Short short version: It’s fine.
Short, spoiler-free version: The Amazing Spider-Man is pretty much Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movie. There are a bunch of things that are a bit worse, but the action scenes are much improved, which is obviously a major plus in a Spidey movie. I personally disliked Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker — I thought he was all hipster, no nerdiness. Really, the only thing amazing about Amazing Spider-Man is how amazingly unnecessary it is. Oh! Well, that, and how amazingly terrible the score is. Seriously, it’s so bad it’s all I could think about when I walked out of the theater.
Not enough for you? Don’t mind spoilers? I compare and contrast both Spidey movies after the jump!
A TALE OF TWO SPIDER-MANS:
How The Amazing Spider-Man Compares to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Movie
BETTER PETER PARKER: Raimi’s
Not that Tobey Maguire was perfect, but he did seem like the nerd Peter Parker was supposed to be, at least in the first movie. Andrew Garfield’s Peter seems to have no interest in science beyond how it involves his missing parents and having an Einstein poster on his wall. He does sweet tricks on his skateboard(?!) and he looks like a Brooklynite hipster that spends waaaaay too much time on his oddly large hair as opposed to the awkward dweeb Tobey portrays. He’s full of confidence, both before and after he gets spider-powers, although after he gets spider-powers he’s much more of a dick. He may stutter around Gwen, but it’s not the nervousness of a nerd, it’s a hipster thinking his feelings are too intense for him to put into words. I really, really disliked Garfield as Peter; and Amazing spends a lot more time on Peter than Spider-Man, Seriously, it’s like 45 minutes before Uncle Ben even dies.
BETTER SPIDER-MAN: Amazing
Because, as I said above, the fight scenes and webslinging are really, really good in Amazing. The fight scenes are much more acrobatic, and the webbing is used a lot more. There’s a lot of CG, but there’s a lot of physical stunt work too, and it’s blended together a lot better. Plus, whatever I think Andrew Garfield’s faults might be, the man is both muscled and thin. He looks like Spidey in the suit… a lot.
BETTER SPIDER-MAN JOKES: Amazing
Barely. Neither Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield are particularly funny or clever as Spider-Man — those looking for actual quips will have to wait for Sony’s next reboot — but Garfield’s dickishness comes a tiny bit closer to what I imagine is Spider-Man’s sense of humor than Maguire’s lackadaisical drawl. Really, the only “quip” Garfield tells is the “small knives” joke, which I vaguely recall being funny once before I’d seen it 18 million times in the promo videos.
BETTER GIRL: Amazing
Emma Stone by a country mile. This is probably because Stone is a much better actress than Kirsten Dunst. However, making Gwen Dr. Curt Connors’ Head of Interns was dumb and extremely lazy writing to get Gwen in more scenes/danger. This sounds kind of horrible, but I always appreciated in the first movie that Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane wasn’t particularly bright or talented, but just the popular and very pretty girl next door. That’s a lot more realistic to me than Pete falling in love with the supermodel and Academy Award-winning actress/head of interns at the same Oscorp lab his father used to work at of the comics and Amazing. Dunst’s Mary Jane is basically a standard fictional cheerleader, and nerds fall in love with cheerleaders all the time. As a nerd that fell in love in with a popular and very pretty cheerleader who wasn’t particularly bright or talented back in high school, I can assure you there is significant truth to this stereotype. Obviously, it goes without saying that by no means are all cheerleaders not bright or not talented.
BETTER UNCLE BEN: Amazing
No offense to the late Cliff Robertson, but Martin Sheen just radiates paternal kindness and wisdom.
BETTER AUNT MAY: Raimi’s
Meanwhile, I have no fucking clue why Sally Field is in the movie. Uncle Ben has way more lines than she does. She may have two or three post-Ben’s death scenes and they’re all incredibly rote. Anyone could have done this role, and Field just sleepwalks through it. As least Rosemary Harris seems like she truly loves Peter. Enough so that, if he came home covered in cuts, injuries and blood, like ihe does n the end of Amazing, she would get him to the hospital instead of just letting it go.
BETTER ORIGIN: ???
