I end my trip through Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy at the beginning, rewatching the first movie so I can aptly compare it to the new Amazing Spider-man movie this weekend and there have been a lot of ups and downs. It was an interesting experiment and I think it was mostly successful. Of the three, I definitely enjoyed the second one the most. There were a few misgivings I had with this movie compared to the second, and the second had very few flaws. But this was easily head and shoulders above the third movie. I’m really looking forward now to seeing the new one and am just hoping it doesn’t rehash the story too closely or else it will feel pointless.
I think one of the worst things that Spider-Man 3 has done was to sully my enjoyment of this movie, however slightly. It caused me to overanalyze the scenes involving Uncle Ben’s killer, the random street thug who was definitely not aided by the Sandman. I also find it rather annoying that they would chastise a kid for not trying to stop an armed criminal. The general consensus is that it’s a horrible idea to try and play a hero when the person you’re trying to stop has a gun, no matter how skilled at professional wrestling you are. But the saving grace of this scene, and really the entire first part of the movie as a whole is Cliff Robertson’s portrayal of Uncle Ben. Even with his limited screen time, he makes Uncle Ben feel like a real person who cares for his surrogate son, and when he dies, even though you know it’s coming, it’s a real heartfelt moment.
Aside from that issue, I also thought both Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire looked too old to play high school students. I know the movie got them out of high school pretty quickly, but they still felt too old for their roles in this movie. It felt much more natural in the later two movies. And Kirsten never really felt like she got a handle on Mary Jane until the final scene. I also didn’t care much for the romantic subplots of this movie. The scenes with Flash in the beginning and with Harry in the middle felt forced, and the scenes with Tobey except as I mentioned in the final scene, didn’t feel all that heartfelt either. The only convincing moments were the scenes between MJ and Spider-Man, and one of them has been over-referenced so much that even though I know it’s the original, it still feels cliche.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this movie, there’s still lots of things this movie gets right. Willem Defoe really knocks it out of the park with his portrayal of the Green Goblin. The scene with him in his mansion talking to his alter ego in the mirror is a beautiful thing to watch, and he completely owns every scene when he’s in the Goblin suit. I especially love his climactic battle which recreates one of the most interesting superhero conundrums, having to make a choice of saving the one person he loves vs. saving a much larger group of people he doesn’t know, and of course he manages to find a way to save both. I also was reminded of another superhero cliche when in this movie both the first superhero and supervillain in this movie’s world are created at the exact same time. I complained a bit in the latter two movies that they find every excuse to get rid of the masks, and watching the talking bobbleheads in this movie I can understand why to some extent, but it might just be my experience with superhero movies in general, but that part of it never really bothered me.
One other thing that this movie has that the other two don’t, or at least don’t have nearly to the extent that this movie has is Spider-Man’s trademark smart mouth. This movie has probably five time the amount of funny comments aimed at his opponents and I enjoyed the movie for it. It was also one of the things in the early Amazing Spider-Man trailer that I enjoyed the most. I remember one of the biggest early complaints about this movie was the decision to change the webshooters that Peter Parker invented into biological web shooters that was part of the spider bite transformation. I understand the argument that showing him create the webshooters shows the genius side of Parker, but I’m sticking with this movie on that one. When you ask someone what a spider’s special ability is, 99 people out of 100 will say the ability to spin webs, so why would a spider bite transmit these other rarified spider abilities without giving him the biggest one? I loved the fact that most of the action sequences in this movie were filmed practically with only minor to moderate CGI work. While the CGI that’s used in this movie doesn’t quite hold up as well as it could, the fact that there is a lot of practical effects makes it much less noticeable.
There is another part of this movie, and it’s a high point in all three movies honestly, and that’s J.K. Simmons portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson, he is such a perfect JJ I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job of it. There really is a lot of great performances in this movie by so many of the side characters. I even think that James Franco’s Harry Osborne was done the best in this movie out of all three movies. But in the end, there was just a little something extra that was missing in this movie, like in the second movie there’s a brief scene where Spider-Man is helped by the citizens of New York, but it didn’t feel nearly as strong of a scene as it was in Spider-Man 2. It wasn’t my favorite out of the three, but it was still a very well done origin movie and well worth watching. I’m still looking forward to the new Spider-Man movie, but I have some trepidation as to whether or not it’s a necessary movie. I’ll let you know in a few days. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.