Well that's it folks. At this point I've basically made every major argument that I was going to make as to why 'The Amazing Spider-man' is a better Spidey film than ANY that preceded it. If I haven't convinced you at this point, I probably never will. But even if you're adamantly sticking by Raimi's side, I still feel its only fitting to wrap this little series of mine up with a few final words.
There were a number of things that I really liked about TASM that I was never able to work into any of my arguments, or that weren't worthy of an entire 10+ pages of writing each, like the rest of my posts (I got a bit carried away. I may have a problem).
So without further ado, I give you...
THE HONOURABLE MENTIONS
MUSIC TO MY EARS (James Horner)
A good soundtrack can really bolster a film, and this was no exception for me. One of the big complaints a lot of fans had was that Horner's score didn't have anything you could hum to, unlike Danny Elfman's offerings. This is not true. I mean, I suppose we can agree to disagree all we like on this, but 'something I can hum to' would usually imply the presence of a melody of some kind. And Spider-man definitely had a melody to accompany him in TASM.
The music as Spidey swung across the city on his way to fight the lizard held the very definition of a melody (ie., it had a tune), and it was triumphant, and it was epic. The rest of the musical score, which acted as general background accompaniment for the different scenes throughout the film, was thoughtfully done, with recurring themes, and sweeping orchestral punctuations.
Was it better than Danny Elfman's score for the first two Spidey films? Overall, I thought so, but I have no argument as to why you should agree with me; I hardly consider myself a real musician.
To me, this is really more of a hobby
I still think Elfman's opening credits score is pretty nifty, but I found the rest of the score to be simply adequate, and find I don't particularly seek it out on my iTunes list. I'm willing to admit that my opinion on this is entirely subjective, but that's how I feel.
Second on my list is...
THE BETTER BULLY (Flash Thompson)
This one I have much stronger feelings about. I wanted to touch on the subject of Flash in my last post, but decided against it when I realized I was going to pass the 12 page mark. But this is one character that often gets overlooked, or even looked down upon, by a lot of viewers. And it shouldn't be, damn it.
The thing a lot of people (even hard core fans) forget is that he's not just a simple bully. Sure, he started out as a mean spirited jock who (in some tellings) would beat up 'Puny Parker', but he actually did grow beyond that. At the end of the day Flash was never really so much evil as he was hotheaded and arrogant. Eventually he grew up, realized he had been a dick all that time, and even became friends with Peter. The trap that Raimi fell into was in depicting Flash as nothing more than an 80's stereotype.
That's a man suffering from 'lunch money withdrawal' if I ever saw one.
"Oh right! Like Webb's version was so much better? Are you forgetting the scene where Flash punches Pete out in front of the school?"
No, I wasn't forgetting. But I also remember this scene.
Another fight? It must be character development!
In Raimi's film we essentially have one significant scene featuring flash, and all of his screen time serves as an example of how truly irredeemable he is. In Webb's film he's given three major character beats with one 'epilogue' scene. In each scene we see a development of the relationship between Peter and Flash.
- Scene 1: Flash punches Pete. Peter is powerless and Flash is a jerk.
- Scene 2: Pete humiliates Flash. Peter shows he has a backbone and Flash comes out a bit more chastised than usual.
- Scene 3: Flash, in a moment of humanity, reaches out to Pete in an attempt at manly reconciliation. Respect is shown.
- Epilogue scene: Flash thinks Spider-man is awesome. Oh, and he and Pete are cool now.
Although the film doesn't end with the two boys being bosom pals it does lead to a resolution of their conflict, leaving room for the possibility of a closer friendship in the future.
I'm not saying it's the most profound character arc that's ever existed, but it is an arc. Conversely, this...
...is also character develompent?
is a caricature.
PROFFESIONAL WEBSLINGERS (The stunt men)
Even the most jaded of Spider-Raimi fans will admit that TASM has better Spidey-acrobatic visuals. And then they will flaunt it, as if it strengthens their argument. They will claim that the new, more technically proficient, special effects are cold and without feeling, whereas the older, and notably dated, FX sequences from the first films have character. Because those films were about ART and a LOVE FOR THE SOURCE MATERIAL, man.
Those people are wrong, primarily for two reasons.
REASON ONE: the Special effects are better. Period.
"Older is better" is a perfectly valid argument for visual effects films Like 'Star Wars' or 'Indiana Jones', where physical stunts and puppet work are actually feasible. Spider-man, however, is a superhero with powers beyond those of mortal men, and he swings between skyscrapers. One of the reasons so many comic movies have been made in the last 12 years is because the technology capable of reproducing what the comics promised has only just been invented.