Well, this is complicated, so we have to break it down.
BETTER USE OF PETER’S PARENTS: Raimi’s
Raimi’s movies didn’t mention them at all. Amazing makes them a major plot point for the first two minutes, and then pretty much stops mentioning them at all, presumably to save the big reveal for a sequel. I’m on record as not caring for Peter’s parents as spies/awesome scientists/whatever — I feel it cheapens Peter as a hero — but the bait and switch especially sucks.
BETTER GETTING BIT BY A RADIOACTIVE SPIDER: Raimi’s
Loose scientific experimental spider gets loose and bites random student on field trip. Unlikely? Yes, but plausible. Kid enters major office building on day randomly on day of some kind of intern initiation, steals badge that clearly doesn’t belong to him, meets the girl he just meet a few minutes ago at school for the first time happening to be leading said intern initiation, uses that opportunity to sneak into the lab where his father worked, finds a room full of fucking spiders, enters room of fucking spiders, immediately touches the shit covered by fucking spiders, dozens of spiders fall on him, one bites him later. Unlikely? FUCK AND YES.
BETTER DEVELOPING HIS POWERS: Raimi’s
Both movies have scenes where Peter doesn’t know how to control his powers, both are generally played for laughs, and both are fine. However, I think the Raimi has a slight advantage in that scene where Peter wakes up cut, and is so happy about it — it’s classic nerd wish fulfillment fantasy. The disadvantage of Amazing is that Spidey’s origin takes three times as long, but doesn’t really include any more content, it’s just padded out with scenes of Peter talking to people, while all I want to see as an audience member is Peter trying out his new powers. But Amazing‘s bigger problem is when Peter has the idea for webslinging, because he’s in an abandoned warehouse doing sick flips and ollies and punchbuggies and whatever-the-fuck-they’re-called tricks on his skateboard, and eventually starts swinging around the chains hanging from the ceiling. I can understand if you have no problems with this scene, but I just hated it. Not only was it incredibly on-the-nose — because how else could a kid bit by a radioactive spider even think of developing webshooters unless he just happened to start swinging on some chains first? — but more because a badass skateboarder is antithetical to my idea of Peter Parker. Organic or home-made webshooters, don’t care. Parents super spy scientists or not? I prefer not, but I’ll go with it. Hell, I don’t care if Peter Parker is black or white. But I don’t think I should ever see Peter Parker doing extreme sports in his spare time, spider-powers or not. I expected him to pull out a can of Mountain Dew at any second. Also, there’s this:
BETTER USE OF SPIDER-SENSE: Raimi’s
Not that I think Raimi did anything great with it, but Amazing introduces it with a scene where Peter uses it to involuntarily beats the shit out of a bunch of innocent people on a subway. For some reason, his Spidey-Sense doesn’t just inform him of danger, it makes him immediately punch that danger. It’s just weird and does nothing for my opinion of that Garfield’s Peter Parker is a dick.
BETTER UNCLE BEN’S DEATH: Raimi’s
Amazing figures out a very clever way to make Peter responsible for Uncle Ben’s death without the wrestling match insanity (RIP Bonesaw), and I get what Amazing was trying to do by having Ben gunned down by a random crook — by not giving him a dying scene, it becomes more of a random, senseless crime, and a bit more realism — but I’m sorry, I need that “With great power comes great responsibility” line. Amazing‘s equivalent is for Uncle Ben to say “If you have the chance to be good, you should be good”, which is just a more awkward, less succinct variation of the original. If you had to have Uncle Ben give a hamfisted moral lesson to Peter right before he kicks it, why not use the beloved original instead of a crappy copy?
BETTER SPIDEY OUTFIT: Draw
I wasn’t a fan of the original Raimi outfit, but compared to the new one, it seems kind of quaint. However, I must admit the new one looks great in motion, even though god help me it looks like its made of basketballs.
