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Which is Better: Zootopia or Finding Dory?

zootopia

Disney’s Zootopia is a better film than Pixar’s Finding Dory.

Both 2016 films are competently made. Both films are humorous, well-realized, and stunning to look at. Both films have engaging, wonderful main characters with goals and story arcs that are as insightful as they are entertaining. Both films share many of the same strengths, making it hard to objectively point to one being better than the other on any sort of technical level. But…

Go on…Which is Better: Zootopia or Finding Dory?

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Which is Better? Star Wars: The Force Awakens vs. Rogue One

Comparisons between Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story have always been an inevitable result of these two movies releasing just 12 months apart. And though they’re two very different films (one is a franchise opener and the other a prequel standalone), TFA and RO are both representative of the future that is Star Wars, one of the most beloved mythologies in modern history.

Walking out of TFA, I felt a strange urge to lay some cynicism on the engaging and thrilling spectacle I had just witnessed (and I did ultimately grade it positive). And my criticism of the new trilogy’s opening chapter has been admittedly inconsistent, where at one point I heavily lamented the incomplete character design of Rey, and more recently, I praised the interesting set ups for her legacy. Let it not be said that Rey is a “simple” hero.

By comparison, my problems with RO were far more pronounced and have not budged in the slightest. Despite some great production design and third act action scenes that are anthology peaks, we were given blank slated characters I’ve all but forgotten about in just a few short months, and I’m certainly not alone.

The video above by Lessons from the Screenplay expertly lays out how my issues with both Star Wars films resulted from poor decisions via the writing. Jyn Erso is a passive character whose narrative is beholden to contrived circumstances and loose relationships with superficially interesting characters given little to do. Put simply, it’s a mess of a screenplay. And Michael Tucker manages to make better sense out of why TFA did a superior job making its characters so instantly intriguing and why it’s the better film overall, nostalgic remixing aside.

That said, I’m well aware of the many Star Wars fans who prefer RO in all of its perplexity and dark subject matter. It takes bold risks that provide a useful precedent for Star Wars films that can expand the lore in meaningful ways, not just for the sake of box office. But what makes RO unique can also be perceived as a limiting drawback, moving on from the childish wonder of this mythology (for better or worse) so that it can properly make a movie for adults. In my opinion, it overcorrected in some ways and somehow regressed in others, probably through its late reshoots.

Yes, I believe TFA is better than RO, and I’d even propose that history will remember it as the better film, as well. But I don’t believe this is what truly matters for fans of Star Wars. The takeaway is that diverse Star Wars films are being developed for differing tastes. While RO was not a film I particularly enjoyed, it is one that satisfied a group of fans yearning for something different and unusual. I don’t believe they were given the best product possible in that regard, but to be perfectly honest, neither was I with TFA.

Which is Better? Story and Plot

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the clear winner. As supported by Michael Tucker’s visual analysis, TFA  has a better structure with far fewer throwaway scenes that don’t advance the plot. Rogue One deserves some credit for its effort to be standalone and for its audacious risks, but it falters far too much when it comes to the narrative of Jyn Erso.

Action

Rogue One wins by a slim margin, here, only because it goes all the way with its willingness to depict new and exciting set pieces (Darth Vader’s infamous hallway scene and the Star Destroyer crash, for example). The Force Awakens also has incredible action sequences, of course, and the final lightsaber fight might have cinched this category if not for the simultaneously forgettable Rogue Squadron battle on Starkiller Base. If Rogue One had missed a step with its space battles, then Poe Dameron would have won this just on his one-shot alone.

Characters

The Force Awakens takes this category by a landslide, despite some interesting ideas set forth through characters like K-2SO and Chirrut. Despite seeing Rogue One more recently, I had to search engine those names, which probably speaks volumes.

Villains

The Force Awakens also wins this one for a few significant reasons. Yes, Darth Vader gets one great 30 second scene, but it’s countered by a frankly awful scene between him and another character (complete with a Force dad joke), as well as some shoddy CGI for Tarkin and a wildly complacent Krennic who gets almost zero payoff. Kylo Ren is ultimately the fresher and more compelling villain, balanced well with Snoke and Hux for good measure.

Score

This one’s a tie. The Force Awakens is mostly ho-hum save for Rey’s Theme and the Jedi Steps, but it’s about the same for Rogue One. Neither soundtrack truly stands out with their own Imperial March or Duel of the Fates.

Design (Cinematography, Special Effects, Production Design)

Another tie. Both movies had huge tasks ahead of them. Rogue One had to recapture an established aesthetic with the same amount of detail, while also dabbling in its own inventive ideas. It succeeded on all counts. The Force Awakens, by comparison, contributed a fresher take that reasonably jumped forward in time while also setting the standard for practical effects in a new era of Star Wars films. Neither film quite cracked the uncanny valley (Maz, Tarkin, Rathtars, Leia, etc.), but they made comparable strides.

Conclusion

The only category where Rogue One truly shines is in its action, and even then, it’s by a slim margin. Everything else it accomplishes is either in step with The Force Awakens or a bit worse, especially when it comes to its writing. This is why I firmly believe the subject matter is what truly counts for fans who differ on which film is “better.” For fans of darker material, it’s no contest, while others who prefer the campy mythology and operatic lightsaber battles will undoubtedly point to TFA as the better film.


