My first introduction to Spider-Man was the animated series that ran from 1994-98 on Fox, and when Sam Raimi’s first “Spider-Man” came out, I was thrilled by it. It was a pretty awesome movie when I was a little kid. I immediately subscribed to the “Ultimate Spider-Man” comic book as soon as I could and bought the first couple issues of reprints of the original comics from the 1960s.

When I first heard the news that Sony Entertainment and Marvel were going to reboot the Spider-Man franchise, I was apprehensive. It seemed just too soon to redo the popular superhero only five years after Raimi’s infamous “Spider-Man 3.” Once I saw the trailer and looked at the cast, I decided I would go into viewing Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” with an open mind – and I wasn’t disappointed. In this, my first movie review. I will compare Raimi’s “Spider-Man” made in 2002, with Webb’s reboot.

The Hero: Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Looking back on Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Peter Parker, it was definitely more in line with the original comics and the TV show. He was a senior in high school and more responsible than any teen I ever knew. You knew he was smart (as he got the science award upon graduation) but that aspect of his character was shoved to the background in Raimi’s version. I related to him 10 years ago, but there is a weaker connection now.

I really liked Andrew Garfield’s character. He was smart, irresponsible and an outcast – more like the Peter Parker in “Ultimate Spider-Man” and one a lot more people could relate to. He was also more of a wise-cracker than Maguire was, which was refreshing to finally see on the big screen. In every Spider-Man comic I ever read, he was verbally abusing criminals left and right all the time. I also liked Garfield’s chemistry with Emma Stone better than Maguire’s with Kirsten Dunst, but I’ll get to that next.

Advantage: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Love Interest: Mary Jane Watson/Gwen Stacy

I’ll say it right now, Stone is a better actress than Dunst was. The fact that Webb and the writers made Gwen Peter’s first love was a better move in my opinion than Raimi having Mary Jane as Peter’s crush. Yes, Mary Jane turns out to be one of the most well-known superhero love interests ever, but I liked the adherence to the source material on the part of Webb.

The “love scenes” in “Spider-Man” were pretty dull, similar to the love scenes in the “Star Wars” prequels. There was little chemistry there even though Maguire and Dunst were an item during the shooting of Raimi’s first movie. On the other hand, Garfield and Stone (another off-screen couple) were a perfect match. The scenes were written and performed much better.

All Mary Jane did in “Spider-Man” was scream and tell Spider-Man to “watch out” whenever the villain came around. Gwen plays an independent character and is integral to the climax of “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Advantage: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Villain: Green Goblin/The Lizard

Both of these movies chose some of the campiest villains you could, but then again, most Spider-Man villains are not as complex as say, Batman’s enemies. I liked the decision to put the Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man film and I liked Willem Dafoe’s performance for the most part, but the costume ruined it for me. Some of his lines were pretty bad too (singing “Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” saying “Sleep” when he sprays Spider-Man with knockout gas).

I liked Rhys Ifans’ Curt Conners but I didn’t understand how he got a dual personality after he took the lizard serum. I guess it was like a Jekyll and Hyde-type thing. Whenever Conners was in human form, I liked him. But then, once the CG Lizard came on screen, it was a detriment to Ifans’ performance. I did like how he helped Peter out in the end after the antidote was sprayed in a cloud over New York.

Advantage: None

Uncle Ben and Aunt May

In this instance, I think Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris take the cake. Not that I thought Martin Sheen and Sally Field were bad, I just liked Robertson and Harris in “Spider-Man” better. It takes about the same time for Uncle Ben to be killed in both movies, but it was more powerful in Raimi’s version than in Webb’s and Robertson had less screen time than Sheen. Field was, in my opinion, overly emotional while Harris was more of a rock for Peter, even when she was in a hospital bed.

Advantage: Spider-Man

Supporting Cast

My one big beef with “The Amazing Spider-Man” was that there was no J. Jonah Jameson. J.K. Simmons was the bomb in Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy and his character is MIA in the reboot. I suppose his comic relief is replaced by Captain Stacy played by Denis Leary. Leary does have some funny lines but Simmons trumps him by far. We only get a glimpse of The Daily Bugle in “The Amazing Spider-Man.” I can only hope Webb brings the newspaper and Simmons in for the next two movies.

There was also no Harry Osborn in “Amazing” which I think is another big miss. Even though everyone pretty much hated James Franco’s acting 10 years ago (albeit it was before “127 Days”) he still played a decent character.

I liked Flash Thompson’s character in “Amazing” better than in Raimi’s movie. I really liked that he got ticked because Peter called him by his real name, Eugene and I also liked how at the end, Thompson is Spider-Man’s biggest fan, which is in line with the source material. Flash in “Spider-Man” was okay, but nothing to write home about. Plus, you only get a glimpse of him at Norman Osborn’s funeral.

Advantage: Spider-Man

Closing Thoughts

If you have been keeping count so far, you would notice that in my opinion, no movie is clearly better than the other one. However, “Amazing” took the advantages in two of the three major categories in its portrayal of Peter and Gwen. The action and special effects were also better in “Amazing” than in “Spider-Man.” Granted, its been 10 years, but side-by-side there really is no comparison there. I was wowed by the POV shots while Spider-Man was flying through New York City.

I also liked the music in both films. The music was created by top-notch composers (Danny Elfman in Raimi’s film, James Horner in Webb’s) and both main themes are very good.

Each version of Spider-Man’s origin story had their moments in both films. I liked how it took longer for Peter to mutate in Raimi’s film, but I also liked how Peter was inadvertently breaking everything in his path in “Amazing.”

With all taken into account, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is the better film. Is it worlds better? I can’t say that with confidence, but I can’t wait for the sequel.

  • The Amazing Spider-man
  • Directed by Marc Webb
  • 136 Minutes
  • ★★★
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Originally published on July 19, 2012