The Amazing Spider-Man movies starring Andrew Garfield get a lot of flak. Often deemed inferior cash-grabs compared to Sam Raimi’s heartfelt original trilogy, the movies arrived in the shadow of some mighty predecessors. Even James Franco, who plays Harry Osborn in Raimi’s films, spoke ill of the first movie’s retread of the ground Raimi’s inaugural Spidey flick covered.
Yet despite the oft-harsh treatment of The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2, there’s no doubt that it does some things well. It even does some things, perhaps, better than even Raimi’s trilogy. But what exactly are said things?
So, without further ado, let us list ten of the things that Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man movies do better than their predecessors…
10) Wise-Cracking Spidey
One common criticism of Raimi’s films is that the Evil Dead helmsman didn’t make his hero enough of a wise-cracker. Long-time comic buffs know the web-slinger loves to mock his enemies mid-battle, with wit appropriate for a typical teenager. But fans were lucky if Tobey Maguire’s Spidey cracked a joke once a movie.
Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man on the other hand is a different story. He wise-cracks in a way reminiscent of the comics and cartoons, just as the web-head should. In some scenes, he just can’t shut up – but it’s so endearingly true to the character, we can forgive him.
9) Gwen Stacy is a Better Love Interest than Mary Jane
What can we say about Mary Jane Watson? Well, she’s the Girl Next Door. The love of Peter Parker’s life. And she’s passionate about theater. It’s a shame then that Kirsten Dunst’s character is reduced to a stereotypical damsel-in-distress role in Raimi’s movies.
Amazing Spider-Man‘s Gwen Stacy, in comparison, is far more interesting. Firstly, she’s an ace science student and is evidently passionate about it. This makes her relationship with Peter far more understandable than Peter and MJ from the Raimiverse because they share the same passion.
Emma Stone’s character also helps fight the villains. Instead of remaining helpless, Gwen utilizes her smarts to overcome obstacles in the films. This is evidenced by the fights against The Lizard and Electro across the two films. She is very much the brain to Spider-Man’s brawn, making her far more interesting than the relatively bland Mary Jane.
8) Peter Parker Has a Sense of Humor
Peter was always a bonafide nerd in the Spider-Man comics. However, he wasn’t always as much of a dork as the Raimi movies portrayed him. The character, mask or not, has always exhibited a sense of humor that makes him popular among his friends.
Marc Webb’s films set this right by giving Andrew Garfield’s Peter some wit to make up for his awkwardness. You really believe that Gwen Stacy could fall in love with this man. Although some say that Andrew Garfield’s Peter is a little too cool (particularly in ASM2), there’s no doubt he plays a more confident and funny Peter Parker.
7) Questioning Spider-Man’s Morality
One of the best moments in the movie is when Peter debates Captain George Stacy on whether Spider-Man is a hero. It’s a theme that runs through the film, particularly since Peter’s vigilante activities are initially motivated by his desire to avenge his uncle’s death. Peter doesn’t properly become the selfless Spider-Man until he saves the Bridge from The Lizard.
The debate is a deeply human moment that puts Captain George’s by-the-book law enforcement against Spider-Man’s vigilante methods. It explores the issue far more pragmatically than Raimi’s trilogy ever does, providing an additional layer of realism as a result.
6) Spider-Man’s Costumes Are Better
The Raimi Suit is cool and all – but do you really believe a kid made it in his bedroom? Exactly my point. The suit in The Amazing Spider-Man, in comparison, looks closer to what a teenage superhero could come up with. It also looks incredibly sleek and cool in terms of design.
For the second film, Peter dons a suit visually closer to the Raimi design. But it ends up looking aesthetically better due to the larger eye-pieces, the spider on the back, and less reliance on muscle padding.
5) The Goblin’s Look Is More Menacing
One criticism of Raimi’s first Spider-Movie is the Green Goblin’s suit. It wouldn’t look at all out of place in Power Rangers and kinda sticks out because of this. Not to dismiss Willem Dafoe’s fantastically hammy performance, of course, but the suit isn’t the character’s best feature.
