Which is Better? Spider-Man vs. The Amazing Spider-Man

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

Which is Better” is a sort-of new editorial series, where I break down two similar pieces of entertainment and evaluate which one is, well better. I’m starting to realize this intro isn’t necessary anymore. 

In 2002, Sony Entertainment kicked off the Spider-Man trilogy, which helped shape the landscape of superhero movies we enjoy today. While these movies certainly weren’t perfect, they made a huge impact on moviegoers like me who’d grown tired the “dark” and “cool” movie heroes who had to wear leather jackets in order to be taken seriously.

After the poorly-received Spider-Man 3 was released in 2007, a fourth sequel was in the planning stages for years. Sony wasn’t about to let one of its most profitable franchises ever disappear after one misstep.

But instead of continuing the saga they established with Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, Sony decided it was soon enough to reboot the series with a new director, lead actor, and (taking a page from Marvel and Disney) overall focus on franchise continuity.

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

So in 2012, The Amazing Spider-Man  hit theaters with Andrew Garfield now playing a younger version of the webhead. The film was a modest hit, prompting its sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to lay even more groundwork for future spinoffs and adaptations.

TASM2 was also a moneymaker, but that didn’t stop Sony and Marvel from striking a deal to once again nix the franchise and start fresh, virtually erasing all of their plans for a Sinister Six film and even (I’m not joking) a spinoff for Aunt May.

This is probably because both TASM films made less than the previous trilogy, even before adjusting for inflation. They still made a ton of money each, but not the billion Sony was banking on.

In other words, Sony bit off more than it could chew, and they eventually recognized that there was more money to be made if they could play nicely with Marvel and Disney. We can’t really fault the TASM franchise, then, for essentially being incomplete.

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

But which is better? It’s a question that’s confounded fans of Spider-Man for years, myself included. Sure, it’s easy to compare singular movies to each other (Spider-Man 2 is my personal favorite overall). But comparing two entire franchises is a big undertaking, since both have significant flaws that have to be considered.

In order to reach a verdict, I’ll have to break these movies down by their core elements: characters, story, action, and more. So in the end, we should have a pretty clear answer.

Note: When doing my research for this piece, I came across a similar breakdown done by the Nostalgia Critic on YouTube. I don’t agree with all of his points, but this is a pretty good analysis that can be paired with my own if you want a more comprehensive insight.

SPOILER WARNING: there are some major spoilers below, especially for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Do not read if you haven’t watched these movies yet.

Let’s begin with…

BEST SPIDER-MAN

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

Let’s just get this out of the way. Who is better at being Spider-Man?

This is a harder question to answer than usual because it’s almost a tie for me. The character of Spider-Man has always had a dual personality, with the mask allowing the dorky Peter Parker to get out of his shell with quips and daring antics. Strangely enough, both franchises excel at one side of this character.

Tobey Maguire is vastly more believable as the unsettling science nerd he portrays in SM trilogy, while Andrew Garfield is much more fun to watch with the costume on, especially in TASM2.

But what about the inverse?

I never had a problem with Maguire’s take on Spider-Man, until I watched the trilogy again years later. His dialogue is incredibly one-note and campy, which is exactly Sam Raimi’s intention. While I don’t dislike this, I have a hard time loving it as much as I used to.

With Garfield, I have a bigger problem with his take on Peter Parker not feeling even remotely true to the source material. This is an issue because the source material informs too much of his character and motivations for this aspect of the character to be out of sync.

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

Specifically, it’s too hard to buy Garfield’s Peter Parker as someone who is unpopular. From the beginning, he’s a good-looking guy who skateboards and mopes around with his hood up, making him exactly like most of the cool guys we actually went to high school with.

At the same time, I love Garfield more as the movies progress. By TASM2, he swiftly becomes the competent superhero genius as portrayed in the comics. Yet there’s no real sense of his struggle or yearning, with everything he wants being pretty accessible, including his rapid romance with Gwen Stacey (a fault of their natural chemistry, no doubt).

With Maguire, it’s the other way around. By the end of the trilogy, his character becomes a real mess. Though at his peak in SM2, he truly delivers a relatable character that makes you root for him. When he loses his powers and quits in SM2, you don’t blame him. But you feel as triumphant as he does when he finally returns to the action.

Because both of these movies don’t give us the ultimate, complete Spider-Man, I have to say this one is a tie.

BEST VILLAINS

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

This is pretty easy. It’s SM trilogy.

Look, I get that the villains in the trilogy have repetitive beats, like split personalities and being inextricably tied to Peter Parker in some way. But this was completely overshadowed by their overall performances, especially Doc Ock — a character who was never that interesting in the early comics, yet weirdly profound when Alfred Molina got his hands on him in SM2.

