We’ve know it’s coming all year — a super heavyweight championship — and now it’s finally here in the beat-down heat of summer.
Fresh off the super-fan orgy at San Diego Comic-Con, we have the Sony 3D reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man against the third and final installment of Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight Rises (July 20).
It’s Ali and Frazier. Well, technically, it’s DC and Marvel and Sony and Warner Bros. Oh, and Batman and Spider-Man.
These two awesome franchises — both successful with critics and hugely so at the box office — mean to fight it out in the cool, air-conditioned movie palaces of our globally warmed summer.
For The Dark Knight Rises, that means revitalizing the darkly themed, grim and gritty, Gotham City that Batman lives in. For The Amazing Spider-Man, though, it means a turn away from the lighter tone and look of the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire trilogy that wrapped up just a few years ago. We live in dark times, I guess, and both films are out to reflect that, both flipping off the bright and fun sensation of The Avengers.
It’s a bold move, but this film is placed a full eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. Apparently, following the death of District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman (Christian Bale) virtuously (or stupidly) assumes responsibility for Dent’s crimes to protect Dent’s reputation and is subsequently hunted by the Gotham City Police Department. Batman/Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City, where he must discover the truth regarding the mysterious Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and stop the villain Bane (Tom Hardy), who plans to destroy the city and inflict serious damage upon nearly anyone who gets in his way. That would include Batman. Somebody’s gonna get hurt.
In The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). He’s a real teenager in this telling — albeit, one played by 28-year-old Garfield — confused, angry, girl-crazy, a kid with issues. His first high school girlfriend is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), who’s as smart as he is and probably a great kisser, too. Peter comes across a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, sending him out to find the truth about his abandonment (which he never actually does). This leads him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father’s former partner. Before it’s over, of course, Connors will become The Lizard, Peter will become The Amazing Spider-Man, and fights will happen.
At the beginning of 2012, fans seemed to be anxiously anticipating every frame of The Dark Knight Rises while lamenting the need for such a fast reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man. But now most have agreed that Andrew Garfield is probably a more faithful version of Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire ever was. The truth is that The Amazing Spider-Man is better as an origin story than the original Spider-Man. Of course, that counts for nothing if you’re stepping into the fight cage against Batman. OTOH, Spidey should never be counted out.
Both films are blockbusters when it comes to ticket sales, although tracking says The Dark Knight Rises will be in a class all by itself, above even The Avengers. The pedigree each film brings to this fight is awesome. You have one director going out with a bang and another director coming in with one — both have something to prove to the fans and to themselves, and the studio cash to make it happen.
There’s been far more genuine suspense over The Dark Knight Rises. After all, everything from their posters to the trailers to director Nolan’s own comments paint a picture of a defeated and wrecked Batman. Although The Amazing Spider-Man was a fun ride, and better than its predecessor, it’s no surprise that he lives through his own movie. With Dark Knight, you’d have to say it’s an open question. Even so, and this is no spoiler, both films do tee themselves up for the immediately greenlit sequel. This is Hollywood. What would you expect? Both these films and the franchises they represent are the most surefire money-making machines we know how to construct out here in Los Angeles. It’s our thing. It’s what we do.
But tone is everything, and the tone of The Dark Knight Rises is the darkest, hardest, and most cynically realistic of any comic book-inspired film ever. Things in this film look like they could actually happen. In The Amazing Spider-Man, both Peter’s superpowers and his villain, a giant Lizard, do not cause that same angst you feel in The Dark Knight Rises, where its world falling apart seems only a headline or two away from our world today.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a whole, damn lot less grim than The Dark Knight Rises.
Since Sony, director Marc Webb and Garfield are intent on launching rather than ending at least a three-film arc together, it’s a safe bet that Spidey will prevail by the end credits. But our beloved hero Batman gets crushed by a brutal killing machine and may not make it. Not necessarily better, but definitely different.
Before we get to our decision, here’s our latest Smashup — Masks Off: The Amazing Spider-Man -vs- The Dark Knight Rises. It features what we think is a truly funny segment using the Christian Bale rant of a few years ago and the voice of David, the stoned little boy coming back from the dentist.
I like grim. My wife prefers it on the lighter side. It’s subjective, your taste is all that matters. And, at least so far, based on our poll, it seems our voters are as split on the light and the dark as the yin and the yang. But I suspect that won’t last long, as virtually everybody on the planet will see this last installment of the Dark Knight trilogy eventually. And, when they do, The Dark Knight Rises will be seen as epic filmmaking, and The Amazing Spider-Man will be seen as commercial moviemaking.
Sorry, Spidey, you’re fresher and better than ever, your day will come for sure, but today, in this ring, you have to give it to the veteran fighter who puts virtually everything he’s got on the line, our winner, The Dark Knight Rises.