Screen to Screen: Spiderman vs The Amazing Spiderman
Just as many stories are adapted from books, games, and real life, Hollywood is notorious for rebooting stories and plot lines. Due to the rights of certain properties (largely Marvel characters before Marvel Entertainment became a force to be reckoned with) and the universal-panning of Spiderman 3, Sony rebooted the franchise to keep its rights from Marvel. This article discusses how the two films are like, how they compare, and their treatment of the same source material.
Also, once Marvel reveals Spiderman in whatever film they plan on re-introducing a cinematic character, I will provide a comparison as well although likely with a narrowed focus based on screen time.
Marc Webb's The Amazing Spiderman
Released a decade after Raimi's interpretation, Webb's iteration features a new cast and a new storyline, creating a storyline different to Raimi. There are numerous notable differences between Raimi and Webb's works such as organic or artificial webshooters, difference in love interests, and so on and so forth. It stars Andrew Garfield as the new Peter Parker, Emma Stone to be Gwen Stacey, Martin Sheen as Ben Parker, Sally Field as May Parker, Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Conners, and so on and so forth. The story also follows Peter Parker's origin story with a different love interest and a new focus on Oscorp's hidden designs and the fate of Parker's parents called into question.
Sam Raimi's Spiderman (2002)
Sam Raimi's Spiderman was a record maker back in its release, becoming the most successful comic to movie adaptation and and ranking in over $800 million wordwide. It stars Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and the voice of Spiderman, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, James Franco as Harry Osborne and William Dafoe as his father, Norman Osborne. Obviously, it's a story that follows Peter Parker in his beginnings as Spiderman, wrestling with the romance for Mary Jane, and moving into the adult world of responsibilities.
Garfield vs. Maguire
When Tobey Maguire first donned the role of Spiderman, it was difficult to think of anyone else for the role, and for good reason. Whether or not you were a huge Spiderman fan or not, you knew he was a kid and a geeky one at that; Maguire carries that sort of awkward feel with him, making it highly believable to the plot. Maguire's performance focused quite a bit more on Peter Parker getting picked on in high school and always remaining at the bottom of the totem pole at the Daily Bugle, and often seemed to be at the receiving end whenever there were problems in his relationship with Mary Jane.
This is all ignoring his segment in Spiderman 3 under the influence of the Venom symbiote. Needless to say, that segment was incredibly painful to watch and Maguire was partly to blame for its portrayal (keeping in mind the script and director involved). Many largely like to ignore this scenario, and for the majority of this page I will as well. Whenever (or if) Garfield's Spiderman encounters the symbiote, it's a different story.
Nevertheless, Tobey Maguire played a steadfast portrayal that was well accepted for two films.
As the successor to Maguire's Spiderman role, Garfield had a mixed bag. As long as his performance wasn't embarrassing, it was going to be difficult to be regarded more poorly than Maguire's performance in Spiderman 3, but the real difficulty was topping the presentation in Spiderman and Spiderman 2.
Garfield's performance differs in some ways. Arguably, Garfield not only looks but acts younger, which is important since Garfield remains in high school until The Amazing Spiderman 2 began. Garfield doesn't portray a kid that gets picked on, especially not to the degree that Maguire's Peter Parker went through. However, possibly the most important difference is Garfield's 'sass.' Spiderman is known for being a younger superhero than most and still remains sarcastic and witty despite the many tragedies that befall him. Some would argue that Spiderman is known best for his one-line zingers during his many confrontations. Furthermore, there's the case of chemistry for which I will elaborate further on later. Overall, I find Garfield's performance more entertaining (in a good way) and more memorable.
The Lizard, Electro, Rhino, etc.
As a reboot, Webb's series would undoubtedly be compared to the original series' villains, so it was wise to largely use new villains for the screen. Thankfully, Spiderman's Rogue Gallery is full of incredibly interesting and varied characters so it's less likely to see the equivalent of the Joker or Lex Luthor.
First off is Rhys Ifran as Curt Conners/The Lizard. Unfortunately, he ran the same rut of DaFoe as Osbourne and Molina as Octavius. He's a kinda of father figure for Peter, only to be induced into a super villain by some kind of scientific experiment. However, Curt Conners never died in his film, meaning he has the potential to come back. Otherwise, it's highly amusing to point out the comparisons that The Lizard and the first Green Goblin have in common.
