ByTom Burton, writer at Creators.co
Pure Cumberbitch!
Tom Burton

Ten years ago, Sam Raimi gave us "Spider-Man 2," which was considered by many to be the best superhero movie ever made... although that wasn't saying too much at the time.

Now, we have another "Spider-Man 2," this time from Marc Webb, and this one purports to be "Amazing." With a decade's distance (and dozens of subsequent superhero movies) between them, so which sequel works better? Let's run it down.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Peter Parker

Here's something we can finally admit, now that comic book movies are ubiquitous and we nerds are not terrified that they're going to stop making them at any moment: Tobey Maguire was not the best Peter.

He nailed the awkward, put-upon nerd aspect pretty well, with enough quiet sweetness to make you care about him, but the character is supposed to have a quick wit. Maguire just has so many lingering silent stares and pregnant pauses that never come to term that you begin to wonder if he's truly emoting or if he's just incapable of having a normal conversation — and that makes it a lot harder to buy into how quickly he moves and reacts as Spider-Man.

Garfield is clearly more engaging and capable of banter, but his giant hairdo and model-good looks detract from that crucial nerd aspect. Even though his dialogue isn't always great, at least it's dialogue and not a frustratingly vacant gaze.

Winner - "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"

Spider-Man

Ten years is an eon when it comes to CGI and special effects, and that means the old action sequences look a bit rough. In particular, the building-side fight over Aunt May in "Spider-Man 2" has a video-gamey feel to it, but it's still cleverly structured enough to be entertaining. The train fight with Dr. Octopus still holds up really well, even if it ends with an unmasked Spidey in an over-the-top martyr sequence. Maguire's Spidey took his mask off all the time, even in front of the bad guy, and it became a joke.

Today's CGI means that Garfield's hero can now move a lot more fluidly, which makes him feel more like, well, Spider-Man. None of the fights are particularly memorable, though, and there's a borderline obnoxious amount of bullet time in "ASM2" (the electric handrail bit was kind of cool and kind of silly at the same time, but the fact that the new Spider-Man protected a kid from bullies and even walked him home after fixing his science project makes up for it). Garfield's Spidey is just having more fun — maybe because his suit isn't riding up in the crotch like Maguire's.

Draw

Love Interest

In both movies, the leading ladies are struggling to deal with Peter Parker's flaky shenanigans. Dunst's M.J. has to deal with Peter hiding from her, then coming onto her like gangbusters once she's engaged to someone else, only to run away again when she threatens to reciprocate.

Stone's Gwen faces a boyfriend with an intermittent conscience and an unnerving stalker tendency that somehow blends Lloyd Dobler with Edward Cullen (maybe that's just the hair). Gwen seems much more capable of kicking said shenanigans to the curb and moving on with her life, and her relationship with Peter feels more like an actual human relationship, even if it's peppered with moments of forced cuteness and Important Dialogue.

Mary Jane is just mired in melancholia and listlessly preparing to enter a loveless marriage with an unsuspecting astronaut. When M.J. tries to take control of her destiny, she gets quickly smacked down by Dr. Octopus, and later has to ditch that perfectly nice guy at the altar.

When Gwen does the same, she saves the entire city and then gets killed. Both made a point of saying they knew the risks of dating Spider-Man and accepted them freely, but Gwen's the one who croaks, while M.J. goes on to get really naggy in "Spider-Man 3." Bottom line, though, is that Gwen saves the day, Oxford scientists are more interesting than New York actresses, and Stone is more fun to watch than Dunst.

Winner - "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"

Harry Osborn

Here's where everything goes off the rails for this year's movie.

James Franco had three movies with which to play the charming best friend of Peter Parker as he slowly unravels in the shadow of his father's legacy, you can believe his deterioration in the face of Peter trying to honor a promise to a dead villain.

Dane DeHaan, however, just radiates "creep," and at no point do you ever believe he's going to be anything but. His backstory with Peter is just crammed in, his character development is rushed, and it really feels like they're just going through the motions and racing toward setting up sequels in the Marvel mold. The Green Goblin look is better than Willem Dafoe's Mighy Morphin Power Rangers-like mask in the first "Spider-Man," but that's not saying much, and the whole transformation to full-on supervillain seems to exist only so that the Goblin is technically the one who kills Gwen as a proper nod to the comics. Even if it was supposed to be Norman and not Harry.

Winner - "Spider-Man 2"

The Villains

Raimi gave us Alfred Molina as the charming, benevolent Dr. Otto Octavius, whose dream of saving humanity backfires and causes a disturbingly intense reawakening as a villain with monster tentacles. Refreshingly, Doc Ock barely even cared about Spider-Man — he was just an obstacle, and later just a job… and he actually won. He defeated the superhero, dumped him off with Harry and went about his real work. Spidey didn't even really win in the end — he just kind of let Good Otto beat Bad Otto.

On the other hand, Webb gives us Jamie Foxx as a Joel Schumacher Bat-villain calling himself Electro (seriously, he made electricity puns) and a complete waste of Paul Giamatti in a bit part as some jerk screaming every line at the top of his lungs in a Russian accent. Yes, he's setting up the Rhino for whatever Sinister Six spinoff is in the pipeline, but seriously, can you remember any actual thing Giamatti said besides his new super-bad-guy name? And what is up with Dr. Kafka (Marton Csokas), the mad torture doc who was some unholy combination of Dr. Woodrue from "Batman & Robin" and Dr. Strangelove?

Winner - "Spider-Man 2"

Plot

"Spider-Man 2" is, at heart, a quiet, sweet story about awkward people trying to figure out how far you can follow your heart and still be responsible. It is occasionally interrupted by fighting and yelling, but it pays a lot of loving homage to its source material and leaves you with a warm sort of "aw, shucks" feeling.

"Amazing Spider-Man 2" is much more concerned with what it's setting up than with what it actually is, which results in a complete lack of focus and leaves you with an indifferent sort of "I want to see 'Captain America 2' again" feeling.

World-building for sequels is nice and all, but you have to make people care about what happens in that world. A Sinister Six movie sounds cool at first, until you realize it would focus on the worst things about this current movie. "ASM2" did have the stones to kill off a main character, but it somehow didn't give enough weight to the moment. To be fair, it was kind of a no-win situation, since the most famous Gwen Stacy story was her last one. Thus, when she died, it was fully expected and lacked the impact or surprise it should have had, but if they hadn't gone through with it, folks would've complained that they copped out.

Winner - "Spider-Man 2"

Overall, Raimi's best superhero movie still takes the cake while Webb's effort just doesn't do enough justice to the valiant efforts of its likable leads. We still haven't gotten our perfect Peter Parker yet, but we'll probably be waiting another 10 years before we can try again.

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