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Which is Better? ‘The Avengers’ vs ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’

avengers vs age of ultron

Which is Better is a monthly editorial series where I dare to compare the best and worst of everything. This month: Is the first Avengers movie better than its 2015 sequel, or is it the other way around? 

Last year, my friends and I debated this for an episode of my podcast, Now Conspiring. But to be honest, the debate didn’t go anywhere because we all sort of agreed (for once). Now that enough time has passed to let the movie sink in properly, I’ve decided to revisit these two movies and decide for myself.

Granted, a lot of fans of both movies have been debating this since last spring, pointing out every flaw in each movie that could somehow tip their arguments. But it’s unclear whether or not the somewhat lukewarm reception to Age of Ultron was a result of superhero movie fatigue, Marvel fatigue, or something else that may not be a reflection of the movie’s true quality.

If we’re judging by box office, it’s even murkier. At first glance, it may seem that Avengers is better than its sequel because it pulled in $100 million more at the box office, which is a drop in the bucket compared to both movies making roughly $1.5 billion each.

avengers vs age of ultron

But aren’t sequels supposed to be bigger hits than the originals? You’d think that, but it’s actually more common to see diminishing returns depending on the franchise.

Sticking to Marvel superheroes, not a single Spider-Man movie has made as much money domestically as the first one, despite Spider-Man 2 being considered a huge improvement and one of the greatest superhero movies of all time.

Most regard Empire Strikes Back to be the best of the Star Wars films, yet it made $200 million less than A New Hope, not even adjusting for inflation. Let’s not even get started on Return of a Jedi actually failing to net a profit.

So the argument has to come down to the movies themselves, metrics aside. For this week’s Which is Better, I’ll break both movies down on a series of points crucial to what makes a superhero movie great.

Starting with,

BEST STORY

avengers vs age of ultron

Few will argue that The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron (AOU) are wildly different when it comes to plot execution. And for good reason.

Much of the beginning of Avengers centered around exposition that united all of our “mightiest heroes.” It was incredibly entertaining, of course, considering how new it felt to see these characters side by side in one movie.

But the plot was otherwise quite basic: The threat is established, the heroes are brought together to address it, a central action set piece gives them a reason to work together, and they save the day in one final battle. Pretty simple.

AOU had a lot more freedom to be complicated since a lot of that character-building exposition was done in the last film, and also because Avengers was such a monumental hit that the studio was confident people would remember what was going on in their cinematic universe.

So with AOU, we got three villains (sort of), tons of new side characters, and another world domination plot. And that was including many of the new characters introduced in the “Phase 2” of Marvel movies, Guardians of the Galaxy notwithstanding.

In AOU, Tony Stark’s creation was the established threat, but unlike Loki (who was also tied to a main character in a close way), Ultron was a complete unknown to the audience. He arrived on the scene quickly and drove the plot as soon as he showed up.

avengers vs age of ultron

The heroes were already together by this point, so the movie spent more time developing them as they worked to deal with the threat of Ultron. If we’re judging both movies by complexity and character arcs, than AOU surpasses the original in spades.

And that’s because the first Avengers is essentially a party, or a celebration of the fact that Marvel pulled off one of the greatest team-ups in cinematic history. But aside from some quips and other quick dialogue, the characters didn’t progress much from beginning to end. They just decided (again) to do what they’ve already done in their own respective movies: be heroes.

“Saving the day” wasn’t such a black and white solution in AOU, which I found very refreshing. Each Avenger had an agenda, and some sparks of disagreement and strife popped up between these characters, teasing the upcoming Civil War.

This worked because getting invested in characters is what made AOU feel more like a complete story compared to the first Avengers, which was more of a continuation of a running story that didn’t feel all that resolved by the end.

To be fair, AOU having a more complex plot also brought on a ton of narrative issues, many of them being the cause of Joss Whedon having to set up future movies with throwaway scenes that didn’t feel as cohesive. A good example is Thor’s mini-vacation to awaken his new powers, a side adventure that was given hardly any time to be built up or explained well. As I mentioned earlier, Ultron was also rushed as a villain, probably to give more time to the Wakanda references they had to include to set up Black Panther.

So AOU isn’t perfect, but I’d say the good certainly outweighs the bad. The darker tone wasn’t quite as dark as people hoped for, but there was a new sense of tension that actually got a payoff in the end with one of the first key deaths in these movies. And a lot of what doesn’t work that well in AOU is sort of indicative of the same problems existing in the original. We just didn’t harp on them as much back in 2012 because the novelty of the film was so, well, novel.

Both movies have great, enjoyable narratives, but I have to give this point to AOU for being bolder and containing a more dense story, flaws aside.

BEST CHARACTERS

avengers vs age of ultron

I’ll do this one fast. It’s a tie.

As I mentioned earlier, AOU was fantastic at giving us more insight into these characters, which gives it a huge advantage in this debate. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are notable exceptions that I give a pass due to the messiness surrounding the rights for those characters.