BETTER VILLAIN: Raimi’s
This is kind of unfair, since few comic book villains can stand up to Willem Dafoe’s wonderfully deranged Green Goblin. But even without that, I enjoyed Peter’s faux father relationship with Osborn and how that screwed up Harry, and how it gets twisted along with Norman’s mind. Amazing tries to replicate that with Connors having known Pete’s parents, but since the movie drops the whole parents angle pretty quick, it comes to nothing (and is weird since Peter barely bothers to even ask Dr. Connors about his folks). Then it tries to say Peter “created” the Lizard by giving him the missing part of his formula, except it’s just an equation and Peter hardly held a gun to Connors head to make him his test the serum.
BETTER VILLAIN PLOT: Raimi’s
Dafoe/Osborn takes a dangerous serum, goes crazy, then mostly tries to kill Spider-Man. Simple, but effective. Ifans/Connors takes a dangerous serum, goes crazy, then occasionally tries to kill Spider-Man while making a plan to turn everybody in NYC into lizard people because they are lonely. Lizards apparently lead rich social lives. Who knew?
BETTER ACTION SCENES: Amazing
Seriously, all of Amazing’s webslinging and fight scenes were great. So many classic Spider-Man poses are hit. The webs are used really, really well in the fights. The fight choreography is just great.
BETTER SCHMALTZY MOMENT WHERE THE CITIZENS OF NEW YORK SHOW THEIR APPRECIATION FOR SPIDER-MAN: Raimi’s
You can look at this one of two ways: 1) the subway scene in Spider-Man 2 where he saves a train with his mask off and everyone refuses to give away his identity, which I thought was schmaltzy but earned, or 2) the fact there is no schmaltzy scene in Raimi’s first Spider-Man. Meanwhile, in Amazing, Spider-Man saves a kid whose dad happens to somehow be connected to every crane worker in the city, and there just happen to be cranes spaced equally apart down the same avenue, and oh Spider-Man got hurt and he can’t get to Oscorp tower in time, and the crane dude sees it and gets all the cranes positioned over the avenue in about two minutes so Spidey can websling easily and quickly to the tower. It’s about as subtle as a Dr. Octopus giving a prostate exame, and the fact that it happens in the very first movie — after Spider-Man has saved less than a dozen people, tops — makes it all the cheaper.
Raimi’s Spider-Man was more fun.
I really, really hate the intimation that Peter’s dad did something to Peter that made him “destined” to be a superhero/get spider powers/whatever. I genuinely feel it cheapens the character.
However, Amazing Spider-Man never feels more like Spider-Man than when the Lizard attacks Peter at the school. Great stuff. Possibly my favorite scene of all Spidey movies, perhaps after the scene where Tobey discovers his powers.
Apparently that spider also bit Andrew Garfield’s shoes, because they stick to walls just like his hands do. I assume Raimi’s Spider-Man did this occasionally too, although I don’t remember it.
In case you were wondering if Andrew Garfield takes his mask off as much as Tobey Maguire did… yes. Very much so. I don’t blame either of ’em, though — that’s just the problem with having good, big budget superhero movies. It’s hard to act behind a mask, and if you’re paying qualified actors, mass audiences want to see their faces anyways. Sorry about that. It’s the price we pay. Personally, I’ll take it.
The Flash bully character is ridiculously clich? in Amazing, and really stands out as terrible with the more serious, solemn vibe Amazing is going for. This means when Flash suddenly is nice to Peter, it’s extra sudden and out of nowhere. It’s something Raimi’s goofier, more comic book-y movie pulled off that Amazing can’t.
Hey, director Mark Webb — I get what you were trying to do when Connors uses his faux arm to catch Spidey before he falls off the building (the Lizard had broken his webshooters a bit before) but Spider-Man’s most notable power is that he can stick to things. Even without webshooters, he should have been fine.
HOLY SHIT WAS THE SCORE BAD. It was absurdly overblown, incredibly trite, and made every scene cheaper with its utter lack of subtlety. In a movie like Amazing Spider-Man, I should never notice the score — but it was so brazen and loud and pompous that I never stopped noticing it. They say music is supposed to have a message, and if so, then composer James Horner was trying to tell the audience “FEEL [INSERT EMOTION HERE] AS HARD AS YOU CAN OR I WILL KICK YOUR FUCKING TEETH IN.”