I’ve seen TASM a handful of times, and I honestly couldn’t tell you one thing about the Lizard that I remember from the film, aside from tidbits I know because of the comics, TV shows, and characters. Worse, Electro was poorly handled as a guy who loves — then outright hates — Spider-Man for weak reasons.

It’s also no fun watching Electro be a villain whose motivations revolve almost entirely around the hero, rather than a character like Norman Osborn, who resorts to mind-altering insanity in place of losing everything he’s worked for. Or Sandman, who escapes a life in prison only to succumb to a life of being immaterial.

I looked forward to Dane Dehaan as Green Goblin, and overall, he was fine. But the look of the character managed to be even more bizarre than Dafoe’s. Both costumes are pretty unimpressive, but at least SM gave Dafoe a better reason for being insane enough to wear green armor. Dehaan’s motivations were close to being as whiny and petty as Electro’s, and don’t get me started on the wasted potential of Paul Giamatti as Rhino.

Like I said before, it’s SM trilogy by a landslide.

BEST ACTION SCENES

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

In TASM and TASM2, I love how well the action is choreographed. Spider-Man looks and moves like Spider-Man. What more could you want?

But SM trilogy has superior action scenes. The final showdown in SM, the entire train sequence in SM2, and SM3’s brutal beatdown between “dark” Spidey and Sandman. These are all incredibly visceral and emotional confrontations that I don’t think TASM and TASM2 matched nearly as well.

That said, we already evaluated these movies for story, so I have to set that aspect of the scenes aside. If we’re just looking at how well the action unfolds, then it’s safe to say that TASM is superior. Watching Spider-Man in action was more thrilling in these movies, even without all of the emotional buildup done so well by SM trilogy.

Point goes to TASM.

BEST SUPPORTING CAST

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

Almost everyone loved the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey in TASM and TASM2. Unlike the constant “will they/won’t they” of SM trilogy, we got these two as a couple early on, with Gwen Stacey even learning of Peter’s double life in just one movie.

While I appreciate SM for giving this relationship time to develop, it was smart of Sony to give us something new to watch with Peter and Gwen, and they pretty much nailed it. And this goes beyond the chemistry between actors.

Mary Jane is easily one of the weakest characters of SM trilogy, which is no fault of Kirsten Dunst (I guess). Her recycled peril got old very fast, which is why it was refreshing to see Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey be a more dynamic and action-oriented character. Watching her solve problems and be an ally to Spider-Man was something fans wanted a long time ago, and Sony delivered.

I do like SM trilogy’s more cautious buildup, and the kissing scene in the rain is iconic. But overall, TASM gave us a more captivating romance.

But what about the rest of the supporting cast?

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

Without a doubt, J.K. Simmons was perfectly casted as J. Jonah Jameson, who stood out as one of SM trilogy’s best characters. He was so good, in fact, that TASM and TASM2 seemed too afraid to even try recasting him.

I also preferred SM trilogy’s Aunt May, played by Rosemary Harris. She lived and breathed the character, while Sally Fields gave us a somewhat one-note performance. Even in SM3, her cold shoulder scene with Peter admitting his involvement in Uncle Ben’s death trounces anything we saw of Aunt May in the newer films.

Despite all of this, TASM and TASM2 has a well-rounded (if somewhat inferior) supporting cast, so the excellent romance manages to put it on top.

Point goes to TASM.

BEST STORY

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

Is a story better if it’s more memorable? If so, then I’m leaning toward SM trilogy in a hurry. The iconic kissing scene we mentioned earlier, the death of Uncle Ben, and Peter’s speech to Mary Jane at the end…these are all moments that stuck with me.

With TASM, I remember more key moments from the sequel, namely the death of Gwen Stacey. It was handled very well, and Garfield killed it in the scene. But the only other moments I found as interesting were just quips and funny moments sprinkled throughout the movie, including Garfield’s “leg tap” and wearing the firefighter helmet.

Even the subplot with Peter’s parents ended up being a letdown, with the whole conspiracy being yet another web of unimportance that “might” be explained more in the next movie. I’ll give TASM and TASM2 credit for not being boring movies, but I’d be hard pressed to say they had compelling stories, even when they didn’t have the excuse of well, we have to retell the origin story.

SM and SM2 had incredible stories that coincided with the odd premise of a man swinging around the city like a spider. The first one nailed it as a coming-of-age story about an unassuming guy suddenly blessed with enormous gifts, learning how to use them with responsibility.

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

The second was a compelling followup about the reality of that responsibility, and how they would result in massive sacrifices that Peter Parker wasn’t actually ready for like he thought he was. And that’s not even getting into the villain’s plot, a shade of Peter Parker who won’t compromise anything to get what he wants.