That said, Avengers pulled off something equally impressive by reintroducing the core team without spoon-feeding us tons of information about them we didn’t need to know. Marvel could have easily decided to treat us like we’re stupid and need a “Previously on” in order to remember who Thor and Captain America are.

To put it simply, both movies do a terrific job at showcasing great characters. The story elements behind these characters are certainly stronger in AOU, but we’ve already evaluated that in the previous section, so it’s a tie.

BEST VILLAIN

avengers vs age of ultron

Loki or Ultron? Oh, who am I kidding…

Everyone (I think) loves Loki. It’s been a running joke for some time that he’s pretty much the only “good” Marvel villain. And for the most part, I actually agree.

He was an effortless scene stealer, in no small part thanks to Tom Hiddleston’s wonderful take on the character. He captured the comic-book villain quite well, while also updating it perfectly for feature films. He was funny, arrogant, and even a little sympathetic. But despite this, he was incredibly threatening, despite not having any “raw” power.

We knew throughout Avengers that Loki wasn’t that strong of a guy. Yet he commanded a ton of presence and was taken incredibly seriously. Using him for the first movie was a perfect choice because he was the perfect villain to contrast the raw power of the Avengers, who were vastly more intimidating when it came to brute strength.

Yet he wasn’t even “smarter” compared to Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. There was just an unspoken mental advantage he was able to hold over the heroes just enough to provoke them into finally stopping him.

Ultron was an attempt to up the ante with a villain who could be strong enough to bring down the Avengers, but they went with giving him an advantage aside from brute strength again.  Not being that powerful himself, Ultron commanded a huge army and could tamper with their technology, even the Internet.

A problem that arose with this was when Scarlet Witch introduced yet another alternative to brute strength with her mind powers. But by the end of AOU, the Avengers do what they always need to do: save the day with their muscles…and lasers and hammers and what not.

An unstoppable villain that could have defeated all of the Avengers with brute strength would have strangely been more refreshing and a unique challenge for our heroes. It’s actually a bit ironic because I’m sure being different was what the writers intended to do. And while Ultron himself was sarcastic and entertaining, I found myself feeling almost nothing when he was discarded.

Best villain goes to The Avengers.

BEST ACTION

avengers vs age of ultron

I’m actually cheating a bit by saying “best action,” because I’m really talking about how these movies work overall as action films. So I’m judging how beautiful they are, set pieces, how the special effects aid the experience, and of course, fight choreography.

That criteria in mind, this is a pretty easy decision. While both films are extremely polished, AOU is the one that stands out when it comes to those moments that define a great action movie.

Like I mentioned earlier, AOU is just more dense. Avengers has three major action scenes, and all of them are incredibly one-note and completely one-upped by the sequel.

For example:

The Avengers starts with a series of minor confrontations between the Avengers themselves. This is done even better in AOU when they’re fighting Tony Stark’s suits after the party, as it’s a surprising action scene that gets the plot started on the right tone.

The second act of Avengers features Hulk on a rampage. AOU one-ups this in a huge way by unleashing Hulk on innocent people, forcing Tony Stark to don the built-up Hulkbuster armor and finally prove a worthy challenge to the overpowered character. This is, in my opinion, the best action scene in the MCU for a laundry list of reasons.

Finally, the original ends with a massive battle where the heroes are vastly outnumbered. And in the end, someone nearly dies. AOU one-ups this by actually killing off a character (albeit not someone as key to the franchise as Tony Stark).

Aside from all that, there’s just a lot more going on in AOU when it comes to the action. I don’t think it’s necessarily prettier, but I’d be hard pressed to find anything about the original that trumps it in this category.

Point goes to Avengers: Age of Ultron.

THE VERDICT

avengers vs age of ultron

Well, it looks like my answer is the same as it was a year ago. I consider Avengers: Age of Ultron to be better than The Avengers. It has a better plot, it maintains what we love about the characters in the original, and it has a more expansive, thrilling set of action scenes.

It wasn’t a landslide, obviously, and to be completely honest, The Avengers is still my favorite out of the two. The experience I had watching it was unlike any other I’ve had in the theater, and it’s filled to the brim with quotes and moments I’ll get nostalgic over for years to come. But I can’t say that I think it’s a better film, overall, even if it has just the right amount of Loki.

Agree? Disagree? Let’s talk about it in the comments. And let me know what you’d like to see compared in the next Which is Better. 

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

Which is Better? ‘The Revenant’ Vs. ‘The Hateful Eight’

hateful eight better revenant

The Revenant is a two-and-a-half hour western that pushes the limits of cinematography and brutality in modern film.

The Hateful Eight is a three-hour western that pushes the limits of characterization and brutality in modern film.

On the surface, these movies seem very similar in terms of setting and tone, which is why many people have been comparing them in recent weeks. The truth is that these films have just as many differences as they do similarities. For example, The Revenant is a film mostly devoid of dialogue in favor of grander set piece moments. In contrast, most of The Hateful Eight is composed  dialogue, and its story rarely steps out of the confines of a small inn.

Another difference is even clearer. The Revenant is one of the most celebrated films of 2015, earning a sweep of coveted Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography (among others). The Hateful Eight was almost entirely snubbed.

But does that mean The Revenant is the better film?

