had to do with the performance of Andrew Garfield. Garfield, to me, is a much more convincing high school kid than Tobey Maguire, even though he is 28 years old.
SZ: I have a friend who is a huge fan of the Spider-Man comics, and I’ve seen both films with him. It was interesting hearing his point of view. My friend felt that The Amazing Spider-Man created its “city atmosphere” a lot better than the Raimi films. I’m not sure if I agree with him or not, since I think both films had a lot of “city” elements to them, although the new film does have a sequence in a subway train that I don’t think was featured in the first film. We both agreed on our opinions of Garfield, though.
Garfield’s a good actor, but we felt that Garfield wasn’t too convincing as a real “nerd.” He was dorky, sure, and had his shy little moments, but Garfield’s a good-looking guy, and that, along with a bit more of a wisecracking attitude, made him seem more “popular” than Maguire’s Spider-Man, for example. Maybe it was because of Gwen Stacy’s instant attraction to him. The movie made them “fall in love” very quickly, and they never really experienced any conflict in their love. Mary Jane, from Raimi’s Spider-Man, may have thought that Maguire’s Parker was cute at times, but it never seemed as though she thought of him as having serious “boyfriend potential.” Maguire’s Parker had to work a lot harder to get the girl of his dreams than Garfield did, is what I’m saying.
ND: I see what you mean. That’s a great point. For a film, cultivating relationships is usually a strong point that requires lots of effort. However, I think the romance in Amazing was in line with the realism brought by Webb. I recall quite a few of my high school crushes revolving around nothing but physical attraction, and Garfield’s behavior around Gwen Stacy mimicked a nervous schoolboy pretty well. I do agree that his “nerdiness” didn’t come across too much in this film, but I still felt he gave a strong sense of a high school boy going through some interesting changes in his life. Also, I feel Gwen Stacy was a much stronger female character than Mary Jane.
SZ: Gwen was a lot more likable, definitely. Mary Jane was sort of the “damsel in distress,” I suppose. Gwen was much stronger. Garfield played a high school guy well. The scene where he asks her out, without actually having done so, was pretty real. But it went on a little too long, to the point where it bordered on less realistic and more cutesy. It wasn’t really the performances that I had problems with; it was the script. The Amazing Spider-Man almost felt like it was half a film, in a way. The romantic relationship was rushed, and I think Uncle Ben’s death (not really a spoiler), was totally glossed over.
Both Peters seemed crushed by the death, but in Raimi’s film, it just seemed so much more devastating. You could see how Parker felt it was his fault. In The Amazing Spider-Man, the criminal tripped, dropped his gun in front of Uncle Ben, and Uncle Ben jumped on the gun to try and take it away from him, as opposed to what most would do and let the cops handle it. I understand the “hero” concept that the film was going for, but it just didn’t seem realistic for an at least 60-something year old man to try something like that. Trying to talk the criminal out of the situation seems more realistic for that situation. That was really the one time in the film where I sat upright and thought, “Really? Sheesh.”
ND: I have to completely agree with you about Uncle Ben’s death. It did happen in a kind of “blink of the eye” fashion, and it almost seemed like they did it just because we were expecting it. I think Amazing‘s script got a little screwed over by Raimi’s Spider-Man, actually, because they probably tried really hard to make the two different so the fact that they were rebooting it didn’t seem unjustified.
But I do think this script was still able to capture Parker’s struggle with his responsibilities as Spider-Man better than the first film. By making The Lizard a byproduct of Parker, there’s a real sense of responsibility there. Also, the scene where Parker saves the little boy from the car dangling over the bridge was beautiful. It provided a really powerful reason for him to become Spider-Man full time. The first film used Uncle Ben’s death as the jumping-off point. I think in an attempt to be different, this film used this new scenario, and I think it worked superbly well.
SZ: The connection with the Lizard was nice. Rhys Ifans was superb too, by the way. But as you said, the Lizard can be considered as Amazing Spider-Man’s reason for getting into the “superhero” business, but then again, so was Uncle Ben’s killer, at least at first. Spider-Man seemed so dead-set on finding the guy, tracking down numerous thugs that all look like the man who killed his uncle, but eventually, he just stopped. I get that the end of the movie implied that he would keep looking for the guy, which is all right. They had the decency to provide some sort of continuation in that regard.