While Harry Osborn’s descent into Goblinhood is rushed in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (for a Sinister Six spin-off that wasn’t to be), his Goblin look is far more intimidating than Dafoe’s or Franco’s combined. The idea that his face turns goblin-like upon drinking the serum is creative and looks awesomely twisted, boasting morphed pointed-ears and deformed hair to polish off his genuinely creepy look.
Now, if only Dane DeHaan’s performance weren’t so cheesy…
4) The Mystery of Peter’s Parents
In an attempt to differentiate itself from the Raimiverse, TASM portrays Peter’s actual parents. The first film attempts to start a franchise-long mystery about why Peter’s parents had to suddenly leave and what exactly they got themselves caught up in. It’s a clever attempt to integrate a mystery hook into a superhero movie series since the question isn’t even answered by the first film’s end. It, therefore, adds a layer onto the movies that Raimi didn’t in his.
The films depict the elder Parkers as scientists who have a history with Curt Conners AKA The Lizard and Oscorp as a whole. While many have criticized the way they were implemented into the story, it at least shows that Marc Webb and co. were willing to think outside the box and try a new direction. Having the mystery of Peter’s parents as an additional hook to the superhero action is a clever concept, even if the conclusion is less-than-stellar.
3) Spider-Man’s Swinging Scenes
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films had incredible scenes of the hero swinging through New York on his web. However, The Amazing Spider-Man movies are better just by a smidgeon. Then again, they had Raimi’s template on which to build.
Take the introduction of Spider-Man in TASM2, for example. There is such tremendous athletic energy in Spidey’s swinging, and the camera angles bring us along with him, even positioning us under his chest as he heaves through the air. For many of us dreamers, it’s the closest we’ll ever get to being Spider-Man.
The first-person swinging scene from the first film also stands out as a memorable upgrade to Raimi’s work as Spidey swings on his web and climbs up the building, as we watch through his eyes. It’s an exhilarating feeling that even the MCU Spider-Man movies haven’t managed to emulate.
2) Giving Spidey Mechanical Web-Shooters
Again, possibly as a desperate attempt to differentiate itself from Raimi’s trilogy, The Amazing Spider-Man gave Peter mechanical web-shooters as opposed to the organic ones of the previous films. Desperate though it was, it was actually a positive addition. It helps establish Andrew Garfield’s Peter as one of Midtown’s brightest and actually gives him a weakness story-wise when Electro fries them in TASM2, incapacitating his ability to shoot webs and thus forcing him to rely on other methods in the fight.
More importantly, it’s just so damn cool, especially for those who grew up with the comics and cartoons. Spider-Man isn’t just a brawling superhero – he is also a young man with smarts, which the web-shooters partially represent. Is it unrealistic that a regular teenage kid from Queens could concoct such a device? Well, probably. But we are talking about a kid who sticks to walls and can survive electric shocks – therefore, there’s no harm in letting this slide.
1) The Tragedy of Gwen Stacy
Again, Gwen Stacy’s death is a major event in a movie swimming in them. Because of Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s attempt to be three movies at once, Peter and Gwen’s screen-time isn’t as plentiful as it could’ve been. But, despite even that, it succeeds in pulling at the heartstrings in a manner that Raimi’s films never did.
In the Raimiverse, Mary Jane often felt as invincible as Spider-Man himself. With a screaming CGI puppet being thrown around, you got the feeling everything would be alright in the end. Spidey saving the damsel was a foregone conclusion.
Yet, TASM 2 defied audience expectations much like its original source material. Gwen Stacy dies at the end – Spidey didn’t save the day. Not only is the tragedy amplified by a creative slow-motion sequence and Garfield’s heartbreaking performance, but it leaves the audience wondering what killed Gwen? The Goblin’s antics – or Peter’s web catching her mid-fall, snapping her neck?
Do you like The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2? Or did you think they are awful movies? Is Andrew Garfield a good Spider-Man? We would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.