Originally published on Moviepilot.com on July 10th, 2017
As an internet culture, we like to look back on the past. In this case, with the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, we’ve been looking back at the previous Spider-Man movies that have been released up to this point. The series has had lows and highs and each of the two adaptations ended on a disappointing note: Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The discussion of these two movies normally becomes about asking which is the worst: Sam Rami’s Spider-Man 3 or, Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2?
Both releases were critically mixed and also led to the premature ends of their respective series. I spent a few days re-watching all the movies and I wanted to break down which of the two I thought was the better film. After watching both these movies again. I think The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the better of the two. Before I go any further I want to lay out a few things. I think Sam Rami’s Spider-Man 2 is the best Spider-Man movie of all time (yes, even after Homecoming). I really like all three of the actors that have played the titular character, but I tend to like Andrew Garfield’s rendition the most. Spider-Man, in general, is my favorite Marvel character.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive into the five reasons why The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is better than Spider-Man 3.
(Warning: This article assumes you’ve seen both movies, so spoilers ahead.)
1. The Love Story Is Better
The romance in The Amazing Spider-Man movies between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker is one of the best that’s ever been done in a comic book movie. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield have incredible chemistry with one another (it helps that they were dating in real life at the time). In Amazing Spider-Man 2, a lot of the runtime is spent between Gwen and Peter, which makes the movie that much more engaging because these two are fun to be around.
Marc Webb has always been good at human interaction and these candid moments of humanity. With Peter and Gwen, Webb really gets to showcase that skill. Their relationship arc is built up from the first movie before it culminates in heartbreak. The sadness after the death of Gwen Stacy is truly a testament to how much we fell in love with these together.
Contrast that with the love story in Spider-Man 3. The romance takes up a lot of screen time in Spider-Man 3 as well, but this romance is more frustrating. At the beginning of the movie, Peter and MJ’s relationship appears to be in good shape before it goes downhill and never recovers. MJ becomes jealous of Peter’s double life, Peter starts acting self-centered and angers MJ when he tells her to ignore the critics that trashed her play. From there, Peter kisses Gwen Stacy as Spider-Man for showmanship (not a good idea). In the course of two moments, Mary Jane goes from, “I love you” to “Do you want to push me away?”
The relationship drama feels extremely petty, overly dramatic and forced. These aren’t reasons that should derail a relationship. These two should make each other stronger; instead, they seem to tear each down. This storyline is part of the reason why it gets hard to sit through Spider-Man 3.
2. The Characters Are More Consistent
Peter and Gwen have developed since the first movie, but they are the same people. Peter Parker is Peter Parker, and the filmmakers nail the character of Spider-Man. In Spider-Man 3, the characters feel almost completely different from the previous two movies; not because of development, but just odd creative choices. Peter Parker has become self-centered and completely oblivious to MJ’s feelings. Didn’t he learn something about responsibility in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2?
You might argue, “well, that’s because he has the black suit and that makes him aggressive and self-centered.” No, he was acting like this as soon as the critic reviews came out trashing MJ’s play. That was before the symbiote bonded with him. Harry Osborn gets amnesia and acts like a goofball. Even in the first movie, he didn’t act like that; it’s out of character. Why would amnesia make him act like a goofball? Whatever you may think regarding Electro and Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, at least the main characters are consistent throughout the series.
3. No Soap Opera Plot
Speaking of amnesia, Spider-Man 3 really starts to really feel like a soap opera approaching the second hour of the film. Consider the events that transpire in the second hour: MJ isn’t feeling like Peter is there for her, kisses Harry, Harry gets MJ to break up with Peter, Harry tells Peter, Peter fights Harry over her, Peter dates Gwen to hurt MJ, MJ, and Peter fight, Eddie Brock is mad at Peter for stealing Gwen — and did I mention that there is an amnesia subplot?
I liked this plot better when it was on Days of Our Lives. I know the comics can descend into soap opera territory, but that’s the byproduct effect of having a book come out every month for over 50 years. The movies don’t have to (and shouldn’t) go that route.
4. The Music Fits Better
I think the score by Hans Zimmer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 fits better than Christopher Young’s score for Spider-Man 3. Even if you don’t like the score, I think most can agree that the tone/mood and even stylings of the music fit within the context of the movie. The song “My Enemy” is a good representation of the Electro character, and the new heroic theme for Spider-Man fits the character.
Christopher Young, taking over from Danny Elfman, composes a score that is a pale imitation of what came before. The problem stems from his music doesn’t fit the mood of the scene. Take the bare-knuckled fight scene between Peter and Harry, the second fight in the movie between two former friends. The entire series has been building to these characters confronting one another. What type of music is played during this fight between friends? An almost jazzy sounding tune. That type of music really doesn’t work with the emotion/tone of the scene. Even the music playing during the first Sandman versus Spider-Man fight is really out of place.
5. Spider-Man 3 Retcon Hurts Previous Films
In Spider-Man 3 there is a retcon where it is revealed that Flint Marko (who becomes Sandman) was Uncle Ben’s real killer. The criminal who we thought was the killer in the first movie was just one of Flint’s partners but never hurts Ben. The ramifications of this scene actually hurt the previous Spider-Man movies.
A big character arc in those first two Spider-Man movies is Peter learning to take responsibility for Uncle Ben’s death. That moment is where the lines “With great power, comes great responsibility” really bear their full weight. In the second movie, Peter owns up to it, confronting it head-on by telling Aunt May what he did in an emotional scene.
But if Flint Marko actually killed Uncle Ben, then Peter really doesn’t have to take any responsibility for his actions. Why? It’s crucial to the development of Peter Parker that it’s HIS actions that cause Uncle Ben to get killed. Flint Marko is a random criminal; there wasn’t anything Peter could have done to change what happened. With that revelation, Peter doesn’t have to take any responsibility because it wasn’t his fault. That really hurts his character growth from the first two films.
The worst part is, Sandman didn’t need to be a villain in this movie. Spider-Man 3 should have one villain: Harry. The series was building to that; adding Sandman/Flint Marko to the movie was not needed. The writers indirectly sabotage their own series by including the villain and this plot line.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 share a lot of the same problems. There are too many villains, the narrative is messy and unfocused, and both movies have some really dumb moments. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is by no means a masterpiece but I enjoy watching it. When I watch Spider-Man 3, I come away with a sour taste in my mouth. The things Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets right are strong enough to lift it far above Rami’s Spider-Man 3.