We’ve know it’s coming all year â€” a super heavyweight championship â€” 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 ofÂ The Amazing Spider-ManÂ against the third and final installment of Warner Bros.’Â The Dark Knight RisesÂ (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 â€” both successful with critics and hugely so at the box officeÂ â€” 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 ofÂ 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.
The Defending Champion
In The Amazing Spider-Man,Â 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 â€”Â albeit, one played by 28-year-old Garfield â€”Â 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 fatherâ€™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 â€” 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 â€” Masks Off: The Amazing Spider-Man -vs- The Dark Knight Rises. ItÂ 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.
Tobey Maguire is the better spider-man and i think Andrew Garfield was a terrible spider-man of coarse thats just my opinion
PS The “trailer” of David talking to an enraged CB/Batman was hilarious!
OK, I voted for AS even though I love Christopher Nolan’s work, esp. the Batman trilogy–he’s changed the stakes for superhero filmmaking forever. For instance, I don’t think you get X-Men: First Class, without Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. He proved that you could have substance and spectacle in a superhero movie and make BIG box office. And I prefer grim as well. But I found DKR a disappointment. It was still good because Nolan can’t make a bad film at this level, but I thought, though it was grander than the first two, it was less satisfying on the level of pure story. You can start with the failure to make Batman’s escape from the prison characterologically (if I can use that word) convincing. What precisely does he learn that permits him to rise, and why don’t we see him deploying this new knowledge and new techniques in his second battle with Bane? He should have come up with some tactics that reflected new self-knowledge gained in the prison that permit him to beat Bane: punching the mask just isn’t enough there. And how do we reconcile Bane the prisoner who extended his compassion to aid a small girl’s escape at great personal physical cost with the man who “just wants to see the world burn?” It’s conceivable, but the story doesn’t show us how to conceive it. In fact, that’s the problem with this final film: the great strength of the first two films is the strength and care of construction of the arcs of the characters. But here, Nolan’s arcs are weak, spotty, as if finally the spectacle overwhelmed the storytelling, and he forgot to be as meticulous with that as he is with the live-action (forget CGI!) spectacles he alone can create. Inception and the first two Batman movies are so monumental because they’re as good at story-telling as they are at jaw dropping effects; in this last film, though, Nolan slips.
David… you have laid out a very strong case. Of course, the DKR is a good film, but it is not a perfect film, and you’ve explained why very well.
Thanks, Bryce! I realize I never said why I liked AS–it’s less ambitious but seems to hit its marks more completely. And, this was the first Spiderman movie–probably because its post-Ironman–in which I believed the CGI. Finally, it seemed like a man not a computer generated image on the end of the web (maybe Garfield’s way of wearing the suit in the live action shots helped with this too–I never totally bought Toby as Spidey). Those night shots of him flying between skyscrapers and moving girders woke up the 14-year male target audience in me–Awesome!