My gut answer is no, without pause. The Hateful Eight is my favorite movie of 2015, with The Revenant coming nowhere near the top of my list. I thought it was above average, but nothing truly special as a whole.

Am I right about this? Or has the Academy done a better job analyzing these two films? That’s what we’re about to find out in this week’s Which is Better. I’ll break these movies down by category, evaluating which one edges out the other.

Starting with:

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

hateful eight better revenant

I decided to keep this category as broad as possible, allowing for both films to be merited based on how artistic they are. And this is no easy decision.

Emmanuel Lubezki was the cinematographer, again working with Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu after their collaboration on Birdman. And the results are pretty much the same, as film, every shot of The Revenant is downright gorgeous and even revolutionary, with the entirety of the film being shot in natural light.

Quentin Tarantino (director of The Hateful Eight) also got help from an old friend of his, Robert Richardson, who is the cinematographer behind Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, and Django Unchained.

And in some ways, the cinematography of The Hateful Eight is just as revolutionary, as it was shot in Ultra Panavision 70 and Kodak VISION 3. Its limited release 70mm format is an experience that’s been missing from cinema since 1966’s Khartoum.

But what makes The Hateful Eight even more unique is how this 70mm format and wide aspect ratio is utilized. In the past, this type of filmmaking was popular when massive epics like Ben Hur needed that extra wide angle to show off large scale and spectacular settings. The Hateful Eight only has a handful of scenes that devote the sweeping 70mm shot to scenery, and it’s merely used to demonstrate the isolation of the characters.

Surprisingly, the majority of The Hateful Eight actually takes place indoors, which might seem like a waste of this compelling format. Yet it works incredibly well because the wide aspect ratio gives you the novel experience of a murder mystery dinner theater.

For that reason, The Hateful Eight pulls off what could have been a cheap gimmick in one of the most creative ways possible. Still, that doesn’t make it the more beautiful film.

After all, very few people actually saw The Hateful Eight in this 70mm format, unlike the widespread distribution of The Revenant. It just doesn’t stand on its own in the same way, and from a technical standpoint, The Revenant is a more stunning movie, with entire set pieces devoted to showing off Lubezki’s incredibly unique vision.

It’s a tough one, but I have to credit Lubezki for crafting a masterwork from such a grim premise and location. The Hateful Eight is also superb, but it’s just not on the same level.

The Revenant gets the first point.

BEST ACTING 

hateful eight better revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio’s hunt for an Oscar has truly become a legendary joke among movie buffs and mainstream audiences alike. In fact, much of the popularity surrounding The Revenant can arguably be explained by the widespread desire for people to see if this is his year.

And in a lot of ways, I agree with them. The Revenant absolutely showcases DiCaprio at his best, proving he’s one of the most talented actors alive. But it’s strange to root for him when you consider how little dialogue and (in some ways) character he ultimately adds to his role as Hugh Glass.

Granted, dialogue isn’t everything, and its lacking certainly doesn’t diminish the obvious commitment on DiCaprio’s part. It’s just hard to praise an actor who stares at the camera at one point, as if to Jedi Mind Trick the Academy into giving him his due.

Of course, there’s one other highlight from The Revenant, and that’s Tom Hardy’s performance as Fitzgerald. In my opinion, Hardy was vastly more memorable and entertaining, and he easily had the best quotes of the movie (not that it was much of a competition).

The Hateful Eight is almost all character, on the other hand. And that’s saying something about a movie that doesn’t really have a lead actor or actress. You’d think this would hurt its chances, but it’s actually quite admirable how well the ensemble performs with limited screen time devoted to each character.

To be fair, a few of these characters are overshadowed by the true heavyweights: Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Kurt Russell, and Jennifer Jason Leigh all deliver extraordinary performances. If we were judging this category solely by classic one-liners, this would be an easy choice.

It’s a tough because The Revenant only has the performances of DiCaprio and Hardy to make its case, while The Hateful Eight benefits from several incredible performances offered by a much better cast, overall.

Unfortunately, you can’t weigh this choice on the sum of good performances, so I have to give this one to The Revenant. Both DiCaprio and Hardy drove their movie, while the real star of The Hateful Eight actually felt like Tarantino himself most of the time.

Second point goes to The Revenant.  

BEST CHARACTERS

hateful eight better revenant

Ah, but which movie has the best characters?

This is much easier, thanks to the horrid miscasting of Domnhall Gleeson as Captain Henry in The Revenant. Aside from Fitzgerald, none of the side stories in this movie had me wanting more (except more of Fitzgerald, perhaps).

But The Hateful Eight excels in a big way when it comes to its ensemble, as I mentioned in length earlier. You can make the argument that Michael Madsen should have been swapped out, or that Tim Roth was trying too hard to channel Christoph Waltz (an argument I wouldn’t make, personally).  But virtually everyone else in the cast was indispensable.

Aside from casting, the characters in The Hateful Eight were simply more entertaining to watch. They had multiple dimensions (usually hidden) compared to the gruff and simple survivalists in The Revenant. They actually had character arcs and grew as the film went, notably Walton Goggins’ as the Sheriff.

While the performances in The Revenant were more proficient overall, the characters in The Hateful Eight were vastly more interesting, compelling, and memorable.

The Hateful Eight wins this point handily.

