by Courtney Ravelo
From the December 2015 IssueSpider-Man series (Sam Raimi, 2002-2007)
Tobey Maguire was a beloved Spider-Man. He embodied a heroic, modest and humble version of this Marvel character that so many people have come to love. This version of the Spider-Man comics had Mary Jane as Peter Parker’s main love interest, and Kirsten Dunst embodied her character flawlessly. Maguire and Dunst had decent on-screen chemistry, circling around each other for the three movies, showing sincere love and heartbreak in their eyes when needed. James Franco was even a suitable Harry Osborn—best friend to Peter Parker and later, enemy to Spider-Man. The series was properly cast to say the least. But what was important about these movies was the villains Spider-Man fought.
In the first film, the plot revolves around Peter being bitten by a radioactive spider and transforming into Spider-Man. The villain for this movie is the Green Goblin, otherwise known as Norman Osborn, Harry’s father. The second movie introduces Doctor Octopus, bringing the total villain count to two; one for each film. Makes sense, right? That’s probably why most people were confused when the third movie came out. There was not one, not two, but three villains Spider-Man was supposed to focus on, and the subplots were overwhelming. As the last film in the series, Spider-Man 3 didn’t quite cut it to tie up the Peter Parker’s story. It left some parts open-ended, giving people hope for a fourth movie, but no such movie came.
The action scenes are what really got audiences hooked. My personal favorite was at the end of the second movie, when Peter is fighting Doc Ock in his lair. It was a dynamic finale to a second movie packed with thrills. There was also the scene at the end of Spider-Man 3, in which Mary Jane is suspended in a taxi by webs, ready to fall. Sandman is pummeling the Green Goblin for trying to help Spider-Man, while Venom is being disintegrated by Peter banging on poles in the construction site, and although it feels overwhelming because there is a lot going on, the non-stop action keeps the audience on edge.The Amazing Spider-Man series (Marc Webb, 2012-2014)
Andrew Garfield played an entirely different kind of Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire did. He seemed to have more fun with the part, as his version of the character was cheeky and humorous, spitting out one-liners every couple of minutes. The love interest in the rebooted series was Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. Garfield and Stone had unstoppable chemistry, which might be because they started dating in real life. You could tell they were pulled to each other, always locking eyes and wearing their hearts on each other’s sleeves.
The action and effects in these two movies were just as good as the original Spider-Man series. One particular highlight was the second movie’s terrifying and gut-wrenching finale, in which Peter defeats Electro and starts fighting the Green Goblin at the electricity plant, while simultaneously trying to save Gwen; however, the same mistake that plagued Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 re-appeared in director Marc Webb’s second installment: too many villains. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 not only had Electro, but also Harry Osborne’s development into the Green Goblin. Rhino made an appearance as well, bumbling in at the end and leaving the series open for a third installment. It was difficult to focus on any one of these villains, as they got in the way of each other.
What I loved about this series, though, was the obvious war Peter was fighting within himself. Captain Stacy (Gwen’s father) made Peter promise to stay away from her for her own safety at the end of the first movie, and throughout the sequel, Peter is desperately trying to keep that promise. He breaks up with her twice, each time heartbreaking, and avoids her, struggling to suppress his feelings for her all the time. But he falters, and decides to sacrifice being Spider-Man to be with her forever. Unfortunately, Gwen dies at the end, leaving Peter in a deep depression and putting Spider-Man out of commission for five months. Eventually, he comes back, giving the people of Manhattan hope and imbuing fans with a sense of pride, confirming that their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man will always be around.
These two versions of Spider-Man are all but tied for me. On the one hand, the original series has better developed relationships (between Peter, Uncle Ben and Harry, as well as between Harry and his father). On the other hand, in the Amazing movies, Peter’s love for Gwen exceeds all boundaries and the villain he makes of himself is a more captivating fight than what he faces with the actual villains. Maguire’s Spider-Man is more somber, while Garfield’s is more entertaining. Overall, I think The Amazing Spider-Man ends up stealing my heart. To me, Peter’s struggle in those films makes the story of Spider-Man so much more enriching.