The Post’s Ann Hornaday gives it two-and-a-half stars, noting that “‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ subjects viewers to an origin story that they either already know or will find soporifically drab and draggy.”
Indeed, it is almost impossible to watch the new Spidey without flashing back to the now considered “old” version, the 2002 one in which Tobey Maguire transformed from picked-on high school loser to crime-fighting antagonizer of J. Jonah Jameson.
How does “The Amazing Spider-Man,” starring Andrew Garfield and directed by Marc Webb, stand up to just plain “Spider-Man,” starring Tobey Maguire and directed by Sam Raimi?
Let’s compare the two films on 10 key metrics and find out. (Warning: if you know nothing about the Spider-Man story or want to remain 100% devoid of “Amazing Spider-Man” spoilers, proceed with caution.)
1. The spider bite moment
“Spider-Man” (2002): Peter Parker gets nipped on the neck during a field trip.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): The circumstances are more or less identical, but this time Parker encounters many more spiders in a much more visually-conducive-to-3D environment.
Advantage: Call this one even?
2. Spider-Man’s discovery of his powers
“Spider-Man” (2002): Parker wakes up and finds he has keener eyesight, bigger muscles and an amazing ability to jump and stick to things, which leads to hilarious shenanigans at his high school and a wonderful scene in which he leaps tall buildings in a single bound.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): Parker wakes up and finds he has keener eyesight, bigger muscles and an amazing ability to jump and stick to things, which leads to hilarious shenanigans at his high school and his ability to soar to new heights on a skateboard.
Advantage: “Spider-Man.” The skateboarding scene is nicely executed but Garfield’s transformation lacks the glee of Maguire’s. Maybe because we’ve already seen it before?
3. Peter Parker, photographer
“Spider-Man” (2002): In this version of the story, Peter has a regular gig at the Daily Bugle, making money off of his own photos of that vigilante known as Spider-Man.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): Peter still takes photos, but it’s not as central to the plot as it was in the Raimi version. Also — and I realize this is blasphemy, but I’m just trying to keep things contemporary — if he’s not working for a newspaper, wouldn’t Parker be Instagramming instead of using a regular camera?
Advantage: “Spider-Man,” largely because of an initial followed by two words: J. Jonah Jameson.
4. Uncle Ben moment
“Spider-Man” (2002): At the risk of not spoiling anything too much, let’s just say that something sad happens to Parker’s Uncle Ben.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): At the risk of spoiling the new movie a tad, let’s just say that more or less the same sad thing happens to Parker’s Uncle Ben.
Advantage: “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Cliff Robertson was great in the first one, but Martin Sheen is simply magic. So when the, uh, something sad happens, it really hurts.
5. That catch phrase
“Spider-Man” (2002): It came from Uncle Ben’s mouth, though it originated from the comic and other sources before that. Nevertheless, “With great power comes great responsibility” became a pop cultural mantra after this film came out.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): Uncle Ben says essentially the same thing but, if my notes are accurate, it comes out more like, “It’s not a choice, it’s your responsibility,” or something to that effect. While not as memorable, it sounds more like something someone would say in actual conversation.
Advantage: Tie. “With great power” is a better catch phrase but, as I noted, the new take on that sounds more real.
6. The villain
“Spider-Man” (2002): Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) transforms into the Green Goblin after injecting himself with chemicals and going totally nuts. He then wreaks havoc on New York in settings that involve bridges and underground lairs.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) transforms into the Lizard after injecting himself with chemicals and going totally nuts. He then wreaks havoc on New York in settings that involve bridges and underground lairs.
Advantage: “Spider-Man,” simply because, at that point, the Green Goblin was slightly less derivative.
7. Cameo appearances
“Spider-Man” (2002): A certain comics legend shows up, as does Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Raimi regular Bruce Campbell.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): Spoiler alert: That comics legend is there, but otherwise, it’s pretty low on the cameo front.
Advantage: “Spider-Man.” I honestly kept praying during the latest movie that Bruce Campbell would figure out a way to emcee a wrestling match or usher at a theater or something.
8. The swooping factor
“Spider-Man” (2002): At the time, Spidey’s ability to swing between the skyscrapers of Manhattan was pretty exciting.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): A decade has passed and our technology has enabled movie-makers to achieve even greater heights in the important field of superhero swooping. Especially in IMAX 3D, watching Spidey do his thing, gliding over the streets and from building to building, is one of the film’s most visceral thrills.
Advantage: “The Amazing Spider-Man”
9. The romance
“Spider-Man” (2002): The attraction between Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane and Tobey Maguire’s Spidey gave us one of the most memorable movie kisses of all time: the upside-down, in the rain number.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): As previously established, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are awfully cute. But in the movie, that cuteness, as represented by Garfield’s Peter and Stone’s Gwen Stacy, feels a bit forced. They have a nice chemistry, but many of their scenes don’t feel natural. Also — another spoiler — he reveals his alter ego to her so early that it kills a lot of the sexy danger in the relationship.
Advantage: “Spider-Man” (2002).
10. Spider-Man himself
“Spider-Man” (2002): This is a tough call. Tobey Maguire defied all of his pre-release critics by becoming an empathetic, boyish, yet believably tough Spidey that we were rooting for from frame one.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012): Garfield’s Peter Parker/Spidey also generates much empathy, but he’s suffering from more profound grief and has a bit of a darker side than the Maguire iteration. The scene in which he express his rage and loss over his parents is incredibly moving and may induce an extreme desire to hug Andrew Garfield.
Advantage: This is really close to being a tie because both actors bring different, equally admirable things to the table. But I have to give the edge to “Spider-Man” and Maguire. He defined the role and, in the context of a Raimi film that generally boasts a lighter tone, he managed to blend humor with drama in a way that seems better suited to summer popcorn fare.
And the overall winner is... Sorry, Webb, Garfield and Co. Your “Amazing Spider-Man” has its moments but Raimi’s “Spider-Man” still reigns.
Do you agree? Post a comment and tell me whether I have used my great power and responsibility (cough) to reach the proper conclusion.