BEST SCORE

hateful eight better revenant

I’ll make this quick, since many of you probably haven’t had a chance to study the score yet.

First, you’ll notice that The Revenant didn’t get an Academy Award nomination for Best Score, simply because the composer violated one of the rules for qualifying.

That said, The Hateful Eight also didn’t get nominated, despite Ennio Moriicone crafting one of his best scores in years. What to do?

I actually had to listen to the score for The Revenant after seeing the movie, because I simply forgot all of it. In contrast, I was hooked by the overture of The Hateful Eight (so, before the movie even started).

Aside from that, the song choices littered throughout were masterfully chosen by Tarantino, giving us even more reasons to rewatch the film for new meanings.

The score for The Revenant is fine and all, but it pales in comparison to The Hateful Eight, which gets the point.

BEST STORY 

hateful eight better revenant

The score is tied, and only one category remains. Between The Revenant and The Hateful Eight, which movie has the better story?

It goes without saying that both movies have simplistic set ups. The Revenant is about a hardy (no pun intended) frontiersman looking for revenge against the men who left him for dead. The Hateful Eight boils down to a group of outcasts being forced to spend time together during a blizzard.

The settings, characters, and action are what truly drive the story for both of these movies, though in their own unique ways. And what’s even more interesting is how both movies virtually eschew the typical three-act structure, to varying success.

Let’s just get this out of the way. My biggest complaint with The Revenant was, in fact, its story. Though the first act is incredibly strong with its one-two punch, the movie descends into an overlong and under-edited mess.

The story takes no significant turns, instead pitting more and more obstacles against the main character until none remain. So by the time the final climax came to a head, I had already lost all interest in the plight of Hugh Glass. In a way, I was sort of rooting for Fitzgerald. And nature. And everyone else, really.

hateful eight better revenant

Part of my issue with The Revenant was how Iñárritu handled a lot of the characterization of Hugh Glass himself. To break up the action, the writers used flashbacks and daydreams to further explain why we should care about Glass. These moments were probably meant to give us a chance to catch our breath, but they were ultimately too confusing and surreal for most people to grasp.

It’s not that these sequences were hard to understand, by the way. The issue is that using conceptual and abstract storytelling to explain a character who himself is incredibly abstract (thanks to his lack of dialogue and seemingly mythic constitution) is utterly ineffective.

The Hateful Eight couldn’t be more different. Tarantino’s screenplay for this film is a work of art, on the same level as Lubezki’s cinematography for The Revenant.

Every chapter of The Hateful Eight has a clear purpose, with each interaction between each character building toward a shocking finale that few will see coming. It’s a story that’s so engrossing, I found myself amazed that it had been three hours, not thirty minutes.

More importantly, this was a story I had never experienced. The Revenant had one-of-a-kind visuals, but its revenge story was based on a very loose adaptation of a true story. Not much of The Revenant is very surprising or jaw-dropping, save for a few spectacular “pretty” moments that aren’t well-connected.

The Hateful Eight, on the other hand, was far more original and difficult to interpret. It took a lot of analysis and critical thinking for me to find the deeper meanings masquerading as nihilism. The result, which I won’t spoil for the sake of those who haven’t seen the movie, is the simple fact that The Hateful Eight is the product of a master storyteller.

THE VERDICT

hateful eight better revenant

My final decision is that The Hateful Eight is better than The Revenant. Obviously not in every respect, as the latter has superior cinematography and more remarkable performances.

But the characters, score, and story push The Hateful Eight forward by a wide margin in their own right. So much about so much of this movie just works to near perfection, even on the note of cinematic experience. I like to bring this up a lot with these Which is Better articles, but I tend to judge a lot about a movie based on how I left the theater after watching it.

Though its easy to write off these moments as “gut reactions,” there’s truth in evaluating the experience of watching a film. The goal is for me to leave the theater feeling glad I participated in the movie, and The Hateful Eight does that and then some.

The Revenant left me cold, confused for the wrong reasons, and ultimately disappointed. It’s not a bad film, but only because so many disparate elements of it are too exceptional to write off.

So that’s where I stand. What about you? Sound off in the comments if you have something to contribute. And if you have an idea for a new Which is Better topic, be sure to send me your ideas below.

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

 

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. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my mailing list.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

Which is Better? The Witcher 3 vs. Fallout 4

fallout 4 witcher 3

“Which is Better?” is a new editorial series that dares to compare the best of pretty much everything. This week is a battle of the wastelands, as we compare two of the biggest games of 2015.

There were a lot of games I considered for this week’s entry. At one point, I thought it would be fun to do Fallout 3 vs. Fallout 4 or even Skyrim vs. either of those games.

Eventually, I decided it would be more useful to compare two games that have come out recently. And not just any games. Though they may not be the highest-rated video games of the year, there’s little doubt that The Witcher 3 (TW3) and Fallout 4 (F4) are among the most popular and well-received installments of 2015.

F4 in particular has reached a near-Skyrim level of social consciousness outside of niche gaming circles, moreso than TW3. The difference is that TW3 has skyrocketed in both quality and audience this year, thanks to the game being that good. I think you can safely argue that F4 has been more underwhelming in comparison, if only because the games before it have already set mighty expectations that few games in history could probably meet.

