Spiderman flicks weave distinctly different webs

Matt Kirk

Matt KirkHave you ever wanted to escape your life for a day and switch places with someone else – someone who can do the things you can’t? I think we all have, which is what makes the mild-mannered Peter Parker’s transition into the cool and cocky Spider-Man the ultimate inspiration.

Parker: The punching bag, the loser, the geek, the poor kid, the unlucky one – we’ve all felt like him at some point. So when Stan Lee’s story of lowly high schooler Parker’s transformation into New York’s brave new hero finally made it to theaters in 2002, the movie took off.

With a near-perfect cast, new high-swinging effects and an amazing symphony of suspenseful music, “Spider-Man” took the summer by storm. The picture had it all from a caged wrestling match, to high-tech gliders, to an inverted kiss that caught every couple’s imagination.

The record-breaking box office numbers spurred Marvel into a full commitment to telling Spider-Man’s journeys and the stories of other Marvel heroes, which currently dominate cinema’s summer months and keep comic lovers like me wanting more.

The sequel, “Spider-Man 2,” kept up the pace in 2004 and lead into highly anticipated end to the trilogy in 2007. But the third and final film of the series left moviegoers like me utterly disappointed. Despite discouraging reviews, “Spider-Man 3” still went on to top the box office in 2007, making it a success in the financial sense at least.

Overall, the trilogy was incredibly popular, as it should be, and was still prevalent enough to leave movie buffs bewildered when news surfaced of another Spider-Man film set to premier in 2012. As a proud owner of “Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man 2” and tolerant owner of “Spiderman 3” – it was a gift – I was quick to write off the movie upon seeing the trailer.

My first thoughts were: Why make one now? It can’t possibly compare to “Spider-Man.” Andrew Garfield is too good-looking to be Parker, too cocky. Where’s Mary Jane Watson? It’s only being made because it’ll make money no matter how bad it is. I didn’t see it in theaters, and I wasn’t going to at all until recent reviews from friends encouraged me.

So after seeing the film, I have to say, I was completely wrong, and pleasantly surprised by “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Selecting a slightly younger cast, a different main villain, romantic interest and explanation for Spidey’s webs, “The Amazing Spider-Man” managed to separate itself far enough from the previous rendition to be appreciated in its own right.

By the end of the movie only one question remained: Which Spider-Man movie was best?

CAST

With “Spider-Man” starring Tobey Maguire as your perfect poor guy Parker, Kirsten Dunst as the beautiful Watson and Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn this movie is tough to top in terms of star power. Despite surprising performances from Garfield, Emma Stone, Dennis Leary and especially Martin Sheen in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a host of independently great and well casted actors including James Franco, J.K. Simmons and Rosemary Harris make “Spider-Man” impossible to catch in this category.

PLOT

The plots of both Spider-Man films were well written and led to many jump-off-of-your-couch moments. However, it becomes apparent when watching them back-to-back that the original Spider-Man’s plot does a much better job with the development of Parker and the beginnings of his heroic career. While “The Amazing Spider-Man” sticks closer to the comic’s tale in this regard, the story develops very quickly – almost as if it can’t wait to get to the action.

ACTION

When it came to the action, the choice of villain and advancement of special effects truly separate “The Amazing Spider-Man” from its predecessor. With four separate battles between Spidey and the Lizard, you get a great look at the terrifying monster set on a personal vendetta. The action is smoother, creative and at times comical, truly a fun ride.  While the action in the original Spider-Man was stellar, battles with the Green Goblin were brought down by his ridiculous costume design.

If you haven’t seen “The Amazing Spider-Man” and liked the first trilogy, you should get on that. The tale of Parker is truly one that should be told and retold – even if only five years apart. No matter which series you embrace, the characters will implore you to look within yourself and discover the kind of person you should be.

When it comes to these films, which is better is really a matter of personal opinion, so I’ll tell you, the original “Spider-Man” is better. Both recognized that inheriting the power of Spider-Man’s story comes with a responsibility to getting right.

The ending scene of “Spider-Man” takes you on a victorious ride with Spider-Man as he beautifully swings through New York from skyscraper to skyscraper, aweing audiences and making them want to return for the sequel, or anything Marvel put its name to.

Ultimately, Marvel’s mass production of superhero films and the establishment of its brand are the most important things to happen to comic-based movies – and “Spider-Man” marks the beginning of this.

Matt Kirk can be reached at matthew.kirk@temple.edu.

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misidentified the actor who played Peter Parker in “The Amazing Spiderman” as James Franco. Andrew Garfield is the actor who played Parker.

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