CGI isn't evil when it means creating something that practical effects can't accomplish. To that end, it is ALSO false to say that older CGI has more character than newer offerings. If anything the exact opposite is true. Older is only (so far) better when it has to do with something like this...
'New and improved' Yoda
The first one feels more life-like because he/it is actually a REAL tangible object. A puppet. The other one feels like a cartoon that's trying to fool you, because that's exactly what it is. Hence, puppet Yoda is better.
Both Spidey films used CGI, and in those regards the only thing that matters is who does it better, and TASM did it better because the technology has improved. Period If you still want to argue that the new film is soulless, then go to town, but to blame it on the CGI doesn't hold up.
REASON TWO: In spite of the odds, TASM actually has more practical effects.
For all my bluster about how it's impossible to film Spider-man using anything less than computer generated imaging, it turns out that I was wrong. Sort of. TASM actually has a BOATload of practical effects and stunt work where the previous films used CGI.
When I first watched TASM I noticed that many of Spider-man's 'slinging scenes' were significantly more advanced and realistic looking. And obviously some of that is because (as I said) the technology is just better now, and it's not really fair to fault Raimi for that. Now imagine my surprise when I decided to watch the featurettes on my Blu-Ray set only to find that a BUNCH of the scenes (which I had assumed to be computer generated) were in fact performed by actual stunt-men. It would seem that part of the reason it looked so realistic is because it was, like the Yoda puppet, REAL.
So yeah. Not only are the Spidey scenes in TASM superior due to advancing tech, but also because they DIDN'T rely on computers whenever they could get away with it. Something I had assumed was impossible.
[Yes, I'm aware that some of the effects in Raim's film were also practical. But Webb accomplished (in my opinion) a lot more without the use of computers, and THAT is what I find so impressive.]
THE PLAYERS (also known as 'the cast')
I'll cut right to the chase on this one. Cast vs. Cast.
- Tobey Maguire vs. Andrew Garfield, as Peter Parker/Spider-man: I'm not gonna bash Tobey, because I actually do think he did some really good work on the character. But I do think he was tremendously miscast. It's sort of like Michael Keaton. I like him. I liked his work in Batman. But he's still not really an appropriate choice for the character. Andrew actually kind of LOOKS like the character from the comics, (on top of the fact that I thought his performance was sublime). I never thought Tobey did. End of story.
- Kirsten Dunst vs. Emma Stone, as Mary Jane & Gwen Stacy: This would be an excellent opportunity for me to get REALLY mean, but I'm going to hold back. All I AM going to say is that I never once believed in Kirsten Dunst's portrayal of MJ. Bad characterization aside (it's not Dunst's fault she was written poorly) it was still her job as an actor to convince us that she was experiencing whatever was in the script. In this she failed. She failed so very miserably, and it made me exponentially more upset as the series progressed. Suffice to say, I prefer Emma Stone as an actress, and I'd prefer her as either Gwen or MJ. Gwen is who Emma was assigned to, and the result was excellent. And that's that.
- Willem Dafoe vs. Rhys Ifans, as the Green Goblin & The Lizard: Both of these men are incredible actors. They kick so much acting ass that I can't really tell you which I prefer, never mind that they played entirely different characters. I don't think Norman Osborn (played by Dafoe) was perfectly handled by the writers or director, but as far as Dafoe's performance is concerned it was never dull. Likewise Ifans is an incredible actor who brought real weight to his role. Good work gentlemen. Please keep doing what you're doing.
- Cliff Robertson vs. Martin Sheen, as Uncle Ben: I liked Sheen's Ben better only because of the writing. Both men produced solid performances. 'Nuff said.
- Rosemary Harris vs. Sally Field, as Aunt May: First I just want to say that I thought both Women did really good work in their portrayals of this character. I did prefer the character arc and relationship with May & Peter as seen in TASM, BUT Sally Field also had better scenes and dialogue to work with. Some of Rosemary Harris' lines were just AWFUL or boring. Often both. Seriously, go back and listen to her lines and then subtract Rosemary's inflections and performance. Her lines are just wretched, and sounds nothing like how real old ladies talk. And in SPITE of having TERRIBLE material to work with she gave a PHENOMINAL performance wrought with more heart, soul, and genuine-tear-jerking honesty than I have seen in most actors. She did all that with a WRETCHED script. As such, Rosemary Harris (for performance as Aunt May) wins against Ms. Field. But it was a close call.