These are two very different games, but they’re certainly in the conversation for being the best of 2015. To find out which is better, we’ll have to go beneath the surface and uncover what sets each game apart in terms of story, characters, the overall gaming experience, and more.

Let’s begin with…

BEST ART DESIGN

fallout 4 witcher 3

How a game looks will always be a selling point for gamers. But outside of frame rates and the amount of pixels depicted onscreen, which of these games has the more inspired look?

This includes landscapes, character models, and even costume design. As you read this, you’re probably thinking about every subtle visual you remember from both of these games, and I think I can guess which one you’re thinking of the most.

For me, it’s TW3. Even though I played it months ago (and F4 is more fresh in my mind), I can readily picture the rocky hillsides of Skellige and what the shady individuals are wearing in Novigrad. I remember the sense of awe I got from discovering these locations and exploring every inch of them (and I mean every inch).

When I think of F4, I really just go back to what my character looks like with a Vault 111 suit  underneath a set of combat armor. This isn’t a bad thing, but it certainly sheds light on how different the focus of these two games are.

It’s interesting because these two games are somewhat inverse. I can only play as Geralt in TW3, and how I customize his look is pretty limited compared to everything I can do with the Sole Survivor of F4 (down to picking a name). But on the other hand, I influence the plot of TW3 in a huge variety of ways, while F4 really only has a cluster of similar endings that range from me being pure evil to complete righteousness.

I love the Commonwealth of F4, but it’s honestly just a refined version of a wasteland we’ve seen several times already. Though TW3 is also a sequel, it brings The Northern Kingdoms to life in a way that’s a huge step forward for the franchise.

Both games have inspiring art design, but if we’re talking about which one is more novel and memorable, then TW3 is the clear winner.

BEST CHARACTERS

fallout 4 witcher 3

At first, you might think TW3 wins this pretty easily, if only because it’s a game that focuses more on a central narrative with pretty rich characters. But F4, while different, also has an eclectic roundup of unique personalities, some far more interesting than what we have in TW3.

This is probably because F4 has more side characters. And every single one has a decent backstory you can uncover the more you get to know them. TW3 really only has a small cast of characters you care about, but they’re absolutely more interesting as a whole. So it’s a bit of a tossup.

Now, when it comes to voice acting and the lead character, TW3 wins by a landslide with Geralt. Even for a character who can’t display emotion, there’s a universe of depth to him that the Sole Survivor’s voice can’t even come close to. In fact, I sometimes wish you could opt out of hearing what your character in F4 has to say.

Yennifer, Triss, Ciri, and the other main characters of TW3 are also out of F4’s league in terms of likability and substance. I do think Valentine, MacCready, and even Piper are fun characters to hang out with in the Commonwealth, but at no point did I really care about what would happen to them next, which is a far cry from how much emotion I invested in my friends and allies from TW3.

It’s not a landslide victory, but TW3 wins this round.

BEST ACTION

fallout 4 witcher 3

Both of these games have a huge focus on defeating multitudes of faceless enemies. But which one does it better?

This is an interesting comparison, as well, because both games are action RPGs (well, F4 is technically an RPS). They both feature a ton of other side activities you can do with your character in-between the action, and they both let you fight in real-time.

With Geralt, you can fight with your handy swords (one for monsters and one for humans/animals) or use a small set of spells with varying effects. You can even make your own bombs. With the Sole Survivor, you can use many different types of guns and melee weapons, or you can fight unarmed . And you also have V.A.T.S., which lets you slow down time in order to focus your shots on the weak points of your enemy.

So, both games have great, thrilling action. TW3, in particular, features a major upgrade from its predecessor in this respect thanks to its fluid sword fighting and monster-hunting strategies that make you feel like a true witcher.

fallout 4 witcher 3

F4 is more of an action game than any other entry in the series, which is good news if that’s your favorite element of F3 or New Vegas. The gunplay is incredibly smooth and responsive. And the introduction of artillery strikes and other ways to call in aid from friendly factions is a fun strategy.

There are many different types of enemies you can face in TW3 and F4, so they tie when it comes to variety. And both games are pretty challenging depending on how you want to play.

But when I consider how often I can switch up my tactics, I have to credit F4 for having great experiences for each of its many weapons. I can pick up new weapons on the fly and feel good using them, while doing the same in TW3 will usually lead to a quick death. The problem with TW3 in this regard is that it’s easier to get stuck in your ways, so there’s not as much room for exploration in how you want to take down your enemies.

F4 is also more fun when it comes to crafting your armor and mixing/matching. Most of what I used in TW3 was pretty ugly and ineffective unless I went to the trouble of doing armor quests. Overall, the armor sets are cooler, as I mentioned above, but it’s harder to get the right look or change things up if you get sick of what you’re wearing. With F4, it’s a blast to mod your weapons and armor, instead of a drag.

This was a close one, but F4 gets the point.

BEST STORY

fallout 4 witcher 3

Look, I love the main quest in F4. It’s much more engaging and unique than any other I’ve played in a Bethesda game, let alone the Fallout series. But that might be more indicative of how low the standard is, as well as how underwhelming much of the side quests are in F4.