- Both are predominantly green.
- Both have voices in their head.
- Both were father figures to Peter.
- Both were given 'super powers' via bad science experiments.
However, The Amazing Spiderman 2 attempts to try the 3 villain formula that helped to ruin Spiderman 3 and Batman and Robin. However, this is greatly diluted, focusing primarily on Electro, a refreshingly new villain in the cinematic Spiderman universe. Contrary to other villains, Electro originally looked up to Spiderman instead of the other way around. Electro also didn't really have voices in his head (so much as he simply talked to himself) and had a far more unique, visual power compared to the other villains who simply attempted to beat the Spiderman up. Plus, he had a killer accompanying music catch in his fights.
While Paul Giamatti had maybe five minutes of screen time and half of that was being the Rhino, it was perfect. With an overdone Russian accent and origins as a street-level criminal, he wasn't paid little mind and that's fine. Re-imagining him in a mechanical suit instead of a hardened exoskeleton is also a nice touch simply for being different.
Then, there's Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborne as the Green Goblin. I really like him for his work in Chronicle, but he's an awfully skinny boy and it's hard for me to believe, even in an enhanced suit, to really go toe-to-toe with Spiderman. Granted, it was a very short cameo, even shorter than Rhino's, but it's hard to really pinpoint how I feel about him. Time will tell how he measures up to DaFoe's interpretation.
Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Venom, etc.
The quality of a good number of superhero movies are determined by the quality of the villain. In order to tell any story well, the protagonist's strength must always be measured against the villain's and Raimi's Spiderman films do it well. William DaFoe creates an unnerving character in Norman Osbourne and becomes the role under the Green Goblin helmet. Speaking of that helmet however, the villainous get-up has been largely criticized, specifically limiting DaFoe's ability to be expressive with his face. His purpose, specifically to get back at the world for treating him unfairly when affected by a super-soldier serum, was plausible if a little plain.
Alfred Molina as Doc Ock had no such problems expressing through his face. Unfortunately his character was treated very similarly to Norman Osbourne: both were well-regarded in their fields, they had a mishap in a scientific experiment, they enjoyed taking hostages, and both were mentally addled by said experiment. However, Doc Ock had some of the best choreographed superhero fights, specifically from the multi-surface scale of the speeding train or fighting with the debris of the clock tower.
Finally though, there is some deviations in the third Spiderman film, but unfortunately most are for the worst. James Franco playing Harry Osborne as the new Goblin is largely lackluster, especially when he so quickly becomes a 'hero.' Sandman is interesting in the way that he's more of a flawed individual who's been gifted with power instead of a pure villain, but little of the plot revolves around him specifically, only the events he's apart of, putting him regularly in the backdrop.
Venom was awful, but for specific reasons. Topher Grace was a very unconvincing Eddie Brock, smaller and scrawnier than even Tobey Maguire, yet we'd constantly be seeing his face instead of the symbiote's (Note: No one cares about Eddie Brock, just Venom). Venom is one of Spiderman's most fearsome opponents for a variety of reasons, but the fight with it is short and abrupt, leaving much of the science disregarded and Venom's threat highly diluted.
The Love Interests
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
When Emma Stone (famous for her roles in Zombieland, Easy A, and Superbad with her flamboyantly red hair) was cast for The Amazing Spiderman, imagine everyone's surprise when they found out she wasn't going to be playing MJ! Going back to her blonde roots, she plays the comic-book-accurate precursor to MJ as Parker's main love interest, high school sweethearts. And frankly, Emma Stone plays it to a well defined 'T.'
Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst played a believable romance, but Andrew Garfield and Stone played something as real as life, no doubt supported by their relationship off screen. They are the spitting epitome of a heavily infatuated high school couple and you can simply see it on their faces and body language without them saying anything, especially during moments of the first Amazing Spiderman film.