Of course, SM3 is where the story goes off the rails with a rehashing of Peter’s struggle with Uncle Ben’s death, a pointless turnaround of his relationship with Mary Jane and Harry, and the rushed introduction of yet another villain who deserved much more screen time and development.

But even with the disappointments of SM3, the first two movies at least tell a coherent story that can stand on their own, unlike the incessant teasing of TASM and TASM2, which promised “even more answers” in the next installment.

Both movies do a good job in this department, but SM trilogy is the true standout. It’s good even without all of the super heroics, so for that reason, it gets the point.

THE VERDICT

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

It’s interesting how close these movies are in quality, despite one series being the more successful one overall. I stand by the movies scoring a draw when it comes to Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and I’ve always considered the romance and action much more polished in the newer films.

Yet the story and villains of SM trilogy are true winners when it comes to coherence and direction. The original SM movies dared to be legitimate comic book movies in an age when superheroes couldn’t translate to the big screen without some major overhaul to the source material. Sam Raimi defied that with his take on Spider-Man.

So what is the best overall experience of these movies? Which one had you leaving the theater with a big grin on your face?

If you’re asking me, it’s SM trilogy. Not because I was expecting a whole new franchise universe of more movies I could spend money on, but because they delivered everything I wanted in a superhero movie, even before I loved superhero movies.

That said, I have to let my bias shine here (at least more than usual). These are truly subjective movies that I don’t think anyone can objectively pick apart and deem one as the superior. But if you stop and consider which movie made you feel better and just…happy…then you should have your answer.

spider-man vs. amazing spider-man

Some of you will no doubt leave TASM and TASM2 grinning just as wide as I did after SM and SM2. You’ll hate how slow the action is in SM, as much as I hate how boring the villains are in TASM and TASM2. And you’ll forgive Garfield’s unrealistic version of Peter Parker because you love how excellent he is in almost every other area, extending to his relationship with Gwen Stacey. While I’ll still ponder how convincing it was to see Tobey Maguire as a guy who just has a simple crush on a girl.

For the first time in Which is Better history, I have to call this one a draw.

Agree? Disagree? Just want to say hey? Sound off in the comments.

Thanks for reading this! You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

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15 thoughts

  1. Brilliant breakdown as always, though I’m surprised it’s a draw. I would have given best lead to Tobey Maguire, since he more closely aligns with the true Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield’s version of the character is too boring and artificial.

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  2. I love the first trilogy, but there’s no comparison for me when it comes to who’s the better Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield brought so much energy and life to the role, like the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. And web shooters, guys, WEB SHOOTERS.

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  3. I, uh, haven’t watched either of TASMs. I love the original ones so much (and actually, SM3 is my favorite…), so I’m a bit nervous to watch the newer ones.

    Also, I’m excited to see how Tom Holland does at Spider-Man in Civil War.

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  4. Okay, stumbled on this article a little late, so I’m not sure who’ll read this, but as something pertaining to my all-time favorite superhero, I’d like to add a bit.

    I prefer the Raimi trilogy overall. This is no doubt partially because it was my gateway story (although I knew a bit about Spider-Man beforehand, and though he sounded like the coolest idea for a superhero ever), but I really like that trilogy’s story and batch of characters (heroes and villains alike). I really don’t care that much for the Webb movie’s characters and story, although I think it’s mostly because of the writing, since I think they had a good cast who did good acting.

    I think the article made fair points across the board, although I really didn’t like the Andrew Garfield version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, either in comparison to Tobey Maguire (good performance, IMHO), or as a character period (I also don’t get the idea that Garfield captured the “Ultimate” comics version of Peter; those are my “Spider-Man” comics of choice, and no, he doesn’t). I’d also be inclined to rate the action scenes as a tie, comparing better special effects (the Webb movies) with better storytelling, set-ups, and locations that the fights happened in (the Raimi movies). (That said, Electro in Time square in the Webb second movie was cool, and the school fight in the first had potential — and the best Stan Lee cameo of all time.)

    I also liked the cast of the original movie better, partially because so many of the supporting actors reprised their characters throughout the series, making the series feel far more cohesive.

    I’m going to take a very unpopular opinion regarding the franchise, though: I think that Raimi’s version of Mary Jane was not only good character, but also one of the better love interest characters in the superhero movie genre, and a better character/love interest than Gwen was in the Webb movies. In fact, I think that Webb’s Gwen, while likable, is actually one of the weakest characters in all the “Spider-Man” films period.

    For me, it boils down to the fact that Mary Jane was given a backstory, character development that stretched over the three movies, and her own character arcs (her goal to make it as a stage actress, her struggles with low self-esteem, and her relationship with Peter). Gwen was a really flat character. Emma Stone may have given a lively performance, but, aside from a couple hints, Gwen’s defining trait was that she was the girlfriend. She was only a plot device. Everything she does and happens to her is for the sole purpose of advancing Peter’s story.