100 hours in, I’ve gotten to the point where almost all of my missions in F4 are recycled retreads. Characters I’ve stuck with in order to see where their stories go have all but stalled. And I’m rapidly losing interest in coming across any more of these side quests that will put me on yet another fetch/kill errand that will somehow boost me through the ranks of an established faction.

Throughout F4, there are moments that take you out of the game completely, because they’re designed for an open world, not an open world story. TW3, by comparison, blows F4 out of the irradiated water with its spiderweb plot and remarkably complex side missions that can be just as interesting as the main story.

It’s strange because usually Bethesda does a great job with smaller story moments found in their open world, like with surprise characters and random events that happen by accident. Just stumbling across an encounter in their games is pretty thrilling. This is certainly present in F4, but not to the same extent. You mostly just come across endless battles going on in the distance, which are fun to track down, but pretty one-note.

In TW3, I had a grand time starting seemingly mundane side quests that spiraled into massive conflicts I couldn’t have predicted, and almost all of them had satisfactory endings I didn’t see coming.

TW3 wins this round and then some.

BEST GAMING EXPERIENCE

fallout 4 witcher 3

This category is about how a game looks and feels overall. And it’s also about how it makes you feel.

In terms of graphics, TW3 is simply a more beautiful game. But F4 excels at having a more dense location that feels more alive. As we’ve discussed already, both games have great gameplay with myriad options for how you play it. And both games are wildly addicting.

That said, if you ask me which game I’m glad I played, then I immediately think about TW3.

I’ve enjoyed F4 thoroughly, and it’s been fun spending hours of my time creating massive, sustainable settlements. But after building all of the walls, setting up the turrets, hunting for elements in the wasteland, and coming back every once in a while to fix the problems of the settlers, I don’t feel fulfilled.

Overall, F4 really isn’t a rewarding experience. Not much of what you do amounts to anything within the confines of the game.

But TW3 left me with a smile, despite my ending not being “the best one.” The work and effort I put into that game directly affected the outcome of the characters, and after I finished, I didn’t feel like it was time wasted.

This is obviously subjective, but everyone I’ve talked to about this game has more-or-less said the same. F4 is a blast for a while, but it does little to impact the gamer. Maybe it didn’t need to do that in order to be successful, but I already know which sequel of which series I’m more excited about, assuming either of these franchises continue.

TW3 made me fall in love with a series I’ve only sort of liked for years. The graphics blew me away. The stories and characters were unlike anything I’ve come across in an open world game. And it’s a game I want to play again.

I want to keep playing F4, but only because the game taps into a side of me that’s compulsive. TW3 exploits what makes me love the art of gaming, and that’s no small feat.

THE VERDICT

fallout 4 witcher 3

This was tough, but I feel pretty good when I say that The Witcher 3 is better than Fallout 4. As I’ve said, both games are marvelous and deserve praise. But the former is certainly superior in a variety of ways, notably in how the gamer feels when it’s completed. And it’s even got better characters, an amazing story, and some decent action that make it the convincing choice.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments.

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Which Is Better? Arrow vs. The Flash

the flash arrow better

“Which is Better?” is a new editorial series that dares to compare the best of pretty much everything. In this rundown, I’ll break down everything from story to characters in an attempt to declare which of these superhero shows is truly better. 

Back when it was still The WB Television Network, The CW aired a superhero origin series for Superman, which you probably remember as Smallville. It was a great show in its early seasons (its prime), but it faltered over the years due to its own popularity and unwillingness to end. Essentially, things got too complicated, important characters became throwaways…it was a forgettable mess by the time it finished.

But Smallville did set the standard for modern live-action DC Comics shows. It introduced an entire generation of non-comic readers to Green Arrow, prompting the CW to move forward with a new show/remake dedicated to just that character.

You can thank a lot of the creative vision and ambition behind Arrow and other DC shows to Greg Berlanti, who got his start working on Dawson’s Creek (the similarities between these two shows are unmistakable). Though Berlanti has helped produced some major duds, including the Green Lantern movie in 2011, the director/writer/producer has found great success crafting a DC Comics television universe that has branched off into The Flash and the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. He’s even the executive producer of CBS’s own DC Comics show, Supergirl.

which is better arrow flash

But the main shows we’re talking about today are truer rivals. They’ve crossed over many times, and The Flash was even introduced within an episode of Arrow. And although Arrow has been around since 2012, The Flash is already in its second season, giving us enough time to properly compare what stands out for each series.

So…which is better? (shoutout to user Tonio0064 for suggesting this entry).

It’s a hard question, and from what I’ve observed, The Flash has been considered by critics and audiences to be superior, despite how young it is. Another thing to consider is that a lot of what’s great about The Flash was pioneered by the teams who worked on Arrow, which suffered a bit from some clunky seasons trying to figure out what kind of show it had to be.

I’ve had a great time watching both shows, so I’ll be breaking down their merits in order to figure out which one really is better. But let’s be clear. Neither have failed this city.

BEST LEAD

which is better arrow flash

Both shows have titular main characters, so having a good lead has been critical to their success. Fortunately for Arrow and The Flash, Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin have done a fantastic job as Oliver Queen and Barry Allen, respectively.