Furthermore, Emma Stone's portrayal is not one of a plot device. She is a strong character, one who doesn't cause drama with Peter Parker, but will break things off with him and make up her mind on what she has to do. Her portrayal doesn't mean she cares for Peter any less but you cannot help but have more respect for her character that looks out for herself. True, the story does attempt to create her as a damsel in distress, but it's through her choices and her choice of action that leads her into the situations she takes part in.
Obviously she will no longer be an active part in The Amazing Spiderman franchise so that leaves a gap in Peter Parker's love life. Most believe it's time for a new Mary Jane Watson, but who would play her? Personally, I'm looking forward to see Felicia Hardy as Black Cat enter the fray, possibly as a Spiderman love interest, independent of Peter Parker's persona. Only time will tell, but with the franchise looking to expand to a shared universe, it's likely to see all that and more.
Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson
It is largely acknowledged that Peter Parker/Spiderman's main love interest is the redheaded girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (although I'd argue Spiderman practically gets as much tail as Batman properly does). Kirsten Dunst played the often flirtatious MJ, the girl that's just out of Parker's league, who dreams big. She played the sweetheart mentality as well as occupying the stereotypical hot girl mentality. After all, she was an interest for Peter Parker, John Jameson, Harry Osborne, Flash Thompson, not to include how often she became engaged or was close to be engaged. That's not to include how often she was clearly without a bra, drawing in a bit more male interest.
Speaking of, Kirsten Dunst did become involved in something that Emma Stone has yet to top (in my opinion), the Spiderman Kiss. In the first film, Spiderman saved MJ from a group of thugs in the rain. After dealing with the group, Spiderman lowers himself head first and MJ removes his mask halfway, preserving Peter parker's identity but still allowing the moment to become an iconic cinematic kiss.
However, MJ became much more of a plot device than a character following the first film. She exists for two reasons: 1) to get kidnapped by the villain in every film, and 2) to cause drama on Peter Parker. She rarely causes the story to evolve and when she does, it's only to break up with Peter Parker again and again. I hesitate to think about what her role would be in a Spiderman 4.
Obviously, Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy in Spiderman 3 is a blip and more of a cameo than an actual role.
Trailer for Sam Raimi's Adaptation
The Series as a Whole
Basically it boils down to potential as a franchise. Perhaps Raimi didn't have the vision that seems all too commonplace now, that superhero films can be made by the dozens and pieced together in an extended universe (Marvel's Avengers, X-Men, and now D.C. is trying it in both film and television). For Raimi, there was only so often that Mary-Jane could be in danger or Peter's past to be re-hashed. However, I'll admit that Raimi's fight scene choreography is among the most fantastic superhero fight scenes I've come to witness.
Not so with Webb. Characters and meaningful cameos are a plenty, a sneak peek at what the franchise can bring. Black Cat, the Vulture, a promise of the Sinister Six and an independent Venom film is all fantastic and sensible for Spiderman to become a part. It might not be as big as the Avengers, but it's bigger than Raimi's vision was. However, I'm not sure if Webb has given up on what Richard Parker was involved in and where he stands (as he was planned to be in the theatrical release of The Amazing Spiderman 2 but was dropped to due negative early reception). While it's pretty clear that Oscorp was attempting to weaponize those things we saw in the basement, was that really what Richard Parker feared enough to run away? Or was there more? And who in the world is going to play Mary-Jane?
Trailer for Marc Webb's The Amazing Spiderman
The original Spiderman series was fantastic with a fairly large bump in the road in the third installment. Still, it remains the original and a ground breaker in many categories with fight scene choreography remaining relevant and even superior as well as permanently making itself known for creating an iconic kissing scene, which is fairly rare for any film, let alone a superhero one. It's hard to argue against this film's staying power.
At the same time, The Amazing Spiderman series is modern in its clear attempt to build up a franchise. The new cast is fresh and full of life, and thus far there aren't any embarrassing sidewalk showtune scenes. There's no limit to what this series may do, especially with the new support being rallied behind it.
Both have merits, and while I do enjoy the new material and its potential, it is going to be difficult to break the records of its predecessor.
Note: No one can play Jonah J. Jameson better than J.K. Simmons. Would it be too weird if Simmons was re-casted to play Jameson in a new imagining?
Who's the 'Superior' Spiderman?
Which series did you like more?
© 2014 Travis Wood