    The romantic relationship in the Webb movies may have been “new” (and using Gwen in the first place was a good decision), but it felt really shallow; while having them get together in the first movie was a good idea on paper, the fact that there was zero buildup to them hooking up, especially since the movie is very clear they didn’t know each other at all before, didn’t help. There was also zero development in the relationship. They aren’t seen getting to know each other better, all their conversation scenes are basically them flirting without anything deeper than that, and they hardly relate to each other beyond the fact that they’re dating. The fact that Peter is shown to be constantly stalking Gwen on a regular basis after the umpteenth breakup in movie two didn’t help.

    In this case, I think the Raimi movies got it right by showing why Peter and Mary Jane fell in love in the first place, having the relationship evolve (starting out as a high school crush and ending as adults dealing with the ups and downs of serious involvement) having several scenes where they talk about important stuff (like the two conversations at Peter’s apartment in the third movie), and taking the time to show that the couple enjoyed each other’s company and related to each other before love became a factor.

    Both actresses did a good job with their roles, but with in the Raimi movies we have a decent actress coupled with a well-written character, while the Webb movies have a decent actress hobbled with a badly-written character. And in the romance department, the Raimi movies had both depth and development, while the Webb movies were thin ideas that costed on the actor’s charm. If her part had been written better, Gwen would’ve easily been a good character in all departments.

    I also hold the equally unpopular opinion that “Spider-Man 3” was overall a good movie with a few flaws. I liked seeing the characters developed further and generally liked the different stories that wove through the movie. As an accidental end to the series (there was going to be a fourth film), I thought it resolved the trilogy’s three overarching plots (Peter handling his Spider-Man career, Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship, and the Green Goblin legacy) in a satisfactory manner — or at least left them off at a satisfying break-off points. Given the wide difference of opinions on this film, I will concede that it’s not for all tastes, though.

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  5. I believe the first spider man was a way better overall movie seires amazing spider man has already flopped and will continue too. It is not the true spider man that goes for personality and also peter parker roll was not believable. Down to the suit and villains tobys spider man was way better played out wish we could have finished story and not have this terrible new sony series.

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  6. I don’t like part 2s.an 3s.if it have same actors in it it ruins it for me I think Toby was the best spiderman

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  7. i dont give a damn about the first trilogy nnnnnn never do…. dude his web shoot out of his body ….groossss ….. i like the personality of the amazing spiderman cool and fun (which should be better for parker not like a dork)….and btw love that gwen stacy

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  8. I Prefer Spiderman than The Amazing Spiderman because I just grew up with it feeling that the original film is better.
    (I did watch TASM but I still prefer the SM movies)

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  9. Nice Research. But seriously you think that point should go to TASM for BEST SUPPORTING CAST ?? I don’t think so. Except for Gwen Stacy the whole cast has been kept aside in TASM. There was a very little chance for other characters to grow. A superhero movie actually is not about The Superhero only but how the supporting characters develop themselves and support the Lead character to grow

    The only reason story of SM overshadowed TASM’ s is because of supporting actors whether it is Aunt May, Harry Osborn , J. Jonah Jameson or even a small role of Gwen Stacy in SM3 and therefore we still remember them.

    Action scenes of TASM could win the points but the train sequence in SM3 is something we will remember always.

    When it comes to Actors I would say both the actors were really good and fits into the story. I like them both. Same goes with their love interests. But yeah, here Gwen Stacy from TASM beats Mary Jane i believe.

    So still when I watch both the series I feel that Spider-Man Series was better than The Amazing Spider-Man

    Please excuse my English as its not my first language

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    1. I like your arguments, but I want to point out a few things to shed light on my reasoning.

      The Supporting Cast: I really believe the SM movies are more memorable because the villains outshine the supporting cast. By your definition alone, the only compelling characters who “support” Peter in the traditional sense are far less interesting than J. Jonah Jameson, who’s really more of a villain and soft-antagonist. I argue his great performances are canceled out by Kirsten Dunst.

      TASM on the other hand is more focused, doing a lot more with just one character in Gwen Stacey. I can’t say that a single person in SM measures up to how her character is written against Peter’s, which is why I went the way I did, despite loving the supporting cast of SM as a whole.

      Train Sequence: I think you mean the one in SM2, and I’m right there with you. Though I think that scene is more about spectacle and momentum from the story, not straight up action proficiency in filmmaking, which is why I don’t consider it the beat-all. But yeah, I want to watch that clip on YouTube right now just because you’ve mentioned it.

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