They both walk a fine line between doing the comics justice, but also bringing something new to the character that non-comic fans can relate to. Oliver Queen is traditionally a hero known for being more of a left-wing robin hood type looking out for the little guy, but Amell’s take is more of a tortured warrior who fights for the greater good (at least for now).

Grant Gustin pulls off a Barry Allen with fewer wisecracks but more charm as a confident speedster with a heart of gold. And both of these characters work with larger teams instead of on their own, which is a more suitable format for television.

This is a close call, and I really like both characters. But if I had to choose one who goes just a little further with the character, then I have to pick Flash. Amell is a great actor, but he’s a bit more one-note and sullen compared to Gustin, who just seems to be having a lot more fun with his show.

Point goes to The Flash.

BEST SUPPORTING CAST

which is better arrow flash

In other words, Cisco or Felicity?

One of the most fun aspects of Arrow is how well the show has evolved its side characters. Diggle, Felicity, Thea, and even Laurel have grown into interesting characters who add more to the show than they distract from.

At the same time, though, the show often struggles with what their roles are. Specifically, Thea, Laurel, Roy, Quentin, and Sarah of all people have been hit-or-miss over the years, with Roy even leaving the show Teen Wolf-style.

The Flash, on the other hand, does more with less. Even if you compare second seasons to second seasons, Team Flash just seems to have a better sense of identity. Caitlin looks out for Barry’s health, Cisco makes the cool gadgets and decides on bad guy names, Wells comes up with the plans, Joe keeps everyone in check, and Iris is the unattainable love interest (though her character is slowly getting better than that).

This is a result of The Flash learning and avoiding the mistakes of Arrow, which gives them almost an unfair advantage. But the show still manages to learn and apply what’s worked in the past, and that’s no easy feat in the world of network television.

Point goes to The Flash.

BEST VILLAINS

which is better arrow flash

Arrow was lacking a compelling list of villains early in its first season. The enemies ranged from Nolan-verse archetypes to greedy businessmen, not the intriguing assassins and warlords that would populate future episodes. Even Merlyn was a bit underwhelming, despite his arch-villain clout.

The Flash found easy ways to introduce villains with one major event causing their arrival. The particle accelerator gave Barry and many of the villains their powers, making it Barry’s job to round them up (with the exception of foes like Captain Cold).

You’d think that would give The Flash an advantage, but this is something I don’t love about the series. For one thing, it’s a little too reminiscent of Static Shock, the animated series from the early 2000s that used very similar story elements to explain the sudden arrival of foes Static could contend with.

The major villains of The Flash have certainly been interesting in their own right, but not very unique or diverse. Sure, it’s still early, but Reverse Flash and Zoom are really just rival speedsters. Arrow did the same with Merlyn, a rival archer, but at least in its second season, it introduced two new villains who felt drastically more imposing. What made Deathstroke so great, for example, was how his story had been teased from the first season, and the “why” behind his villainy was more satisfying than Eobard Thawne’s mostly uncomplicated treachery.

I like the villains from The Flash, but I’m much more invested in the villains of Arrow, especially Floyd Lawton. Point goes to Arrow.

BEST STORY

which is better arrow flash

Included in this analysis is storytelling. Which show delivers the best experience in terms of drama and character development?

Arrow had a very promising premise in its first season that gave it the steam it needed to survive. Oliver Queen returned from presumed death after five years. While trying to readjust to his life and friends (including the ex-girlfriend he cheated on with her sister who died under his watch), Oliver took up a crusade as a vigilante, trying to redeem his city with the skills he learned while on a mysterious island.

This initial story worked well because we also saw flashbacks to the island that explained how Oliver survived and became “the vigilante.” By the time we reached the third season, however, the flashbacks quickly became pointless, feeling more like fodder for lackluster B plots. There’s a good one every now and again, but for me, these have been pretty skippable.

In contrast, The Flash utilizes “secret endings” at the end of each episode that shed light on a bigger mystery. Who is Harrison Wells, really? Who is the Reverse Flash? Who is Zoom? Strange I’m mentioning it again, but this is something Teen Wolf has excelled at in a grander sense, using mysteries you actually care about to keep you tuning in.

But does that really make the story better? No, and that’s a good thing. These mysteries are accessories to what make The Flash a fun watch, not the entire hook. I’m fine with waiting to find out which character is who because I enjoy Barry Allen’s journey as a superhero. It’s simpler than Arrow, for sure, and I like that because Flash is a less serious character, so when there’s drama, it feels more genuine when mixed with the comic relief.

This is another close call, but I have to give it to The Flash. While it may lack a narrative that hooks you in immediately, it provides a fleshed out universe that feels more fun to sink your teeth into.

VERDICT

which is better arrow flash

Well, I guess the critics are right. The Flash is better than Arrow, but it’s a closer match than I think some people realize. In everything we discussed, Arrow had many bright spots that elevate it above The Flash in some respects, especially when it comes to villains.

But overall, The Flash has benefitted from being more refined from the get-go, which is a testament to the work put in to make this show the best it could possibly be. We owe plenty of gratitude to Arrow for paving the way, but it’s honest to point out that it’s not the best, at least for now.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments.


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Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

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