SPIDER-BATTLES: Injuries and consequences
I never really noticed before in the previous films but Spider-man really takes a hell of a beating at times, and yet he seems to come out of his costume relatively unscathed. Realistically even the most durable crime fighter (besides Superman) would leave a battle with at least a few scrapes and bruises. But besides the cut on Peter's arm in 'Spider-man' (which served a specific plot function), Pete seemingly came out from his battles with nary a black eye or bruised ribcage to show for it. In 'The Amazing Spider-man' Pete would come home with bruises and cuts all over his face, and there were real emotional consequences as a result.
It's just the little attention to details that really helped bring me into the film, not to mention the touching 'egg scene' I talked about last time.
Oh gosh. I can feel the tears welling up again.
I thought it would be interesting to tally up all the grades I gave for each of the subjects I covered and give each film an average grade.
Let's go over them again shall we? The following are all of the topics I covered, and the grades (between 1 and 10) assigned to each director's film/s.
The importance of the origin story, a comparison between both films, and which one did it better.
Concerning the topic of Peter's status and depiction as an outcast (commonly as a nerd) in the comics, and how each film executed the subject.
A look at who the hero is once the mask goes on, why he acts the way he does, and which film successfully showed the contrast between Spidey and his alter ego (Peter, in case you know nothing about the character, but have for some reason decided to read my blog anyway).
A look at the two leading ladies of Spider-man's life, and which relationship was more engaging to watch. And a look AT many of their 'tastefully drawn' images.
The title is pretty self-explanatory. I gave each villain two marks; One for their effectiveness as an over-all villain, and another for their effectiveness as 'the first villain in a larger series'.
First as a general villain
Then as the 'first villain'
In my final entry I compared the two films beyond their attributes as just comic book movies (as much as possible anyhow), and looked at them as just films in their own right. Much like with my critique about the villains, I gave each movie two marks. One for how they worked as stand-alone films, and a second for how effectively they work as a 'first chapter' to the rest of their respective franchises.
First as a stand-alone film
Then as a 'Pilot' film
After working out the average for each film based on my scores, it looks like...
And you know what? That feels about right. Neither film was entirely without flaws if you want to look deep enough, but TASM just works better for me on a whole and I think it earned a 9 pretty fairly. Conversely, 'Spider-man' works as a light popcorn romp, but is wrought with flaws that stop it from being taken too seriously.
WRAPPING THINGS UP (for the last time)
First, I just want to clarify, as a Spidey fan I do actually enjoy the Raimi flicks. The whole point of my obsessive ranting on the subject was to touch on all the reasons why many of the criticisms regarding the newest flick are, perhaps, unfair and based purely on a biased love for the films that first brought our beloved web-head to the big screen in the first place.
I'm sure many of you (for the most part) don't really care what I think, but after getting a number of overly vitriolic online comments about my intellect simply because of my preferences (ie. "Anyone stupid enough to think TASM is better has no taste" or "These people. These sheep. They'll like anything new and shiny!"), I couldn't help leap in and list off some reasons why it's not fair to simply write the film off as a failure.
I'd also like to be clear that I am rating these films as COMIC BOOK MOVIES. I've had a couple people point out that none of the Spidey films truly deserves a 10 point rating, especially compared to films such as 'The Shawshank Redemption", or "A Bridge Too Far" (or whatever). They have a point, but I'm not comparing 'The Amazing Spider-man' to 'The Godfather'. I'm comparing it to other Spider-man/comic book movies. Based on that I don't have any issue giving these movies a higher rating than they otherwise might get.
Having gotten that out of the way, I am now officially done. It's been a blast writing these, but I've said all I would ever care to say on the subject and more (movie forums notwithstanding). For everyone who has been reading along, commenting, and messaging me with questions and suggestions, I thank you. Without your continued support I doubt I would have been able to complete the series.
I'd like to offer a special thanks to my Dad who helped me immeasurably by proofreading each of these entries. Anyone who's read even ONE of my posts knows that they are very long, and there are very few people willing to endure 70+ pages of amateur film analysis. Thanks Pop.
And, of course, I owe one final thank you to my wife, who put up with me stealing away to write these for several hours at a time. Without her I probably would have written them anyway, but I would have been a lot less happy about it. Thanks Babe (my wife's a babe, deal with it).
And I think that officially brings us to an end! Until I find something else to go on a tangent about...
Cheers, thanks for reading, and a belated happy new year to you all.