Today in our week-long look at The Amazing Spider-Man 2 we consider differences between Marc Webb's two Amazing Spider-Man films in comparison to Sam Raimi's original trilogy.
Less than five years after we saw the disappointing Spider-Man 3, Sony rebooted their Spider-Man franchise. They opted out of any potential sequels directed by Sam Raimi and instead pursued a brand new franchise under the direction of Marc Webb. Take a look at what changed in the presentation of characters both tonally and narratively between the Raimi originals and the Webb reboot.
Peter Parker: Maguire Vs. Garfield
Though it was tempting to post a picture of a scrunchy-faced Tobey Maguire in one of his many crying scenes, we decided to keep this professional. In Raimi’s original trilogy we had our mild-mannered Peter Parker played by Tobey Maguire. Bringing a sense of clumsy “awe shucks” buffoonery to the role, Maguire was well-suited for the humorous dork so apparent in the early comics of the ’60s.
When Marc Webb rebooted the series in 2012, Andrew Garfield took over the coveted role and appeased many fans the world over. Garfield looks the part, especially in many of the modern comic and animated incarnations of Parker (as well as Spider-Man); lean, nerdy yet rebellious — Garfield brought a cocky nature to Parker while behind the mask he delivered on the inner-turmoil and outward playfulness of Spider-Man. This continues in Amazing Spider-Man 2 as well. Note the playful jabs in the movie’s opening moments involving The Rhino as well as the third act action sequences with Electro.
Maguire brings a likeable personality to his Peter Parker while Garfield can be a harder sell as far as a personable and warm character. Not everyone likes a punk, but Garfield was able to make that punk come into his own by this second outing.
Love Interest: Dunst Vs. Stone
Why aren’t we comparing Emma Stone with Bryce Dallas Howard, who both played Gwen Stacy? This is about the love interest in Spider-Man’s life and quite honestly Howard just didn’t leave much of an impression.
Dunst brought a working girl approach to her character, allowing her Mary Jane the one-dimensional task of always being in the need of a savior. Whether she was struggling to find a job; a man to wed; or her hero in spandex to come to come rescue her from a taxi-cab suspended above the city, this lack of female empowerment will always be a glaring weakness in the Raimi films.
Dunst’s Mary Jane was always the damsel in distress which allowed Stone’s Gwen Stacy to feel all the more refreshing in Webb’s reboot. Speaking specifically of Amazing Spider-Man 2, we have a female lead who carries lengthy screen time, in addition to proactively aiding the narrative drive of the movie. Whether or not the juice was worth the squeeze as far as TASM2′s “story” is concerned, these changes Webb brought to the character shouldn’t be dismissed. Gwen’s character addresses her leading man with the need to make her own choices; that no matter the decisions she makes, they were her choices and should not be shunned, neglected or brushed off but taken on equal terms. Her role was striving for equality. These were two characters involved in a relationship, not a male lead yearning for the girl next door.
Where Raimi had Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane suspended from bridges, taxi-cabs, and water-bound warehouses, Webb situates Emma Stone’s Gwen in a pro-active environment more in line with modern-day female leads. It’s still unfortunately nowhere near where female equality should be in comic book movies (or most Hollywood franchises in general) but it’s a noble attempt.
Villains: Why So Many?
Instead of getting into five films worth of Spider-Man villains, we’ll take a look at just Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 and Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which seem to draw the most comparison.
Sandman, Goblin, and Venom. The sound of those three brought such anticipation to the summer of 2007 that it was almost doomed to fail. Whether time has been more kind to Spider-Man 3 is still up in the air; with the mostly negative reception of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we’ll probably start seeing a reevaluation soon enough. But where Webb and Raimi overlapped more than any other choice of character was in their villains.
Raimi’s background in schlock horror and three-stooges humor has always been present in his films. He often brought a sense of this to the portrayal of Spidey’s villainous foes. Whether it was the over-the-top craziness of Willem Dafoe or the Evil Dead like finesse to Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Raimi often times made it work to staggeringly good affect. Flint Marko AKA Sandman ended up resembling a large beige snowman as he took over a New York construction site. Venom was played by an incredibly miscast Topher Grace. Even the Green Goblin, whose character was built up by the end of Spider-Man 2, fails to bring any serious contention to the third outing. The film begins to resemble a promo for a Saturday morning cartoon or when a child plays in a sandbox, mingling and smashing as many toy characters they can. Raimi and the screenplay couldn’t handle the villain overload and the promise of a final showdown to suffice any fan’s fantasy, and was all but a bust.
The same argument could be made of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and, yes, the screenplay is the weakest part of this film. However, the film’s focus was never to bring a myriad of villains to the film’s third act but establish a world wrought with villains at any moment. The Rhino was only meant to bookend the film. The focus is passed between Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn/Green Goblin. Where Spider-Man 3 feels rushed, the Webb reboot feels overloaded. Characters are given back-stories but only enough to suffice on the most basic of levels, but the spectacle of many of the film’s actions sequences brings a personal fun to the villain overload.
The presentation of villains is such a grey area in both films that they really are two sides of the same coin. Both suffer from an overload of villains as well as an emphasis on the cornier side of Spidey’s rogue gallery. Can it really be done any other way successfully?
With all that said, it comes down to the little touches of character as well as the general tone of either franchise. Some say Garfield and Stone are better actors but their films carry too many plot holes. Raimi’s films had such a God-given cheesiness to them that you couldn’t help but indulge in the performances, yet he didn’t take enough care with honoring the backstory of such beloved villains. It goes on and on. We’ll have to wait on further developments from this new Spider-Man cinematic universe before making a final judgment so let’s hope for the best.
There you have it, that wraps up our Amazing Spider-Week! The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is now in theaters worldwide.
Images: Sony Entertainment, Columbia Pictures