Spider-man is officially joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe! After much speculation, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios have announced a “new Spider-man” will appear first in an upcoming Marvel film within the MCU. After that, Sony will release the next installment of it’s solo Spider-Man franchise on July 28, 2017. According to Forbes, we might see a soft reboot but not another origin story at this point. While we take a moment to let this sink in, now is a good of a time as any to revisit the web-swinger’s previous two origin tales.
Time to put on your favourite stretchy pants! It’s the battle of the spandex between Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) versus Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). After going head to head in several categories such as Story, Hero and Villain we’ll turn the floor over to the all important people’s decision (that’s you!) for your vote for the best Spidey origin movie.
In both movies, Peter Parker is bit by a genetically engineered super spider, not a radioactive one. Spider-Man’s origin story in each movie follows the same formula but Raimi’s version has more nuance. As a masked cage wrestler trying to win some extra cash to get with the girl he has a crush on, Peter’s arc from using his powers for his own self-interests to becoming a true superhero by helping others in need is clearly defined.
While Uncle Ben’s death in ASM is also heart breaking, Peter’s conviction to use his powers for the greater good in Raimi’s version is set up better and as a result feels more earned. The untold story of Peter’s parents is supposed to give ASM its own identity but lacked development and largely held over for the 2014 sequel.
Best Origin Story: Spider-Man (2002)
Tobey Maguire’s version of Peter Parker is the down on his luck, nerdy underdog. He’s relatable to the average kid which is a key factor why many identified with the Spider-Man comics. However, Maguire’s performance doesn’t embody his character the way Garfield authentically does, even though Maguire’s made a career of playing the wide-eyed, wholesome boy next door using voice over narration to contextualize events. He’s still doing the same shtick in 2013’s The Great Gatsby.
Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker comes across as self-assured from the get go. He’s the Spider-man who’ll taunt his opponents before kicking their butt, an element of the character missing from Maguire’s version. It’s a close call as both incarnations capture Spider-Man’s heroism and the adrenaline pumping thrill of swinging across the city skyline.
Best Actor: Andrew Garfield
Best Friendly Neighbourhood Superhero: Too close to call, flip a coin.
Oscorps plays a role in both movies, but even more so in ASM. The origin stories of all the villains, including Dr. Curt Connors and even Spider-Man himself in ASM franchise involves this sinister corporation. The supposedly tragic tale of a well-intentioned but flawed geneticist trying to make himself whole wasn’t nearly as compelling as the split-personality, schizophrenic Norman Osborn. Willem Dafoe projects a wily intelligence and becomes increasingly unhinged, giving us a worthy villain to sink our teeth into.
Rhys Ifans’s Lizard is a formidable physical threat but he doesn’t reach super villain status. Green Goblin’s aerial assaults lent itself to grander in-scope action scenes compared to a giant lizard climbing up a tall building which worked for the story but lacked epicness. Despite a connection between Dr. Connors and Peter’s dad, Norman Osborn was much better integrated into the story and with other characters.
Best Villain: Norman Osborn as Green Goblin
The chemistry between Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is the strongest element of ASM franchise and trumps other superhero movie couples such as Batman Begin’s Bruce Wayne & Rachel Dawes and Man Of Steel’s Clark Kent & Lois Lane. Having Stacy learn the identity of Spider-Man also helped the movie by-pass many of the superhero relationship tropes. Peter Parker’s love for Mary Jane as played by Kirsten Dunst was never truly convincing. It’s also glaring how MJ is overused as a damsel in distress which is a disservice to her character.
Both versions of Uncle Ben and Aunt May are endearing but the edge goes to Raimi’s movie where Aunt May was better utilized. On his own merits, Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) served the story in ASM as a non-super powered antagonist. But Captain Stacy never stole any scenes like the slanderous, loud-mouthed editor of the Daily Bugle, Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmon). Harry Osborne has become a major player in ASM franchise so it’s odd there’s not even a name drop or reference to him. James Franco’s breakout movie role wins by default.
Best Love Interest: Emma Frickin’ Stone.
Best Supporting Cast: Spider-Man (2002)
Disinterested in a reboot so soon after the disappointing Spider-Man 3, I was pleasantly surprised when I caved in and watched ASM. But other than a contractual obligation and a money-making opportunity for the studio, ASM hasn’t given us a strong reason for retelling Spider-man’s origin story compared to how Christopher Nolan brilliantly rebooted the Dark Knight for the current generation.
The directorial choices and screenplay is stronger in Raimi’s version. There are many more memorable scenes such as Spidey clinging to the ceiling above Norman Osborn while a drop of blood falls to the floor and the dripping wet upside down kiss – yeah that might make some people cringe but it’s become iconic. In comparison, the crane swinging scene in ASM is cheesy though I’ll admit to feeling my heart lift on my first viewing (please go easy on me, I liked it).
Raimi wisely used CGI only when needed which helps his more than decade old movie visually stand up quite well over time. In terms of storytelling and character set up, Raimi’s version covered more ground than ASM without the movie feeling overburdened. Often quoted but never worn out is the lesson that Spider-Man takes to heart … “With great power comes great responsibility”. It doesn’t get much better than that.
My overall choice is: Spider-Man (2002).
• What do you think is the best Spider-Man origin movie?
• Is Maguire or Garfield the superior Spider-Man?
• What do you think about Spider-Man joining the MCU?