True, the Lizard sort of took Parker’s focus away from finding Uncle Ben’s killer, and while that may be “realistic,” I didn’t think it was good movie-wise. In Raimi’s Spider-Man, Maguire hunted down Uncle Ben’s killer until he found and confronted him. He started to beat him around, perhaps a bit too much, which I think is a point made in the film, until he ends up accidently killing him, causing yet another death. With two deaths on his hands, Maguire’s Spider-Man faces all the more guilt and quickly forces himself into following Ben’s famous quote, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Maguire’s Parker grows up much quicker than Garfield’s Parker, and it is due to these two deaths that he was related to.
Actually, I think that might be what felt wrong, to me at least, about The Amazing Spider-Man. Garfield’s Parker didn’t grow up, and to be doing the things that Spider-Man has to do, he’s got to be grown up. I think it’s pretty sad, actually, how Maguire’s Spider-Man is forced to grow up and take on all of these responsibilities at such a young age, which he did, and his frustration and troubles were shown, while Garfield sort of just goofed through it.
ND: I think Parker’s search for the killer in Amazing served as a way to introduce him to the crime-fighting gig, and The Lizard was what inspired him to branch out to not just trying to bring closure to himself, but to help those around him who can’t help themselves. I think by dropping his uncle’s case for the time being, he showed a great level of maturity putting the needs of the many in front of the needs of the few — namely, his needs. Ifans was terrific, though the CGI was a bit… eh.
I see what you mean about Maguire’s Parker having to “grow up” sooner, but I don’t necessarily feel Garfield’s Parker ended the film as a goofball. I think he was well aware of the fact that he’s entered a new world and he needs to be more mature. By the end of the film, he kind of backtracks on this by implying he is still going to see Gwen, but I think this is a point that will be driven home strongly in the sequel when Gwen’s storyline is followed through with. I think the second film of this franchise will be where Garfield’s Parker is forced to “be a man,” whereas I think this film served as a satisfying appetizer. However, I am aware of the fact that the sequel doesn’t exist yet, and I must view this film by itself. So, yes, I think Parker doesn’t grow up as much in this one as the original, but I still feel he has had a realistic arc which will provide the basis for even better stories.
We should probably start wrapping this up because it’s getting a bit lengthy, so here we go, final question:
Which Spider-Man origin film do you prefer, and why?
SZ: Well, The Amazing Spider-Man had some great aspects to it, and it holds some consistencies with the comics that the original Spider-Man doesn’t. But I still have to go with Raimi’s Spider-Man. I think that it’s what will be remembered as the quintessential Spider-Man film, and not just because it was the first. I think it holds itself together as a stand-alone film a lot more strongly than The Amazing Spider-Man, which seems to depend on having a sequel for a lot of the points we discussed.
Raimi’s film also has some more iconic moments, if you will, that work better for the film. Everyone knows the Spider-Man upside-down kiss. Most know the line, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t have these “iconic” moments, or what I could tell would be. True, Gwen was the first real love interest of Peter Parker, and a stronger character overall, but Mary Jane is the one everyone knows. J. Jonah Jameson and company are essential to the Spider-Man legacy, and Raimi’s film captured them perfectly. Raimi’s film just felt stronger as a whole to me. And I’m speaking as someone familiar with the Spider-Man world but not a hardcore comic fan.
ND: This is a bit of a tricky decision for me because technically, I believe Raimi’s Spider-Man is a better film for all the reasons you just listed. However, I prefer and, in fact, enjoy The Amazing Spider-Man more than Raimi’s. While not every creative decision works to its fullest extent, I believe Amazing was a much bolder and more daring film that Raimi’s, and I appreciate it trying to be more than a “comic book film,” which I feel Raimi’s movie very much was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I respect Webb for doing something different with the material.
I think Garfield and Emma Stone were much more entertaining than Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, and I felt their characters (particularly Stone’s) were much stronger and more realistic. I don’t believe Amazing will ever surpass Spider-Man in popularity, however. In the end, I feel Webb’s trilogy could end up being better than Raimi’s. If Webb’s sequels are awful, my opinion will probably lessen about Amazing, but for now, I am really enthusiastic about the future of this franchise, and I think this is an excellent first step.
So, whom do you agree with? Share your thoughts in the comments below!